The first significant wave of Latvian settlers who immigrated to the United States came in 1888 to Boston. By the end of century, those Latvians immigrants settled primarily in other East Coast and Midwest cities, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago, as well as coastal cities on the West Coast, such as Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Some immigrants also established themselves in rural areas, but they were few and usually did not form long-lasting communities. Although most Latvians settled in cities, in most of these (with the exception of the Roxbury district of Boston) they lived dispersed and did not form ethnic neighborhoods. The first Lutheran church built by Latvians in the United States was erected in 1906 in Lincoln County, where an agricultural colony had been established in 1897.
A new wave of Latvian immigration began around 1906, after the failure of the 1905 Russian Revolution. Many of these immigrants were political leaders and rank-and-file revolutionaries who could be killed by Russian soldiers if they were discovered, so they decided to emigrate and continue the revolutionary movement in other countries. Most of the Latvian revolutionaries were more politically radical than the earlier immigrants to the United States, which increased friction in a number of communities.
In 1917, many Latvian revolutionaries went back to their homeland to work for the creation of a Bolshevik government, and in 1918, when Latvia declared its independence, some nationalists also returned.
After the First World War, the promise of economic improvements in the newly independent nation, immigration quotas established in 1924 by the United States, and the Great Depression all contributed to slow emigration from Latvia. From 1920 to 1939, only 4,669 Latvians arrived in the United States.
Toward the end of World War II, tens of thousands Latvians fled from advancing Soviet troops to Western Europe and moved into Displaced Persons camps. About half were eventually repatriated to Latvia, but the rest resettled to Germany, England, Australia, Canada, the United States and other countries. From 1939 to 1951, 40,000 Latvians immigrated to the United States with the help of the U.S. government and various social service and religious organizations. Although many of these refugees had been professionals in their country, in the United States they often had jobs as farmhands, custodians, or builders until they could find better paying jobs.
Most Latvians settled in cities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. As with the earlier Latvian immigrants, most did not create ethnic neighborhoods and relied on social events and the press for a sense of community. Within a few years, Latvian organizations managed to create schools, credit unions, choirs, dance groups, theater troupes, publishers and book sellers, churches, veterans' groups, and political organizations.
From 1980 to 1990, 1,006 Latvians arrived in the United States.
Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991; however, few of the immigrants or their descendants have returned.
According to the 2000 census, a total of 87,564 people of Latvian descent lived in the United States. There are larger populations in the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida and Massachusetts. Many Latvian Americans (about 9,000) have dual citizenship, which became available to Latvians who emigrated after the reestablishment of independence. Also, many often travel to Latvia and provide financial support and give material to various organizations. Some Latvian Americans have been elected to the Saeima, or Parliament, in Latvia.
The states with the largest Latvian-American populations are:
The majority of Latvians immigrants to the United States after World War II were university graduates. Many were academics or belonged to intelligentsia.
Languages and religions
Most Latvian Americans speak English, while Latvian (also known as Lettish) is basically the language spoken by American Latvians of the first generation due to intermarriage. As for religion, although most Latvians Americans are Lutherans, there are also Catholic communities, represented by the American Latvian Catholic Association, as well as American Latvian Baptists and American Latvian Jewish communities..
Rutanya Alda (Rūta Skrastiņa, born 1942), actress (Mommy Dearest, The Deer Hunter)
Ed Leedskalnin (Edvards Liedskalniņš, 1887–1951), amateur sculpto;, builder of Coral Castle in Florida; claimed to have discovered the ancient magnetic levitation secrets used to construct the Egyptian pyramids
1 Poles came to the United States legally as Austrians, Germans, Prussians or Russians throughout the 19th century, because from 1772–1795 till 1918, all Polish lands had been partitioned between imperial Austria, Prussia (a protoplast of Germany) and Russia until Poland regained its sovereignty in the wake of World War I.
2 Russia has most of its territory in Asia, but the vast majority of its population (80%) lives in European Russia, therefore Russia as a whole is included as a European country here.
5 Disputed; Roma have recognized origins and historic ties to Asia (specifically to Northern India), but they experienced at least some distinctive identity development while in diaspora among Europeans.