What’s next in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge? Germans!
Germans and the German language have a long history in Latvia. Ever since the first bishops of Bremen came to Latvian territory in the late 12th century to Christianize the local populations, Germans have been coming to the Baltics. Today, however, they are mostly tourists, as the local German population was dramatically reduced after the Second World War.
While Latvian territory was officially controlled by a number of different foreign powers over the centuries, the local power players – that is, the gentry and bureaucracy – were predominantly German until Latvian independence. As such, the language of bureaucracy – that is, the language of document creation – was predominantly German until Imperial Russian decrees forced them to switch to Russian in 1891. That is why within a year or two of this date you’ll see German switch to Russian.
After independence, while the German barons lost their special privileges and most of their estates, they became citizens of a new Latvia. Until Hitler came to power and invited Germans outside of Germany to return to Germany, they were content to remain in the land that their families had lived in for generations.
At this time, many German Latvians left for Germany. And those who stayed? Most left when Soviet power returned, either by force or by choice. Millions of Germans from all over what would become the Soviet Union were expelled after the Second World War.
And with these events, the almost 800 year history of Germans in Latvia came to an end.
Do you have ancestors that are Baltic Germans? Share their stories here!