Religion in Latvia (2019 estimate)[1]

  Lutheranism (36.51%)
  Catholicism (19%)
  Eastern Orthodoxy (13.49%)
  Other Christians (1.42%)
  None (31.09%)
  Other (0.03%)
Riga Cathedral (Rīgas Doms) in the capital Riga was originally built in 1211.

The main religion traditionally practiced in Latvia is Christianity. As of 2019, it is the largest religion (68.84%),[1] though only about 7% of the population attends religious services regularly.[2]

Lutheranism is the main Christian denomination among ethnic Latvians due to strong historical links with the Nordic countries and Northern Germany (see Hanseatic League), while Catholicism is most prevalent in eastern Latvia (Latgale), mostly due to Polish influence. The Latvian Orthodox Church is the third largest Christian church in Latvia, with adherents primarily among the Russian-speaking minority.

History

Basilica of the Assumption of Aglona

Latvia was one of the last regions in Europe to be Christianized. The inhabitants of the region that is now Latvia once practiced Finnic paganism and Baltic mythology, but this practice gradually diminished through the course of the centuries. In the 12th to 13th centuries Latvia first became part of the Catholic Church, as the Christian kings of Denmark, Sweden and the North German Livonian and Teutonic military orders fought for influence in the region in what later became known as the Northern Crusades.

Despite the Christianization, the local populace in the countryside maintained their pagan belief system for several centuries, with pockets of paganism surviving in Latvia up until the 17th century. Along with the rest of the traditional holidays, Christmas (Ziemassvētki) and Easter (Lieldienas) in Latvia still largely retain their pagan roots.

During the Protestant Reformation the teachings of Lutheranism from Northern Germany and Scandinavia completely changed the religious landscape in the country, and eventually only Latgale remained Catholic due to the influence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Before World War II, 2/3 of Latvia was Protestant; overwhelmingly Lutheran with scarce Calvinist population and individual cases of adhering to other Protestant confessions.[3][4][5]

Because of the state policy of atheism during the Soviet era and the general European trend of secularization, religiosity declined drastically, and today a growing percentage of Latvians claims not to follow any religion, with low church attendance.

Demographics

According to the Annual Report of Religious Organizations and their Activities published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), based on 2022 data, the largest religious groups are Lutheran (37 percent), Roman Catholic (19 percent), and Latvian Orthodox Christian (13 percent);[6] almost 30 percent of the country is unaffiliated to any religious group.

In a survey from 2015, the ISSP found that 62.6% of the Latvian population declared to belong to a Christian denomination, divided in 19.7% Russian Orthodox, 18.5% Roman Catholic, 17.8% Protestant, 6.1% Old Believers and 0.5% belonged to smaller Christian denominations. A further 36.7% declared to have No Religion and 0.7% declared to belong to other religions.[7]

In the same year the Eurobarometer survey by the European Commission found different results, with 76.7% of the Latvians regarding themselves as Christians, divided in 26.2% Catholics 24.0% Eastern Orthodox, 16.6% Protestants, and 9.9% other Christians. The unaffiliated people made up the 22.0% of the respondents and were divided in Atheists with 4.7% and Agnostics with 17.3%.[8]

The Latvian polling agency SKDS has also gathered information regarding the religious affiliation of Latvia over the years. In 2018, 26% of the population was Orthodox, 20% identified as Catholic while 17% was Lutheran, and 3% were Old Believers. 14% believed in God without being affiliated to any religion, while 15% declared themselves as atheist. A further 3% belonged to other Christian sects or religions.[9][10]

Religious affiliation (%) 1860 1897 1935[11] 2000[12] 2001[13] 2003[12] 2005[12] 2006[12] 2007[12] 2008[12] 2009[12] 2010[12] 2011[12] 2014[14][9] 2016[9] 2018[9]
Orthodox 8.9 8.6 8.9 22 18.9 25 24 26 24 24 23 23 25 25.6 25 26
Catholic 18.4 20.2 24.5 19 22.3 21 21 20 22 22 24 23 21 22.6 22 20
Lutheran 66.4 59.1 55.2 28 23.8 25 20 21 21 24 22 20 23 18.4 20 17
Old Believer 3.2 4.1 5.5 2.7 3 4 2 2 4 3 3 4 4 2 3
Judaism 3.2 7.4 4.8
Other faiths / denominations 0 0.6 1.2 2 2 2 1 1 3 3 1 4 3 2 2 3
Belief in God without religion - - - 10 12.8 9 11 10 10 10 10 11 9 9.7 10 14
Atheist - - - 18 17.7 12 16 14 14 11 15 16 14 16.4 17 15
Undecided - - - 3 2 3 3 6 4 2 2 0 1 2 2 3
Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.

Religion in Latvia, SKDS surveys 2000-2018

  Lutherans
  Catholics
  Eastern Orthodox
  Unaffiliated believers
  Irreligious

Religion in Latvia today

Nativity of Christ Cathedral, the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic region.
Pope Francis in Latvia, September 2018
Aerial view of the Lokstene Shrine of Dievturi

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia has 708,773 members.[10] The Catholic Church in Latvia has 430,000 members.[15] Historically, the west and central parts of the country have been predominantly Protestant, while the east – particularly the Latgale region – has been predominantly Catholic, although Catholics are now common in Riga and other cities due to migration from Latgale.[16] Historically, Lutherans were the majority, but Communist rule weakened Lutheranism much more than Catholicism, with the result that there are now only slightly more Lutherans than Catholics. The Latvian Orthodox Church is then-semi-autonomous and has 400,000 members.[10] Orthodoxy predominates among the Latvian Russian population.

As of 2022, the population of Jews in Latvia was 4,000, although some estimates are double this;[17] there are 1,000 Muslims in Latvia.[10] The native Latvian ethnic religion is Dievturība.

The Reformed Church in Latvia is a small Reformed denomination with two congregations in Riga.

As of 2011, the Justice Ministry had registered 1145 congregations.[10] This total included: Lutheran (294), Catholic (250), Orthodox (122), Baptist (94), Old Believer Orthodox (69), Pentecostal (52), Seventh-day Adventist (51), Evangelical (39), New Generation (18), Muslim (17), Jehovah's Witnesses (15), Jewish (13), Methodist (12), New Apostolic (11), Hare Krishna (11), Dievturi (10), Buddhist (4), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) (4), and 18 other congregations. In 2003, the Government also registered the Christian Scientists as a recognized religious congregation.

In 2022 Latvia passed a law removing all influence or power over the Orthodox Church from non Latvians, which would include the Patriarch of Moscow, making the Orthodox Church of Latvia completely independent.[18]

Church membership

In 2011, churches in Latvia provided the following estimates of church membership to the Justice Ministry:[10]

Adherents Number
Lutherans 708,773
Catholics 430,000
Orthodox 370,000
Old Believer Orthodox 34,517
Baptists 6,930
Seventh-day Adventists 4,046
Pentecostals 3,268
Evangelicals 3,171
New Generation 3,020
New Apostolics 1,268
Latter-day Saints 852
Methodists 751
Dievturi 663
Augsburg Lutheran 581
Salvation Army 462
Jews 416
Muslims 319
German Lutheran 308
Jehovah's Witnesses 290
Old Apostolics 287
Buddhists 155
Reformed 145

Freedom of religion

In 2023, the country was scored 4 out of 4 for religious freedom.[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Ziņojums par Tieslietu ministrijā iesniegtajiem reliģisko organizāciju pārskatiem par darbību 2019.gadā" (in Latvian). 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2023.
  2. ^ Eunice K. Y. Or (23 September 2004). "Trust in Religious Institutions does not convey to Church Attendance". Christian Today. Retrieved 28 July 2007.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of Global Religion by Mark Juergensmeyer, Wade Clark Roof; page 111.
  4. ^ State Responses to Minority Religions by Dr David M Kirkham, p.
  5. ^ Atlas of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century by Richard Crampton, Benjamin Crampton; p. 90; "Inter-war Latvia: Religious composition"
  6. ^ "US State Dept 2022 report on Latvia".
  7. ^ "Country specific religious affiliation or denomination: Latvia - weighted". International Social Survey Programme: Work Orientations IV - ISSP 2015. 2015 – via GESIS.
  8. ^ "DISCRIMINATION IN THE EU IN 2015", Special Eurobarometer, 437, European Union: European Commission, 2015, retrieved 15 October 2017 – via GESIS
  9. ^ a b c d Kaktiņš, Arnis (2018-09-24). "Lūk, kā izskatās Latvijas iedzīvotāju reliģiskās un konfesionālās piederības pēdējās 3 aptaujās, kur tas ir ticis prasīts. Kā redzams, tad par katoļiem sevi patlaban uzskata ~ 20% iedzīvotāju. Pareizticīgo ir vairāk: ~ 26%, bet luterāņu mazāk: ~ 17%.pic.twitter.com/hM5kHIxeXZ". @ArnisKaktins (in Latvian). Archived from the original on 2019-06-20. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Tieslietu ministrijā iesniegtie reliģisko organizāciju pārskati par darbību 2011. gadā" (in Latvian). Archived from the original on 2012-11-26. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
  11. ^ Ceturtā tautas skaitīšana Latvijā. 1935. gadā. Valsts statistiskā pārvalde. 1936.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Religion in Latvia (2000-2011)" (PDF). Latvian Centre for Human Rights. 2016.
  13. ^ LETA (2001-07-10). "Latvijā it tikpat daudz katoļu, cik luterāņu". delfi.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  14. ^ "Visvairāk - pareizticīgo". la.lv. 2014.
  15. ^ Reliģiju Enciklopēdija, Statistika (in Latvian). Accessed 2009-07-23.
  16. ^ Ščerbinskis, Valters (1999). "Eastern Minorities". The Latvian Institute.
  17. ^ "US State Dept 2022 report on Latvia".
  18. ^ "Orthodox Church of Latvia seceded from Moscow – It was a matter of national security, says the President". 10 September 2022.
  19. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08

Further reading