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The Latgallians (Latvian: latgaļi) were one of the Baltic tribes that later formed Latvian nation.

Latgallians lived in the central and the eastern parts of Latvia which are now known as Vidzeme and Latgale. The political divisions resulted in Vidzeme and Latgale developing separately from 1562 to 1917. Latgallians in the Vidzeme had a lot of communication with other Baltic tribes that formed the Latvian nation and merged with them into Latvian nation. Those in Latgale were cut off from the rest of Latvia and have preserved some of their language and culture to this day.

During the first independence of Latvia (1920-1940), Latgale was the only region of Latvia with strong regional political parties. The idea of a political autonomy for Latgale was popular in the region but was never achieved. Although Latvian governments would mainly promote a united Latvian culture, Latgallian language was also used. Books were published in Latgallian, it was one of languages of instruction in schools and people could choose to use either Latvian or Latgallian language when communicating with the government.

Soviet period severely damaged Latgallian culture. Publishing in Latgallian was banned. Latvian and Russian were the only languages that could be used.

Publishing in Latgallian was allowed again, after Latvia became independent in 1991 but is still rare. Latgallian language is mostly used at home in rural areas and Latvian is overwhelmingly used in official use and in cities. Some government protection for Latgallian language is provided by the language law of 2000 which says "The state guarantees the preservation, protection and development of the written Latgallian language as a historic variety of Latvian language".

Some Latgallians still consider themselves to be an ethnic group separate from Latvians. The majority opinion is, however, that present-day Latgallians are a subgroup of Latvians. The number of people who would identify themseleves as separate from Latvians is unknown because Latvian government does not identify Latgallians as a separate group in census data.

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45