Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald
rfmcdpei

[BRIEF NOTE] The Latvians of Ireland, and Ireland and Latvia

garmacottar, writing from the city of Limerick in the southwest of Ireland, commented that "[a]ll my housemates are Latvians of Russian ethnicity, and they're the closest in numbers I know to the Poles, while I know no Latvian Latvians." This is concentration isn't an anomaly, since Andris Straumanis' May 2005 article for Latvians Online, "School may be spark for Latvians in Ireland", suggests that Ireland is now one of the major centres of the Latvian diaspora.

Thousands of Latvians--perhaps 20,000 and growing--are now living and working in Ireland. Despite the astonishing number, Ireland has no latvies¡u biedriba, no Latvian society, and seemingly little structure to social and cultural life. But that could be about to change.

[. . .]

Irish government statistics say about 2,300 Latvians live and work in the country. Ivars Lasis, the first secretary in the Embassy of Latvia in Dublin, puts the number at almost 10 times as many, and says more are coming every day.

"In principle, all of Ireland is scattered with Latvians," Lasis said. Many are in Dublin, but they also are found in the southern city of Cork, in the northern city of Donegal and throughout the countryside.

Before Latvia regained independence, Ireland never had a strong Latvian community. It was not a favored destination for the Displaced Persons after World War II. Even the veclatviesi, the Old Latvians who for economic and political reasons left their homeland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
avoided the Emerald Isle. Vilberts Krasnais, who in his 1938 book Latvies¡u kolonijas catalogued Latvian communities the world over, didn’t even mention Ireland.


In the past half-century, the Republic of Ireland has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world, attracting a not-insubstantial but unexpected wave of immigrants in the process. Ireland's model of economic development has been raised as a model for many of the countries which recently joined the European Union. As Paul Treanor pointed out in his typically idiosyncratic comparative survey of Ireland and Lithuania, though, Ireland's relatively peaceable 20th century history must be sharply distinguished from the genocide-scarred histories of all of the Baltic States. Ireland, roughly comparable in size with Latvia, has managed to escape its poverty. Will Latvia, with its sharp ethnolinguistic divisions and profound poverty, manage to replicate the Irish path in the next generation? Will, in other words, writers for the website Kivu Online (scheduled to be launched in spring of 2029) be able to use cut-and-paste to plagiarize Straumanis' article? I submit that the question remains open.

UPDATE (2:40 AM, 29 July 2005) : Crossposted to soc.culture.baltics.
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