The Germanic people were among the first major outside groups to control the region,
turning it into a major trading hub and altering the economy and lifestyle to a
degree. However, the culture changed in few other ways, with most of the population
resisting Christianity. However, the architecture in Riga still has some obvious
Germanic influences and many foods are also rooted in this time.
The next group to take over the region was the Poles and Lithuanians; having a huge
number of connections with the Lithuanians, including sharing a similar language
and history, helped lead to the conversion of the people to Christianity. Other
changes were also made, but Christianity made the greatest impact as it altered
the culture and daily life to a great degree.
In the 1900s the culture and lifestyle took a major blow when the Soviet Union took
over the people and region. The Soviets tried to destroy much of this past as the
Russian language was forced on the people, the population was urbanized, most jobs
were found in the industrial sector, religion was outlawed (even today few Latvians
are very religious) and many ethnic Russians immigrated to the region.
Since the fall of communism, the Latvians have sought a new identity based on their
language, ethnicity, and culture. This is often defined in contrast to Russian culture
as they share very few similarities, although today most Latvians and Russians remain
urbanized. Today the ethnic Russians and ethnic Latvians tend to remain divided
politically and culturally. For the ethnic Latvians, the Latvian language, traditional
dress, historic foods, and ethnic festivals have all become important parts of the
local culture and identity today.