Basic Facts about Livonian

A map of the Ural­ic lan­guages. (Source: Wiki­me­dia)
Grizel­da Kris­tiņa (Source)

Livo­ni­an is a mem­ber of the Finnic sub­group of the Finno-Ugri­an lan­guage fam­i­ly. Finno-Ugri­an, along with the Samoyedic lan­guages, forms the Ural­ic lan­guage fam­i­ly. Present­ly, Livo­ni­an has no remain­ing flu­ent native speak­ers. The last known flu­ent native speak­er was Grizel­da Kris­tiņa (19.3.1910 Vaid, Latvia — 2.6.2013 Ontar­io, Canada). Present­ly there are sev­er­al flu­ent and par­tial­ly flu­ent speak­ers of Livo­ni­an along with many indi­vid­u­als pos­sess­ing a basic lev­el of Livo­ni­an pro­fi­cien­cy. The Livo­ni­an eth­nic iden­ti­ty con­tin­ues to exist and lan­guage revi­tal­iza­tion efforts are ongo­ing. In the 2011 Lat­vian State Cen­sus, 250 indi­vid­u­als iden­ti­fied Livo­ni­an as their eth­nic­i­ty. The major­i­ty of Livo­ni­ans have not lived on the Livo­ni­an Coast since the years fol­low­ing WWII. After this region had been mil­i­ta­rized dur­ing the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion of Latvia, it became dif­fi­cult for civil­ians to live in this area. Most Livo­ni­ans migrat­ed to Rīga and Latvia’s oth­er cities. Oth­ers that had fled Latvia dur­ing WWII (includ­ing Grizel­da Kris­tiņa her­self) became part of the Lat­vian refugee com­mu­ni­ty abroad.

Livo­ni­ans are few in num­ber, but have been vis­i­ble in Latvia’s cul­tur­al and also polit­i­cal life. Well-known Livo­ni­ans include poet, artist, and lin­guist Valts Ernštre­its also known for his design com­pa­ny and book­store Nice­Place; the mem­bers of the Stal­te fam­i­ly who form the folk singing group Skan­dinieki (Dain­is and Helmī Stal­te have been mem­bers of the Rīga City Coun­cil, Dāvis Stalts is involved in Lat­vian pol­i­tics and has been a mem­ber of the Lat­vian par­lia­ment [the Saeima], Jul­gī Stal­te is a well-known musi­cian in her own right and has been the orig­i­na­tor of a num­ber of musi­cal ven­tures includ­ing her group Tuļļi Lum.); sports jour­nal­ist Dāvids Ernštre­its who has been a fix­ture of Lat­vian Tele­vi­sion (LTV) for many years; and oth­ers.

Present­ly Livo­ni­an is not used as a lan­guage of dai­ly inter­ac­tion and flu­ent, par­tial­ly flu­ent, and poten­tial speak­ers of Livo­ni­an do not live togeth­er in a sin­gle place as a sin­gle con­tigu­ous com­mu­ni­ty; how­ev­er, efforts con­tin­ue to be made to teach Livo­ni­an and enthu­si­asm con­tin­ues to be high among stu­dents. Sum­mer activ­i­ties also include the Livo­ni­an Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty (an oppor­tu­ni­ty for both begin­ning and advanced stu­dents to spend a week on the Livo­ni­an Coast study­ing Livo­ni­an lan­guage and cul­ture) and the Livo­ni­an children’s and youth sum­mer camp “Mier­linkizt”.

Livo­ni­an is used to some extent online by enthu­si­asts and speak­ers. The Livo­ni­an web por­tal con­tains a full Livo­ni­an ver­sion of the site and oth­er sites con­tain oth­er kinds of infor­ma­tion on Livo­ni­an, includ­ing the Kolka web­site, which gives a Livo­ni­an word of the day on its front page. An active resource for Livo­ni­an stu­dents, speak­ers, and enthu­si­asts is the Līvõ kēļ face­book page, which gives a Livo­ni­an word each day along with occa­sion­al infor­ma­tion on use­ful phras­es, gram­mar, and sug­ges­tions for dai­ly use of Livo­ni­an.