Literature Review: The Latvian ABC. Your guide to Latvia and the Latvians

Līga Horgana is back with a literature review of The Latvian ABC. Your guide to Latvia and the Latvians by Philip Birzulis and Kristīne Komarovska, illustrated by Linda Ofelia Rutule.

The Latvian alphabet contains 33 letters and The Latvian ABC is not only a chance to learn thirty three new words in Latvian, but also to learn quite a bit more about the Latvian people, their culture, history, and the country’s nature and traditions. The Latvian Alphabet is a multimedia project by The Latvian Institute. It was released in May 2020 in time for the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of independence. It provides the information in four different ways: a printed hardcover book, electronic book, audiobook, and audio material supplemented with animation. Even better, it is easily accessible for anyone at Those who are interested can also apply for free printed copies at 

The book looks at all 33 letters of the Latvian alphabet, giving a specific word for each that depicts Latvia and Latvians. Each letter is illustrated with the awesome photo collages of Linda Ofelia Rutule and described in a few short paragraphs leading to other related associations. Texts written by Latvian Australian tour guide Philip Birzulis and culture journalist Kristīne Komarovska are deficiently easy to read, easy to understand, and both entertaining and informative — they’ re serious and full of great humor.

“The Baltic states were the last corner of Europe to encounter Christianity, and we’re still thinking about the offer today. More precisely, while plenty of us belong to a church, we still passionately follow pagan traditions and see no reason to change our ways.

You see this most clearly at MIDSUMMER’S EVE IN JUNE. People flock from the cities to their friends’ and relatives’ farms for a night of good times and rituals celebrating the shortest night and the longest day of the year. Revelers dance and sing ancient songs with the incantation “Līgo, līgo,” which means to sway or to rock, in tempo with the sun, with nature and with life itself. Symbolizing fertility, houses get decked out with green branches, and women weave floral crowns for themselves and oak wreaths for the guys.” 

Of course, in 64 short pages no one can expect to learn everything about Latvians, but in my view this is a very good start — an excellent thing to read before visiting Latvia. This material will prepare the reader to ask the right questions, inspire some interesting conversations, and maybe even spark new friendships.

You can find the e-book as well as the video and audio versions here!

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