Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter time

Practicing Christians celebrate their most important religious festival these days. It is a public holiday in Lithuania and Latvia today, and Estonians are already busy with their daily chores. I do understand that Catholic Lithuania is having an official holiday today. Also I do comprehend Lutheran Estonia and Finland working today. But there is one thing I do not really understand, why Latvia is suddenly thus religious? I do not consider myself as practicing Lutheran, but it somehow feels that the national composition is somehow reflected also in the religious bahavior of the Latvian people in the post independence period.

Officially majority of Latvian population belongs to Lutheran church, but since the end of the World War II massive exodus of the Catholic Latgalians took place to the labour hungry industrial centers of Riga, Jelgava, Liepaja, and Ventspils. If the census of 1935 indicated that 90% of Catholics lived in Latgale, then the census of 1991 indicated that only 45% of Catholics resided in Latgale. It is interesting, perhaps should go throught the Latvian Statistical office yearbook and look for the data, to see the religious dispersal of different Christian denominations in Latvia today?

In the meantime Catholic churches have been sprouting in once traditional Lutheran areas all over Latvia. Just driving on Via Baltica one may notice Catholic church being built in Iecava, there are buildings consacrated already in Salaspils, Saulkrasti and even remote Salasgriva. Vatican has obviously more money, and also Lutheran church in Latvia does not unite thus many people, because of the generation cleavage. Is it because Latvian society is more traditional, more individualistic or simply less orderly? I do not know, but it was spectacular to see hundreds of young Poles mixing with their elderly compatriots in churches on Sundays in Nowy Sacs. Here, in Latvia you mostly see elderly people going to the church on Sundays. When there is Xmas or Easter one may notice flocks of folks arriving to show off in the church.

Why is it so in Latvia and also in Estonia? Traumata of the atheist Soviet period, relatively new national history and culture or all these factors combined? Anyway, regardless of the lack of church goers and civic participation in Latvia and Estonia in comparison with Lithuania and Poland, both conutry sets represent almost as identical data of economic performance. The sheer size of Poland and more sustainable rate of development in Lithuania makes me to argue that in the long term LTU and POL will be more prosperous that EST and LAT. Such prediction might change due to external impact or internal tumults. Latvia is still having its interregnum and Estonian government looks solid from the distance. International economy is not the healthiest one today. There are changes around the corner and actions of Baltic governments shall determine how unscathed the Baltic states economies shall exit possible turmoils.

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