Marriage and Divorce

Latvia Table of Contents

In spite of Latvians' fears of becoming a minority and in spite of the strains caused by Russification and language inequities, a relatively high proportion of Latvians have married members of other ethnic groups. Some 30 percent of marriages involving Latvians were of mixed nationality in 1988 (although only 17 percent of all marrying Latvians in 1988 entered into mixed marriages). This rate of intermarriage was one of the highest of any titular nationality in the republics of the Soviet Union. Comparable rates were found in Belorussia (34.6 percent) and Ukraine (35.6 percent); a much lower rate was found in Estonia (16.1 percent). The marriage statistics of 1991 do not indicate any significant changes in this respect, with just under 18 percent of all Latvians marrying members of other ethnic groups.

Latvia has an extremely high divorce rate, but there is no adequate explanation for it. In 1991 Latvia registered 22,337 weddings and 11,070 divorces, for a divorce rate of 49.6 percent. Among various ethnic groups, these rates vary: Latvian males, 39.1 percent, and females, 39.9 percent; Lithuanian males, 52.7 percent, and females, 45.0 percent; Polish males, 43.7 percent, and females, 54.5 percent; Russian males, 60.2 percent, and females, 58.3 percent; Belarusian males, 58.8 percent, and females, 61.0 percent; Ukrainian males, 64.4 percent, and females, 65.2 percent; Jewish males, 67.6 percent, and females, 65.9 percent; and males of other ethnic groups, 64.8 percent, and females, 70.0 percent. During the first nine months of 1992, as compared with the same period in 1991, marriages decreased by 10 percent, but divorces increased by 24 percent. For every 1,000 marriages, there were 683 divorces.

Perhaps the instability of marriage accounts for the relatively high percentage of births outside of marriage. In 1989 in Latvia, 15.9 percent of infants were born to women who were not married. In Lithuania the comparative rate was 6.5 percent, but in Estonia the rate was 25.2 percent. In the Soviet Union as a whole in 1988, the rate was 10.2 percent.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress