LUTSIMAA : Land of the Ludza Estonians


It may seem peculiar to think of Ludza -- located in southeastern Latvia -- as a place with an ancient connection with Estonia. Estonia is several hours away and none of the languages you’ll hear on your travels there will be Estonian.

   But yes -- for at least several centuries the area around Ludza was home to people of Estonian ethnicity who spoke their own unique variety of the South Estonian language. At the end of the 19th century there were still about fifty villages where this language could be heard in that region. Their residents called their language mākīļ or māvärkki (the country language) and called themselves mārahvas (countryfolk). Over the course of the centuries, their ethnic identity became increasingly integrated with the Latvian and Latgalian identities of their neighbors. The Ludza Estonians, or Lutsis, only stopped using their language relatively recently. The last speaker of Lutsi, Nikolājs Nikonovs, was from the village of Lielie Tjapši and passed away in 2006. However, their language was still in relatively vibrant use among older people until the 1970s. In 2014, the Lutsis and their descendants still remember their Estonian roots, the fact that their grandparents spoke this unique language, and a few fragments of Lutsi language and culture.

     On this site you can learn more about the Lutsis, their history, language and come to know the wonderfully beautiful hilly landscape dotted with innumerable lakes in southern Latgale which they have called home for generations.

About the Ludza Estonians (Lutsis)

Meil meeles olgu ajalugu,

et Lutsi hõim on eesti sugu!

Vivat populus lucinorum

per omnia saecula saeculorum!

(Paulopriit Voolaine, Maajumala Poig)

The research described on this site was conducted thanks to the kind financial support of the Kone Foundation -- Koneen Säätiö.

About the author of this site

My name is Uldis Balodis and I am a linguist. I received my doctorate in linguistics in 2011 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I grew up in unusual circumstances as one of the few speakers of Latvian in Phoenix, Arizona in the southwestern United States. Growing up in these circumstances I came to understand the experience of speaking one’s native language in a place where almost no one else does. My interest in less spoken languages developed partly as a result. For many years I studied Livonian, an extremely endangered Finnic language of Latvia, and during the years of my university studies I also researched and studied a number of languages native to Arizona and California. My doctoral dissertation was written about one such language -- the Yuki language, which was known in Northern California until the early 1980s.

   My interest in the Lutsis developed several years ago when I was studying Estonian. During that time I learned that some of my ancestors may have not just been Estonian, but specifically from the Lutsi community in Latgale. From the spring of 2013 until the spring of 2015, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the University of Helsinki with my work being funded by the Kone Foundation (Koneen Säätiö) in Finland. During this time I am researching and documenting Lutsi language, history, culture, and heritage. This site is a means to share some of this knowledge with others.

© 2014 Uldis Balodis. All Rights Reserved.


About the background image and quote

The background image of this site is taken from a map many centuries old showing the land where the Lutsis originated (southeastern Estonia) down to the land where they have lived for centuries (southeastern Latvia near the city of Ludza).

     The quote is from the play Maajumala Poig (The Son of the Earth God) written by Paulopriit Voolaine about the work of Oskar Kallas with the Lutsis at the end of the nineteenth century. Kallas was the first researcher to document and the Lutsis and Voolaine was one of the primary researchers of the Lutsis in the twentieth century. The words in the quote are those of Dr. Aolask (Kallas’s character’s name in the play) to the Lutsis upon his farewell -- given in Estonian and Latin:

We forever remember the history that the Lutsi tribe is an Estonian kind!

May the Lutsi people live forever and ever!