Mapping Language and Politics in Latvia
As can be seen by comparing the three maps posted here, the “yes” vote was heavily concentrated in the urban areas of the country and in the largely Russian-speaking southeastern region. The electoral map, however, does not exactly square with the linguistic map, which was derived from the Muturzikin website. Muturzikin shows much of southeastern Latvia as Latvian-speaking, but the election returns would seem to indicate otherwise. Muturzikin also shows the city of Daugavpils, Latvia’s second largest, as being located in a Belarusian-speaking area, but standard references sources state that city’s population is predominately Russian (ethnic Latvians constitute only 18% of Daugavpils’ residents). More problematic is Muturzikin’s depiction of northwestern Latvia as Livonian-speaking. According to the Wikipedia, Livonian, a Uralic language closely related to Estonian, went extinct in 2009, when its last native speaker died. Ethnologue claims that fifteen people speak Liv, another name of the same language, but gives a 1995 date for the figure. Whatever the actual situation is, I do think that it would be fair to erase Livonian from the language map of Latvia.
I like the Muturzikin language maps because of their comprehensive coverage. I do wonder, however, about their accuracy. One intrinsic problem with linguistic mapping is the fact that languages are going extinct on a monthly basis, and it would be a difficult task indeed to update maps on such a regular schedule.