(Chapter IX, section 10)


The Baltic Finns: Livs and Esths

For the sake of continuity, let us return to the beginning of section eight, in which we expressed the intention of studying the racial composition of the Baltic Finns. We have seen, in the meanwhile, that the basic Finnic racial type, to which belong the Volga Finns and their relatives from Carelia to the Obi River, is a modern counterpart of the prehistoric Danubian race, with leanings in both a Nordic and a Ladogan direction. This type has been, therefore, named Neo-Danubian. It was this Neo-Danubian racial type that the ancestors of the Baltic Finns must have brought with them from the Volga country in their westward migrations during the centuries immediately preceding and after the time of Christ. The deviations of the modern Baltic Finns from this type will reflect the influence of the earlier inhabitants of the Baltic shorelands upon the invaders, and to a lesser extent, the influence of later peoples who have been amalgamated into the Finnic ethnic body.

The earliest Baltic lands occupied by the invaders were Esthonia and much of modern Latvia, including especially Kurland and Livonia. These codutries had, however, supported a population of some density for centuries before the Finnish arrival. The old Kammkeramik people of the tardy northern Neolithic are represented by the skulls from Salis Roje; large crania of at least two varieties, an incipient mongoloid, and a wide-faced mesocephal of Palaeolithic appearance. Food-producing people of a later date, who settled in numbers along the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, are represented by numerous skeletal remains, which show them to have been a composite population characterized by extremely tall stature, robust bones and large bodies, large heads, with dimensions suggesting a blend of Corded and Upper Palaeolithic elements, comparable to that in western Norway. The early inhabitants of Esthonia were especially high headed, and long and broad faced. It is the combination of the Kammkeramik forest types with this extravagantly proportioned human form, and with the immigrant Finns from the Volga country, that has produced the modern Baltic Finnish racial entity.

The most southerly of the surviving Baltic Finns are the Livs, who inhabit twelve villages situated along a strip of coast which extends on either side of the promontory of Domesnes, at the southern entrance of the Gulf of Riga, in the province of Kurland, Latvia.88 The Livs are the last of the Finns in what is now Latvia to retain their native speech, for on the eastern side of the Gulf of Riga, the Livonian language died out in 1862. In 1852 there were 2354 Livs; in 1881, 2374; by 1920, however, the number had been reduced to 831, and it is probable that the Livs are destined to lose their language as well as their ethnic identity.

In view of this impending absorption, it is fortunate that the Livs have been subjected to careful anthropometric study.89 Two series of 100 adult males each, measured in 1878 and 1922, both yield a mean stature of 174 cm.; hence the Livs are very tall, and have derived none of their height through the modern increase mechanism which has elevated other peoples in northwestern Europe. They are large boned, long limbed, and at the same time heavy and powerfully built; their shoulders are broad, but their relative sitting height of 51.3 shows an excess of leg rather than body length. Their heads and faces are both large, comparable in size to those of western Norwegians. Length and breadth diameters of the head, with means of 193.3 mm. and 155.1 mm., produce a cephalic index with a mean of 80.2, which, although the range runs from 70 to 90, is not especially variable. It will be observed that the head form of the eastern Finns has been preserved, while the head size has been greatly increased.

In the facial dimensions, however, a menton-nasion height of 122.5 mm. equals that of Carelians and other Finns of smaller total size, while the bizygomatic mean, 145.8 mm., greatly exceeds the Finnish standard. The resultant facial index, 84.1, is therefore low, and the Livs are definitely euryprosopic. Other facial widths are also extremely great; the minimum frontal mean is 110 mm., that of the bigonial 113 mm. Hence a broad brow and an extremely broad jaw are essential Liv features, as is a wide distance between the eyes. Although no nasal measurements have been taken, observations show that the nasal profile is usually straight, with an upturned snub tip in many instances. The orbits are horizontal, the lips usually thin, the lines which stretch from the nose to the corners of the mouth strongly marked. The hair form, although straight in three-fourths of the sample, is not infrequently deeply waved or curly. Furthermore, the body hair and beard are characteristically heavy.

The head hair, most frequently ash-blond or light to medium brown, is shown by a correlation based on the Fischer chart to be lighter than that for the kingdom of Norway, which is, on the same basis, the lightest in Scandinavia.90 At the same time the eyes are specifically gray91 in 74 per cent of the group, while blue eyes are exceptional, and brown irises limited to 8 per cent of the whole.

The foregoing description of the Livs shows that their metrical resemblance to the mother-type of the Finns is not close, and that they must have derived much of their racial heritage from the earlier inhabitants of the eastern Baltic lowlands. At the same time they preserve, whether by convergence or by heredity, the head form of the eastern Finns, and some of the most characteristic Finnish facial features. Their chief difference from the Finnic prototype is an excess of body and head size, an excess of facial breadths, of blondism, and of hairiness. They represent an extreme form of what is designated in the present work as the East Baltic race, a racial entity in which the previously described Neo-Danubian race, whether acting through a Finnic or an Indo-European linguistic and cultural medium, is a contributing factor.

The Esthonians, who number over a million in their own country and some 150,000 in Russia, resemble the Livs in most respects.92 Tall stature of 172 cm. or over is typical of the Esths who live on the island of Ösel and along the northern and western coast; inland, means of 170 cm. are usual, while in the southeastern parishes this is reduced to 168 cm. There is some evidence that the tall stature of the Esths is in part due to a modern increase, since in 1878 regional recruit means draughted into the Russian army varied from 166 to 169 cm. In bodily proportions the Esths are seen to be frequently heavily built, with long bodies and the extremely high relative span of 107 or 108. It was this excessive development of the arms and shoulders, along with a wide mandible, that the Norwegians found most characteristic of the Finns who had affected the population of their southeastern provinces.

In head size and head form the Esths resemble the Livs closely, but are slightly longer headed, with a national cephalic index mean of 79.3. At the same time their faces are somewhat longer (124.7), while the excessive jaw breadth remains the same. What difference there is between the Esths and the Livs anthropometrically points to a greater Nordic content for the former, which is not surprising, since there have been a considerable mixture between Esths and Swedes, and a considerable absorption, in Esthonia, of early North Germans. The pigment character of the Esths is prevailingly blond, comparable to that of both Livs and Swedes; 56 per cent of the hair is called "fair," 43 per cent brown, and less than one per cent each are red and black. The eyes are blue in 25 per cent of cases, and gray in 51 per cent, while the brown class is said to include 13 per cent of the whole.

Two series of crania about 300 years old, from Esthonia and Livonia, show that the modern head form of the Livs and Esths dates back at least to that time.93 At the same time these skulls show that the immediate ancestors of these Baltic Finns were broad-faced, not infrequently wide-nosed, and often low-orbitted. They serve further to define the East Baltic racial type in this region.

Out in the Gulf of Riga, between the Liv villages and the larger island of Ösel, is a small island called Runö, inhabited by an old population of Swedish fishermen. These Swedes, the subject of a special investigation,94 closely resemble the Livs in most respects. The stature and head dimensions are the same, and the faces are equally broad. Nasal dimensions of 56 mm. and 37 mm. yield a nasal index of 66, which is leptorrhine as a mean, but one-fourth of the group is mesorrhine. The hair and eye colors are predominantly blond, and as great a blondism is found here as among the Livs. Ash-blond hair is found in over 60 per cent of the group. This series is not, however, as homogeneous as that of the Livs, but shows two distinct modes in a number of characters; one represents a sub-group with a stature of 176 cm., a cephalic index of 78.5, a high vault, and a nasal index of 63, while the other sub-group is characterized by a stature of 169 cm., a cephalic index of 80.5, a lower vault, and a nasal index of 67. Both sub-groups are equally blond, and equally ashen in hair color. These sub-groups may represent in the first case a Nordic of strong Corded inspiration, in the second case a more typically Finnic element. This division serves to emphasize the fact that in the East Baltic countries as elsewhere the predominant type of the population is not stable, but individuals showing older combinations are common.


88. The villages are (in Livonian) Musta-Num, Waida, Kuolka, on the Gulf of Riga; and Sonag, Pitrog, Kuostrog, Irai, Sikrog, Ud Külla, Ira, Piza Külla, and Luke Külla on the Baltic. The Letts call them by somewhat different names.

89. Vildes, J., LUR, vol.11, 1924, pp.93-181.
Waldhauer, F., Zur Anthropologie der Liven.

90. A compasison between Vildes's series of 100 adult male Livs with the younger Norwegian recruit total from Bryn and Schreiner, with a series of Finnish hair samples studied by the author, and with a Lettish series which will he studied later, follows. The grouping is that of Vildes.

NUMBERS          (VILDES)           (100)        NORWAY        FINNS        LETTS
 16-22              Lt. blond               3             1.46%         2.23%       1.33%
 12-15, 23-24      Blond                17           11.6             8.99          4.00
 9-11, 25-26      "Brunet"              45           37.1            40.22        49.33
 5-8               "Dk. brunet"           29           44.9            48.60        40.00
 4, 27, 28           "Black"                4             3.7              ___           4.00
 1-3                     Red                   2             1.34            ___           1.33

91. Apparently pure gray, since Vildes places "gray with brown rim" and "gray with brown speckles" under separate categories. Waldhauer's earlier work agrees closely with that of Vildes in eye color designations and ratios.

92. Grube, O., Anthropologische Untersuchungen an Esten.
Michelseon, G., ZFMA, vol.27, 1928-30, pp. 439-463.

93. Knorre, G. von, ZEMA, vol.28, 1930, pp.256-312.
Priman, J., LUR, vol.12, 1925, pp. 429-480.
Virchow, R., ZFE, vol.10, 1878, pp.141-154.
Witt, H., Die Schädelform der Esten.

94. Hildén, K., Fennia, vol.47, #3, 1927.