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(yĕl`gävä), also


Ger. Mitau, city (2011 provisional pop. 59,449), in Latvia, on the Lielupe River. It is a major rail hub and a trade center for grain and timber. The city grew around a fortress established by the Livonian Knights in the 13th cent., but was destroyed by the Lithuanians in 1345. In 1561, Jelgava became the residence of the dukes of Courland; it passed to Russia with the duchy in 1795. German troops held Jelgava during World War I. In 1919, during the struggle for Latvian independence, the city was occupied in turn by Soviet forces, by German free corps, and by the Latvians. Part of independent Latvia from 1920 to 1940, Jelgava was then seized by the USSR, held by the Germans from 1941 to 1944, and taken by Soviet troops. City landmarks include the 16th-century Trinity Church and the 18th-century ducal palace.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(formerly Mitau, Mitava), a city in the Latvian SSR. Major railroad junction of lines to Riga, Ventspils, Liepāja, Šiauliai, and Krustpils and highway junction. Landing on the Lielupe River. Population, 57,000 (1971; 32,000, 1939).

Founded in 1226, the city was named Mitau after the castle built by the Livonian Order in 1265. From 1561 to 1725 it was the capital of the Duchy of Courland, and after the duchy was annexed to Russia in 1795, it became the administrative center of the province of Courland. Between January and March 1919, Soviet power was established in the city. From 1920 to 1940 it was a district town in bourgeois Latvia, and in 1940 it became part of the Latvian SSR. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, Jelgava was occupied by fascist German troops from June 29, 1941, to July 31, 1944.

The principal industries are machine building, metalworking, and food processing; light industry is also important. The machine-building enterprises produce lubricating equipment, braking gear, and scraper transporters. The city has a flax-processing enterprise, a tannery, a sugar refinery (the republic’s largest), and vegetable and meat canneries. Building materials and artistic ceramic objects are also produced, and a microbus plant is being built (1972). The Latvian Academy of Agriculture is in Jelgava, and the city also has a music school, a museum of local lore, and a people’s theater.

Architectural monuments include the Church of St. Anne (1619–41), the Jelgava Palace (1738–40, 1763–72; architect, B. F. Rastrelli; rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries), the Academia Petrina (1773–75; architect, S. Jensens), and the Villa Medem (1835–36; architect, J. Berlics; an example of classicism). Since the early 17th century the city has had a planned layout. After the war the center of the city was rebuilt according to the design drawn up in 1947 (architects, O. Tflmanis and others), and in 1959 an overall plan of reconstruction was approved (architects, V. Timuks and V. G. Kruglov). Many residential and public buildings have been erected, among them the complex of the Latvian Academy of Agriculture (1958–68) and the Palace of Culture (1962; architect, A. Krūminš).


Ziemelis, U. Jelgava. Riga, 1965.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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