“TheCeļotājs” –
Liepāja City Sights in Courland
Home      History of Liepaja
History of Liepaja from 1625 to Present Day – 
Liepaja, historical variant: Libau, is a city in western Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea directly at 21°E, and the administrative center of Liepaja district. It is the largest city in the Kurzeme Region of Latvia, the third largest city in Latvia after Riga and Daugavpils and an important ice-free port. As of 1 January 2010, Liepaja had a population of approximately 83,000.
Liepaja is known throughout Latvia as "The city where the wind is born", possibly because of the constant sea breeze. A song of the same name “Pilsētā, kurā piedzimst vējš” was composed by Imants Kalniņš and has become the anthem of the city. The reputation of Liepaja as the windiest city in Latvia has been further endorsed as the biggest wind power plant in Latvia “33 Enercon wind turbines” was constructed nearby.
The Coat of Arms of Liepaja was adopted four days after it gained city rights on 18 March 1625. These are described as: "On a silver background, The Lion of Kurzeme with a divided tail, who leans upon a Linden “Liepa” tree with its forelegs." The Flag of Liepaja has the coat of arms in the center, with red in the top half and green in the bottom.
The original settlement at the location of modern Liepaja was founded by Curonian fishermen of Piemare and was known by the name Līva “from the name of the river Lyva on which Liepaja was located, which in turn originated from the Livonian word Liiv meaning "drops". The oldest written text mentioning the name is dated 4 April 1253. The Livonian Order under the aegis of the Teutonic Order established the settlement as the village of Liba(u) in 1263. In 1418 the city was sacked and burned by the Lithuanians. During the 15th century, a section of a trade route from Amsterdam to Moscow passing along the river Līva was known as the "white road to Lyva portus". By 1520 the river Līva had become too shallow for easy navigation, and this retarded the development of the city.
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia
In 1560, Gotthard Kettler loaned all the Grobiņa district including Liepaja to Albert, Duke of Prussia for 50,000 guldens. Only in 1609 after the marriage of Sofie Hohenzollern, princess of Prussia, to Wilhelm Kettler did the territory return to the Duchy. During the Livonian War, Liepaja was attacked and destroyed by the Swedes. In 1625, Duke Friedrich Kettler of Courland granted the town city rights, which were affirmed by King Sigismund III of Poland in 1626. The name Liepaja was mentioned for the first time in 1649 by Paul Einhorn in his work "Historia Lettica". Under Duke Jacob Kettler “1642–1681”, Liepaja became one of the main ports of Courland as it reached the height of its prosperity. In 1637 Courland colonization was started from the ports of Liepaja and Ventspils.
Jacob was an eager proponent of mercantilist ideas. Metalworking and ship building became much more developed and trading relations developed not only with nearby countries, but also with Britain, France, the Netherlands and Portugal. In 1697-1703 a canal was cut to the sea and a port was built. In 1701, during the Great Northern War, Liepaja was captured by Charles XII of Sweden, but the end of the war saw the city in Polish possession. In 1710 an epidemic of plague killed about a third of the population of Liepaja.
In 1780 the first Freemasonry Lodge "Libanons" was set up in the port of Liepaja by Provincial Grandmaster Ivan Yelagin on behalf of the Provincial Lodge of Russia and was registered with a number 524 in the Grand Lodge of England.
Russian Empire
Courland passed to the control of the Russian Empire in 1795 during the third Partition of Poland and became the Courland Governorate of Russia. Growth during the nineteenth century was rapid. During the Crimean War when the Royal Navy was blockading Russian Baltic ports, the busy yet still unfortified port of Liepaja was briefly captured on 17 May 1854 without a shot being fired, by a landing party of 110 men from HMS Conflict and HMS Amphion. 
In 1857 the engineer Heidatel developed a project to reconstruct the port of Liepaja. In 1861-1868 the project was realized - including the building of a lighthouse and breakwaters.
Between 1877 and 1882 the political and literary weekly newspaper “Liepaja's Pastnieks” was published the first Latvian language newspaper in Liepaja. In the 1870s the rapid development of Russian railways, in 1871 the Libava-Kaunas
opened and in 1876 Liepāja-Romni railways ensured that a large proportion of central Russian trade passed through Liepaja.
By 1900, 7% of Russian exports were passing through Liepaja. The city became a major port of the Russian Empire on the Baltic Sea, as well as a popular resort. On the orders of Alexander III Liepaja was fortified against possible German attacks. The Libava fortress was subsequently built around the city, and in the early 20th century a major military base was established on the northern edge, including formidable coastal fortifications and extensive quarters for military personnel. As part of the military development a separate military port was excavated. This area became known as Kara Osta “War Port” and served military needs throughout the twentieth century.
Early in the twentieth century the port of Liepaja became a central point of embarkation for immigrants traveling to the United States. By 1906 the direct service to the United States was used by 40,000 migrants per year. Simultaneously, the first Russian training detachment of submarine navigation was founded. In 1912 one of the first water aerodromes in Russia was opened in Liepaja. By 1913, 1738 ships entered Libava with 1,548,119 tones of cargo passing through the port. The population had increased from 10,000 to over 100,000 within about 60 years.
World War I
During World War I, German dirigibles bombed Liepaja in January 1915. Liepaja was occupied by the German Army on 7 May 1915; in memory of this event, a monument was constructed on Kūrmājas prospect in 1916 “was destroyed in 1919”. On 23 October 1915, the German cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert was sunk by the British submarine HMS E8, 37 kilometers west of Liepaja.
                                     Liepaja's 5 rubles 1915
In 1915, Liepaja's local government issued its own money - Libava rubles.
During the war, the words of The Jäger March were written in Liepaja by Heikki Nurmio “1918-1940”
After the war, when the independent state of Latvia was founded, Liepaja became the de facto capital of Latvia for six months when the interim government of Latvia, headed by Kārlis Ulmanis, fled from Riga on a ship "Saratov". In 1918 Libava was renamed Liepaja. In 1935 KOD “Kara ostas darbnīcas” started to manufacture the light aircraft KOD-1 and KOD-2.
World War II
Top secret USSR document creating a closed military port in Liepaja signed by Stalin
“There is a spelling mistake in the word "Liepaja" Russian: “Лепая” 1951
The ports and human capital of Liepaja and Ventspils were targets of Joseph Stalin and part of the reason for the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In 1940 upon annexation by the Soviet Union, private property was nationalized
and many thousands of former owners were arrested and deported to Siberia; and thousands also fled to North America, Australia and Western Europe. In 1941 Liepaja was among the first cities captured by the 291st Division of Army Group North after Nazi Germany began the war with the Soviet Union. The local Jewish population, which had numbered about 7,000 before the war, was virtually exterminated by German Nazis and Latvian collaborators. Most of these mass murders took place in the dunes of SKEde north of the city. Fewer than 30 Jews remained alive in Liepaja by the end of the war. Film footage of an Einsatzgruppen execution of local Jews was taken in Liepaja. During the period 1944–1945 Liepaja was within the "Courland Pocket" and was only recaptured by the Soviet Army on 9 May 1945. World War II had devastated the City of Liepaja most all of the buildings and industrial plant were destroyed.
Latvian SSR
On 25–29 March 1949, a second mass deportation to Siberia occurred from Liepaja. In 1950 the monument to Stalin was erected on Station square “Stacijas laukums” but was later dismantled in 1958.
During 1953-1957 the city center was reconstructed under the direction of architects A. Kruglov and M. Žagare. In 1952-1955 the Liepaja Academy of Pedagogy building was constructed under the direction of A. Aivars. In 1960 the Kurzeme shopping center was opened.
During the Soviet occupation, Liepaja was a closed city and even nearby farmers and villagers needed a special permit to enter the city. The Soviet military set up its Baltic naval base and nuclear weapon warehouses there; The Beberliņš sandpit was dug out to extract sand used for constructing underground warehouses. The port was completely closed to commercial traffic in 1967.
One third of the city was taken up with a Soviet naval base with 26 thousand military staff. In Liepaja the 14th Submarine Squadron of the USSR's Baltic Fleet “Russian: 14 эскадрилья ЛиВМБ ДКБФ, call sign "Комплекс" was stationed with 16 submarines “Types: 613, 629a, 651”; as was the 6th group of Rear Supply of the Baltic Fleet, and the 81st Design Bureau and Reserve Command Center of the same force. [See Appendix I – The 14th Submarine Squadron USSR's Baltic Fleet]
In 1971 the script of one of the most popular Soviet comedies, “Gentlemen of Fortune”, was written in Liepaja by Georgi Daneliya. In 1977, Liepaja was awarded the “Order of the October Revolution” for heroic defense against Nazi Germany in 1941. Also in Liepaja, 5 people were awarded the honorary title “Hero of Socialist Labor” they were: Anatolijs Filatkins, Artūrs Fridrihsons, Voldemārs Lazdups, Valentins Šuvajevs and Otīlija Žagata.
Because of the rapid growth of the city's population, a shortage of apartment houses became an issue. To resolve this, most of the modern Liepaja districts - Dienvidrietumi, Ezerkrasts, Ziemeļu priekšpilsēta, Zaļa birze and Tosmare were built. The majority of these blocks were constructed of ferro-concrete panels in standard projects designed by the state Latgyprogorstroy Institute “Russian: Латгипрогорстрой”. In 1986 the new central city hospital in Zaļa birze was opened. [See Appendix II – Latgyprogorstroy Institute
In 1987, the well know at that time, the Soviet Union movie "Moonzund" was filmed in Liepaja, at "Coastal Battery No. 3", which was based on the World War I battle for the island of "Moonzund" between the "German Kiser's Navy"and the "Russian Tsar's Navy". Since these costal batteries had already been destroyed in the early 1900s, the set designers did an amazing job recreating this batteries and the costal guns.
From 1990 to Present Day
After Latvia regained independence, Liepaja has worked hard to change from a military city into a modern port city “now marked on European maps after the secrecy of the Soviet period”. The commercial port was re-opened in 1991, and in 1994 the last Russian troops left Liepaja.
Since then, Liepaja has engaged in international co-operation, has been associated with 10 twin and partner cities and is an active partner in several co-operation networks. Facilities are being improved as the city hosts Latvia's largest naval flotilla, the largest warehouses of ammunition and weapons in the Baltic States, and the main supply center of the Latvian army.
At the beginning of the 21st century many ambitious construction projects were planned for the city, including building the NATO military base, the biggest amusement park in the Baltic states “Baltic Sea Park” and a modern concert hall, "Lielais Dzintars"; but most of these projects have not been constructed due to “economic and political factors”. On the other hand, some of the earlier planned projects were completed. The Swedish company Capital Cooling completed the city cooling plan and Liepaja's heating network was renovated in cooperation with the French company Dalkia and Russian company Gazprom. In 2008 the Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia decided to build the coal cogeneration 400 MW power plant near Liepaja.
Liepaja is located in a zone with a temperate marine climate. The major factor influencing the weather in the region is the Baltic Sea, providing a mild winter and a cool summer. During the winter the sea around Liepaja is virtually ice-free. Although occasionally some land-fast ice may develop, it seldom reaches a hundred meters from the shore and does not last long before melting. The sea warms up fully only in the beginning of August, so the best bathing season in Liepaja is from August to September. Regular meteorological observations in the city have been conducted from 1857.
  • Average temperatures:  
February: −3.1 °C (26 °F)
July: 16.0 °C (61 °F)  
  • Absolute minimum of temperature: −33 °C (−27 °F)
  • Absolute maximum of temperature: 34 °C (93 °F)
  • Number of sunny days per year: 196
  • Average speed of wind: 5.8 m/s “13 mph”
  • Average annual norm of precipitation (mostly rain): 692 mm (27.2 in)  
Typical wind directions:
  • Winter: South
  • Summer: Western  
Liepaja is situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea in the south-western part of Latvia. The westernmost geographical point of Latvia is located approximately 15 kilometers to the south thus making Liepaja Latvia's furthest west city. Liepaja is situated between the Baltic Sea and Lake Liepaja with residential and industrial areas spreading north of the lake. The Trade Channel “Tirdzniecības kanāls” connects the lake to the sea dividing the city into southern and northern parts, which are often referred to as the Old Town “Vecliepāja” and the New Town “Jaunliepāja” respectively. The city center is located in the southern part and, although called the Old Town, is relatively more developed. Most of the  administrative and cultural buildings are found here as well as the main leisure areas. Along the coast the city extends northwards until it reaches the Tosmare Channel “Tosmares kanāls”. North of the Tosmare Channel is an area called Karosta which is now fully integrated into Liepaja and is the northern most district of the city. Liepaja's coastline consists of an unbroken sandy beach and dunes as does most of Latvia's coastline. The beach of Liepaja is not as exploited as other places “e.g. the Gulf of Riga, Jūrmala and Pärnu in Estonia” but also lacks the tourist infrastructure needed for a fashionable, modern resort.
Jūrmala Park
Jūrmala Park “Seaside Park” is located in the western part of the city at the seaside. The park is 3 km long with a total area of 70 ha and is one of the largest planted parks in Latvia. It was developed at the end of the 19th century. At the end of Peldu iela are Latvia's largest drums, one of the objects of Liepaja's environmental design which reminds one that Liepaja is the music capital of Latvia. The open-air concert stage Pūt, vējiņi! “Blow, wind, blow!” was built in 1964. It has been the venue for a good many concerts and festivals, with the festival "Liepājas Dzintars" "Amber of Liepaja" being the most famous among them, as it could be regarded as the oldest rock festival of the former Soviet Union. It was held for the first time in 1968. Alongside the stage is an interesting building, the former Bath House built in 1902 and designed by Max Paul Bertschy. At the beginning of the 19th century Liepaja was a renowned health resort and the Russian tsar and his family had been visiting Liepaja. This all encouraged other aristocrats from Russia and Europe to spend their summers in Liepaja as well.
Liepaja "Libava" Fortress
In the beginning of the 20th century, Liepaja "Libava" Fortress was the most expensive and ambiguous project of the Russian Army on the Baltic Sea. The massive concrete fortifications, with eight cannon batteries were built to protect the city and its population from German attacks. Secret underground passages of the fortress became the most famous Liepaja's urban legend. Nowadays the ruins of the fortress are the popular place for playing paintball. [Liepaja Russian Tsar's era Fortifications]
Liepaja is rich in different architecture styles: wooden houses, Art Nouveau buildings, Soviet-era apartments and a number of green parks all contribute to the character of the city. The main areas of interest for tourists include the city center with its many churches, the Seaside Park with white sandy beaches and the northern suburb of Karosta, a former secret military encampment which is now a major tourist attraction. Other areas of interest for tourists are Vecliepāja; Ezerkrasts, which is close to Lake Liepaja; and the Karosta beaches with their picturesque blasted forts.
Monuments and Memorials
  • Monument to the sailors and fishermen lost at sea - 1977
  • Monument to the Defenders of Liepaja in 1941 - 1960
  • Monument to 1919 Freedom Fighters
  • Monument to Mirdza Ķempe - 1989
  • Monument to Ēvalds Rimbenieks - 2008
  • Memorial wall in Zaļa birze
  • Nikolay Dedaev Monument
  • Statue of Hermes "Liela 10"
  • 1 Rock Café Guitar
  • The Amber Clock  
Churches Cathedrals
  • Saint Anna's Lutheran Church – 1508
  • Liepaja Holy Trinity Lutheran Cathedral – 1742
  • Saint Joseph's Catholic Cathedral – 1762
  • Holy Trinity Orthodox Church – 1867
  • Saint Nicholas Orthodox Naval Cathedral 1901–1903
  • Saint Meinhard's Church  
  • The Liepaja Museum
  • The Liepaja Museum Department "Liepaja During the Occupational Regimes"
  • Museum "History of Liepaja Community of Jews"
  • Museum "Liepaja Metalurgs" (founded in 2007)
  • Museum "Karosta Prison"  
Notable Landmarks 
  • University of Liepaja Building
  • Rose Square “Rožu laukums”
  • Swan Pond “Remnant of River Līva”
  • Hotel "Libava"
  • Peter the Great House - The oldest house in Liepaja
  • Graudu 45 - Graudu nams “Jugendstil”
  • Graudu 42 - former "Bonic Café"
  • Pētertirgus - Peter's Central Market
  • Liepājas teatris - Liepaja Theater
  • City Council Building - Former District court
  • Restaurant "Vecais Kapteins"
  • 1st Latvian Rock Café  
                  Liepaja's Bus Routes
The urban transport network of Liepaja relies mainly on buses and minicoaches. As of 2009 there are 12 bus routes and 5 minibus routes in Liepaja. The city also has a single two-way 6.9 km long tram line running through some parts of the city from north-east to south-west, which also provides a vital transport link. The tram line was founded after the opening of the first Liepaja power plant in 1899, which makes it the oldest electric tram line in the Baltic States; it is now operated by the municipal company Liepājas tramvajs.
The Port of Liepaja has a wide water area and consists of three main parts. The Winter harbor is located in the Trade channel and serves small local fishing vessels as well as medium cargo ships. Immediately north of the Trade channel is the main area of the port, separated from the open sea by a line of breakwaters. This part of the port can accommodate large ships and ferries. Further north is Tosmare harbor, also called Tosmare channel, which was formerly a military harbor but is now used for ship repairs and other commercial purposes. Liepaja also welcomes yachts and other leisure vessels which can enter the Trade channel and moor almost in the center of the city. 
Liepaja has a railway connection to Jelgava and Riga and through them to the rest of Latvia's railway network. There is just one passenger station in the New town, but the railway extends further and links to the port. There is also a northward railway track leading to Ventspils, but in recent decades it has fallen into disuse for economic reasons. The railway provides the main means of delivering cargo to the port.
Two main highways, the A9 and A11, connect the city and its port to the rest of the country. The A9 leads north-west towards Riga and central Latvia and the A11 leads south to the border with Lithuania and its only port Klaipeda and to Palanga International Airport.
The city also hosts Liepaja International Airport, one of three international airports in Latvia; it is located outside the city limits, north of the Lake of Liepaja in a little town named Cimdenieki. Regular flights to Riga, Hamburg and Copenhagen are available by the Latvian national airline AirBaltic and to Moscow by Atlant-Soyuz Airlines.
Communication systems in Liepaja are well-developed. The city is connected to the global Internet by three optical lines owned by Lattelecom, TeliaSonera International Carrier and Latvenergo, and a radio relay line owned by LVRTC. There are five Lattelecom telephone exchanges and the LVRTC TV station and tower, which transmits four national TV channels, one local TV channel "TV Dzintare", and six radio stations. It has two local cable TV operators with a total of 15,000 subscribers, and three local ISPs. The city also has its own amateur radio community and a city-wide wireless video monitoring system. As of 2010, digital terrestrial television is fully operational; mobile television and broadband wireless networks are ready for implementation. All four Latvian mobile operators have stable zones of coverage (GSM 900/1800, UMTS 2100 CDMA450) and client service centers in Liepāja. The city also has fourteen post offices as well as DHL, UPS and DPD depots.
In the second half of 20th century under Soviet rule Liepaja became an industrial city and a large number of high technology plants were founded, including:  
  • Mashzavod (Russian: Машзавод, Лиепайский машиностроительный завод)
  • Liepajselmash (Russian: Лиепайсельмаш) - 1954 (now Hidrolats)
  • Sarkanais Metalurgs (now Liepājas Metalurgs)
  • SRZ-29 (Russian: СРЗ-29, 29-й судоремонтный завод) (now Tosmares kuģu būvētava)
  • LBORF (Russian: ЛБОРФ, Лиепайская база Океанрыбфлота) - 1964
  • Bolshevik (Russian: Рыболовецкий колхоз "Большевик") - 1949 (now Kursa)
  • Perambulator factory "Liepāja" (Russian: Колясочная фабрика "Лиепая")
  • Mixed fodder plant (Russian: Лиепайский комбикормовый завод)
  • Sugar plant (Russian: Лиепайская сахарная фабрика)
  • Match factory "Baltija" (Russian: Лиепайская спичечная фабрика "Балтия") - 1957
  • Ferro-concrete constructions plant (Russian: Лиепайский 5-й завод железобетонных конструкций) - 1959
  • Oil extraction plant (Russian: Mаслоэкстракционный завод)
  • SU-426 of BMGS (Russian: СУ-426 треста Балтморгидрострой) (now BMGS)
  • Lauma (Russian: Лиепайский галантерейный комбинат Лаума) - 1972
  • Linoleum plant
  • Shoes factory  
After the collapse of USSR's centrally planned economy, only a small number of these plants continue to operate.
Within Latvia, Liepaja is well known mostly by coffee brand “Liepājas kafija'”, beer “Līvu alus” and sugar “Liepājas cukurs”. In 1997 the Liepaja Special Economic Zone was established for 20 years providing a low tax environment in order to attract foreign investments and facilitate the economic development of Liepāja, but investment growth remained slow due to a shortage of skilled labor force. The main industries in Liepāja are the steel producer “Liepājas Metalurgs”, building firm “UPB” and the underwear brand “Lauma”. The economy of Liepaja relies heavily on its port which accepts a wide range of cargo. The most notable companies working in Liepaja's port are “Baltic Transshipment Center”, “Liepājas Osta LM”, “Laskana, Astramar” and “Terrabalt”.
> After joining European Union in 2004, most Liepaja Companies were faced with strict European rules and terse competition and were forced to stop production or to sell enterprises to European companies.
> In 2007 the following companies were closed “Liepājas cukurfabrika”, “Liepājas sērkociņi”, “Līvu alus”, “Liepājas maiznieks” and “Lauma” was sold to European investors.
City Council consists of 15 member’s fourteen deputies and a mayor make up the Liepaja City Council. City's voters select a new government every four years, in March. The Council selects from its members the Chairman of City Council “also called City Mayor”, the First Vice Chairperson and a Vice Chairperson “Deputy Mayors” which are full time positions. City Council also appoints the members of four standing committees, which prepare issues to be discussed in the Council meetings: Finance Committee; City Economy and Development Committee; Social Affairs, Health Care, Education and Public Order Committee; Culture and Sports Committee. The City of Liepaja had an operating budget of LVL 31 millions in 2006, more than half of which comes from income tax. Traditionally, political leanings in Liepaja have been right-wing, although only about 70% of the population has voting rights. In recent years the “Liepājas partija” have dominated the polls.
                                                 Uldis Sesks, Liepaja Mayor
Uldis Sesks “Was born in 18–04–1962, Liepaja”. Mayor of Liepaja, Latvia, Businessman and Former Racer.
He is also the Chairman of Board in Liepaja Special Economic Zone Authority, Chairman of Board in "Liepājas partija" and Liepaja Development Fund, member of Rotary Club. He studied in 6th Liepaja school. Uldis Sesks graduated from the Latvian Academy of Agriculture in Jelgava with a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1986-1987, he was chief of the transport department of kolhoz Zelta zvaigzne. In 1987-1992, he was the vice-president of board of kolhoz Zieds in Vecpils. He improved his knowledge of entrepreneurship in Germany within a cooperation project with the Nordrhein-Westfalen Chamber of Commerce.
In the 1980s, he was active in rally sport. In the beginning of the 1990s, he established a private company "Autocentrs", which was later reorganized into "SD Autocentrs" and became the dealer of Volkswagen in Liepaja. He sold his share of the company in 2004. 
In 1997, Uldis Sesks was elected Chairman of the Liepaja City Council and re-elected to this position in 2001 and 2005. At the end of 2004 together with confederates established a new party - "Liepājas partija".
Married, has daughters Baiba and Anete and son Mārtiņš Nikijs
Education and Science
Liepaja has wide educational resources and long traditions of “Soviet Education”, but most well educated young people leave the city because of a lack of high-technology and prospective firms and low wages. The city has 21  kindergartens, 8 Latvian schools, 5 Russian schools, 1 school with mixed language of education, 1 evening school, 2 music schools and two internet schools. Interest education for children and youth is available in 8 municipal institutions: Children and Youth Centre, Youth Centre, Centre for Young Technicians, Art and Creation Centre "Vaduguns", Complex Sport School, Gymnastics School, Tennis Sports School, Sports School "Daugava" “football, track-and-field athletics” and Basketball Sports School.
Higher and professional education in Liepaja represented by:
  • University of Liepaja
  • Riga Technical University Liepaja branch
  • Baltic Russian Institute Liepaja branch
  • School of Business Administration Turiba Liepaja branch
  • Riga Teacher Training and Educational Management Academy Liepaja branch
  • Liepaja Applied Art School
  • Liepaja Marine College
  • Liepaja Medical College
  • Liepaja 48 College
  • Liepaja 31 College
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Revised: 06/09/2013 – 18:42:16