Jelgava (pronounced [jælɡava] ) is a state city in central Latvia about 41 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Riga. It is the largest town in the region of Zemgale (Semigalia). Jelgava was the capital of the united Duchy of Courland and Semigallia (1578–1795) and was the administrative center of the Courland Governorate (1795–1918).

State city
Flag of Jelgava
Coat of arms of Jelgava
Jelgava highlighted in Latvia.
Jelgava highlighted in Latvia.
Jelgava is located in Latvia
Location in Latvia
Coordinates: 56°38′54″N 23°42′50″E / 56.64833°N 23.71389°E / 56.64833; 23.71389
Country Latvia
Town rights1573
 • MayorAndris Rāviņš[1] (LZS)
 • Number of City Council members15
 • Total60.56 km2 (23.38 sq mi)
 • Land57.66 km2 (22.26 sq mi)
 • Water2.9 km2 (1.1 sq mi)
13 m (43 ft)
 • Total54,701
 • Density900/km2 (2,300/sq mi)
 • State city€0.740 billion (2021)
 • Per capita€13,500 (2021)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
Postal code
LV-300(1–9); LV-3024; LV-3035
Calling code(+371) 630

Jelgava is situated on a fertile plain rising only 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) above mean sea level on the right bank of the river Lielupe. At high water, the plain and sometimes the town as well can be flooded. It is a railway center, and is also a host to the Jelgava Air Base. Its importance as a railway centre can be seen by the fact that it lies at the junction of over 6 railway lines connecting Riga to Lithuania, eastern and western Latvia, and Lithuania to the Baltic Sea.



Until 1917, the city was officially referred to as Mitau. The name of Jelgava is believed to be derived from the Livonian word jālgab, meaning "town on the river."[5] The origin of the German name Mitau is unclear, although it is suggested that it came from the Latvian words mīt or mainīt, meaning "to exchange" or "to trade," thus making it "trading-place." An alternate explanation is that Mitau came from Mitte in der Aue, which is German for "the middle of the Aa", referring to the Lielupe River, formerly known as the Courland Aa (Kurländische Aa in German). [citation needed]

In Yiddish, the city was known as מיטאַווע (Mitave) or מיטאַו (Mitar).

In publications dating from the Soviet period, the city name was occasionally spelled in English as "Yelgava", a back-transliteration from Russian Елгава.


The Rastrelli Palace at the heart of Jelgava, completed in 1772

Settlement began developing in the Mitau locality between the rivers Lielupe and Driksa during the 10th century. Led by the Grand Master Konrad von Mandern [lv], the crusading Livonian Order constructed the castle in Mitau on a natural island fortification (Pilssala) in 1265–1266. Using Mitau as a southern fortress, the German knights subdued the surrounding Livonians and Semigallians by 1290. The town rose in importance as a defensive fixture against the Lithuanians to the south, who succeeded in plundering Mitau in 1345.

As a result of the fall of the Livonian Order in the Livonian War of 1558-1583, Mitau became a town of the Duchy of Courland in 1561. Mitau received city rights in 1573, and became the capital of the united duchies of Courland and Semigallia in 1578. When the Duchy of Courland split in 1596, Mitau became the residence of Duke Friedrich Kettler of Semigallia. The city again became the capital of the united duchies in 1617. Because the duchy became a vassal of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1561, Mitau was also referred to by the Polish name Mitawa. The Commonwealth's repeated wars with Sweden subjected Mitau to several sieges. Despite the wars, the city grew as a center for trade and industry. As Courland's neighbors increased in strength, however, the duchy - and Mitau - began to fall under Russia's sphere of influence.

The Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great, received a promise from duke Friedrich Wilhelm that he would marry one of the daughters of the tsar's late half-brother. In 1710, Friedrich Wilhelm married Anna Ioannovna (daughter of Tsar Ivan V (r. 1682–1696), and herself later Empress of Russia), but on his way back from St Petersburg, he took ill and died (1711). Anna ruled as the duchess of Courland from 1711 to 1730.

Academia Petrina, established by Duke Peter von Biron in 1775

The penultimate duke of Courland, Ernst Johann von Biron (r. 1737–1740 and 1763–1769), expanded the cultural aspects of Mitau. He constructed the ducal palace and opened the first public library in the city. In 1775 the last Duke of Courland, Peter von Biron (r. 1769–1795), founded the Academia Petrina, which became a cultural center for the country. The duke also encouraged theatrical performances at his court.

With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the citizens of Mitau clamored for more rights. Later, Imperial Russia annexed the city as part of Courland in 1795 during the Third Partition of Poland. The Count of Provence lived at the palace of Mitau (1798–1801 and 1804–1807) before he became the French king Louis XVIII in 1814. Although the city was occupied by Prussian troops during the Napoleonic Wars, it was largely spared destruction.

Jelgava in 1935

Mitau further expanded after the construction of its railway in 1868. The development of its infrastructure encouraged rural Latvians to migrate to the city, as merchants, craftsmen, teachers, and officials. By 1914 Mitau had over 45,000 inhabitants. However, Mitau suffered considerably after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The spirited defence of Mitau by two battalions of the Latvian Home Guard in 1915 helped inspire the formation of the Latvian Rifles. German troops occupied the city during the war, and British prisoners of war, sent there as forced labour, suffered atrocious conditions and treatment.[6] After the war, in 1919, Mitau became a battleground between Bolshevik Red Guards, German paramilitaries, and Latvian freedom-fighters. After the victory of the latter group in November 1919, Mitau, renamed to Jelgava, became an important city in independent Latvia. In 1925 a sugar factory was built in Jelgava, the first such factory in Latvia. In 1939 Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies opened in the Jelgava Palace.

As a result of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Jelgava was occupied and annexed with the rest of Latvia by the Soviet Union in 1940. Many of the city's remaining German population were resettled into the territory of German-occupied Poland during the Nazi–Soviet population transfers. German forces from Army Group North occupied Jelgava from 1941 to 1944 until the re-capture of the city by the Red Army. During World War II, German police along with Latvian auxiliary police murdered the Jewish inhabitants of the city during a series of mass shootings (see Jelgava massacres). The main synagogue was burned to the ground.

Soviet soldiers fight in the streets of Jelgava in the summer of 1944

In late July 1944, the Soviet Red army launched an attack from the south in the direction of Jelgava and Tukums to encircle the German Army Group North. Jelgava was declared a fortress (Festung) however, there were only a few scattered German and Latvian units in the city. From 30 July until 7 August, after heavy street fighting and several air raids, the Red Army managed to occupy the left bank of the Lielupe river. In late August, the German army launched a counterattack on Jelgava from the north but it failed to drive back the Soviets. Jelgava remained on the frontline until 10 October when the German army retreated to Courland. The city's historic centre, industry, rail network, and public buildings were heavily damaged by the fighting, with almost 90% of the city destroyed. Among lost buildings was famous Kurland Provincial Museum and Athenaeum.

Jelgava was rebuilt in typical Soviet style after World War II as part of the Latvian SSR. Jelgava became home to several big factories. Among them were the sugar factory, which was heavily expanded from 1975 assembly line, and administration buildings for the Riga Autobus Factory (RAF). Following Latvian independence, Jelgava has slowly regained its original Germanic heritage and is now a popular tourist site. Owing to Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies, many of Jelgava's inhabitants are students or people connected with education. For this reason Jelgava is sometimes called the Student capital of Latvia.



Jelgava has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb).

Climate data for Jelgava (1991−2020 normals, extremes 1867−present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 10.7
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) −0.3
Daily mean °C (°F) −2.7
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −5.7
Record low °C (°F) −34.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 43.6
Average precipitation days 11 9 9 7 9 10 11 10 10 11 11 11 119
Average relative humidity (%) 87.5 84.9 78.5 71.4 70.5 74.5 77.9 78.7 83.1 86.6 89.4 89.6 81.0
Source 1: LVĢMC[7][8]
Source 2: NOAA (humidity and precipitation days 1991-2020)[9]



As of 1 January 2022, the city had a population of 54,694. [citation needed]

Demographics of Jelgava 2022


Cathedral of Our Lady

Jelgava before the Second World War had regular, broad streets lined with the mansions of the Baltic German nobility who resided at the former capital of Courland. The old castle (1266) of the dukes of Courland, situated on an island in the river, was destroyed by Duke Biren, who had a spacious palace erected (1738–1772) by Bartolomeo Rastrelli at the bridge across the Lielupe. The palace contains the sarcophagi of almost all of the Curonian dukes, except the last one. The future Louis XVIII sojourned in the palace between 1798 and 1800. It now functions as Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. Other landmarks include the Baroque church of St. Anne's Church [lv] (Liela Street 22a), the tower of the destroyed Jelgava St. Trinity Church [lv] (Akadēmijas Street 1), and two handsome structures: the Villa Medem [lv] and the Academia Petrina.[citation needed]

In addition the following cultural and historical objects can be seen: Jelgava Palace (Lielā Street 2), Jelgava Old Town, Cathedral of the Immaculate Virgin Mary (Katoļu Street 11), St Simeon and St Anne's Cathedral (Raina Street 5), St. John's Church [lv] (Jāņa Street 1), Jelgava Baptist Church (Matera Street 54), Love Alley (Dobele highway), Valdeka Castle [lv] (Rīgas Street 22), Jelgava Station (Stacijas Street 1).[citation needed]


Ice sculpture festival

Jelgava regularly hosts an international Ice Sculpture festival, Student Folk Festival, Easter Walk, Latvian Plant Days, Business Days, Jelgava City Festival, Summer solstice in Jelgava, medicine market, International Cat Show "Jelgava Cat", Sports Day, International Sand Sculpture Festival, Latvian Milk, Bread and Honey Festival [lv] and Milk Packet Boat Regatta, Beginning of the School Year, Metal Festival, Azemitologa Festival,[10] Autumn fair " Miķeļdienas waiting", Latvian Amateur Theater Festival "Jokes come from the actor", Student Days, Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia s celebrations, New Year's Eve.[citation needed]

The following museums operate in the city: Ģederts Eliass [lv] Jelgava History and Art Museum, Adolf Alunan Memorial Museum [lv], historical expositions St. Trinity Church [lv] tower, Latvia University of Agriculture Museum [lv], Rundāle Castle [lv] museum exposition in Jelgava Castle "Tombs of the Dukes of Kurzeme and Zemgale", Latvian Railway Museum Jelgava exposition, psychiatric hospitals "Ģintermuiža [lv]" museum, Firefighter [lv] exposition.[citation needed]

Libraries: Jelgava City Library [lv] (Akadēmijas Street 26), Pārlielupe Library (Loka highway 17), Miezīte Library (Dobele highway 100), children's library "Zinītis" (Lielā Street 15).[citation needed]



Green territories and parks: Jelgava Castle Park, Station Park, Rainis Park, Duke Jacob's Square, Square in Mātera Street, Alunāns Park, Svētbirze, Ozolpils Park, Valdeka Park, Ozolskers, Victory Park, Jelgava Psychoneurological Hospital Park, Lielupe floodplain meadows, Grēbner Park, forest near RAF residential area, forest near Jelgava bypass.[citation needed]



The city's main football team, FK Jelgava, plays in the Latvian Higher League and has won the Latvian Football Cup four times.[citation needed]

Notable people

Town Hall of Jelgava, Latvia
Bus station in Jelgava, Latvia



Twin towns – sister cities


Jelgava is twinned with:[13]

In 2022, Jelgava suspended the cooperation agreements with Magadan and Baranavichy due to Russian invasion of Ukraine.[14]

See also



  1. ^ Jelgava City municipality web page Archived 30 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Reģionu, novadu, pilsētu un pagastu kopējā un sauszemes platība gada sākumā". Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  3. ^ "Iedzīvotāju skaits pēc tautības reģionos, pilsētās, novados, pagastos, apkaimēs un blīvi apdzīvotās teritorijās gada sākumā (pēc administratīvi teritoriālās reformas 2021. gadā)". Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. Retrieved 19 June 2024.
  4. ^ "Gross domestic product and gross value added by planning region, State city and municipality at current prices (after administrative-territorial reform in 2021)".
  5. ^ Bilmanis, Alfred (1 November 2008). Latvia as an Independent State. Read Books. ISBN 9781443724449 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Meeting the Enemy by Richard Van Emden.
  7. ^ "Klimatisko normu dati" (in Latvian). Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  8. ^ "Gaisa temperatūras rekordi" (in Latvian). Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  9. ^ "World Meteorological Organization Climate Normals for 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  10. ^ (in Latvian) LLU pirmkursnieki svin Azemitologa svētkus
  11. ^ "Last Duke of Courland's cause of death revealed". RSU. 28 December 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  12. ^ "Eichwald, Karl Eduard von" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 9 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 132.
  13. ^ "Sadraudzības pilsētas". (in Latvian). Jelgava. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  14. ^ Jelgava suspends cooperation agreement with twin cities Magadan (Russia) and Baranovichi (Belarus)