Liepāja is known throughout Latvia as "the city where the wind is born", possibly due to 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 Liepāja 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 Liepāja 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 Liepāja has the coat of arms in the center, with red in the top half and green in the bottom.
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, Liepāja 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 Liepāja.
Courland passed to the control of Russian Empire in 1795 during the third Partition of Poland and became the Courland Governorate of Russia. Growth during the nineteenth century was rapid. In 1857 the engineer Heidatel developed a project to reconstruct the port of Liepāja. In 1861-1868 the project was realized - including the building of a lighthouse and breakwaters.
Between 1877-1882 the political and literature weekly newspaper Liepājas Pastnieks was published - the first Latvian language newspaper in Liepāja. In the 1870s the rapid development of the Russian railways and the 1871 opening of the Libava-Kaunas and the 1876 Liepāja-Romni railways ensured that a large proportion of central Russian trade passed through Liepāja.
By 1900, 7% of Russian exports were passing through Liepāja. The city became a major port of the Russian Empire on the Baltic Sea, as well as popular resort. On the orders of Alexander III Liepāja 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 Liepāja 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 a 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 Liepāja. 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.
During World War I German dirigibles bombed Liepāja in January, 1915. Liepāja was occupied by the German army on May 7, 1915, in memory of this event the monument was constructed on Kūrmājas prospect in 1916 (destroyed in 1919). On 23 October 1915, German cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert has sunk by the British submarine E8, 37 kilometers west of Liepāja. In the 1915 Liepāja's local government issued its own money - Libava rubles.
After the war, when the independent state of Latvia was founded, Liepāja 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 Liepāja. In 1935 KOD (Kara ostas darbnīcas) started to manufacture the light aircraft KOD-1 and KOD-2.
The ports and human capital of Liepāja and Ventspils were targets of Stalin and part of the reason for the signing of Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In 1940 upon annexation by the Soviet Union the 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 Liepāja was among the first cities captured by 291 division of Army Group North when Nazi Germany began the war with the Soviet Union in 1941. The local Jewish population, which numbered about 7,000 before the war, was virtually exterminated by German Nazis and Latvian collaborators. Most of this mass murder took place in the dunes of Šķēde north of the city. Fewer than 30 Jews remained alive in Liepāja by the end of the war. Film footage of an Einsatzgruppen execution of local Jews was made in Liepāja. In 1944-1945 years Liepāja was located in the "Courland Pocket" and was only recaptured by the Soviet army on 9 May 1945. World War II devastated the city, most of the buildings and plants were destroyed.deportation to Siberia occurred from Liepāja. In 1950 the monument to Stalin was erected on Station square (Stacijas laukums) but was 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 Liepāja Academy of Pedagogy building was constructed under the direction of A. Aivars. In 1960 the Kurzeme shopping centre was opened.
During the Soviet occupation, Liepāja 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; sandpit Beberliņš was dug out for extraction of the sand used for construction of 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 Liepāja the 14th submarine squadron of the Baltic Fleet of USSR (14 эскадрилья ЛиВМБ ДКБФ, call sign "Комплекс") was stationed with 16 submarines (613, 629a, 651); as was the 6th group of rear supply of Baltic Fleet, and the 81st design bureau and reserve command center of the same force.
In 1977, Liepāja was awarded the Order of the October Revolution for heroic defense against the Nazi Germany in 1941. In Liepāja 5 people were awarded the honorary title Hero of Socialist Labor - Anatolijs Filatkins, Artūrs Fridrihsons, Voldemārs Lazdups, Valentins Šuvajevs and Otīlija Žagata.
Because of the rapid growth of the city population, a shortage of apartment houses became an issue. To solve this, most of the modern Liepāja districts - Dienvidrietumi, Ezerkrasts, Ziemeļu priekšpilsēta, Zaļa birze and Tosmare - were built. The majority of these blocks were constructed of ferro-concrete panels on standard projects of Latgyprogorstroy (Латгипрогорстрой). In 1986 the new central city hospital in Zaļa birze was opened.
In 1987 a part of the film Moonzund was filmed in the town.
Since then, Liepāja 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 biggest warehouses of ammunition and weapon in the Baltic states and the main centre of supply of the Latvian army.
In the beginning of the 21st century many ambitious projects were planned for construction in the city, including building of the NATO military base, the biggest amusement park in Baltic states - Baltic Sea Park and modern concert hall "Lielais Dzintars"; but most of them haven't been realised because of economic and political motives.
In 2006, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, a direct descendant of Jacob Kettler visited Liepāja. In 2008 Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia decided to build the coal cogeneration 400 mWt power plant near Liepāja.
Liepāja 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 Liepāja 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 Liepāja is from August to September. Regular meteorological observations in the city have been conducted from 1857.
The closest city to Liepāja is Grobiņa located about 10 km away along the way to Riga. Other main cities in the region are Klaipėda (approx. 110 km to the south), Ventspils (approx. 115 km to the north) and Saldus (approx. 100 km to the east). The distance to Riga (the capital of Latvia) is about 200 km to the east. The nearest point to Liepāja across the Baltic sea is the Swedish island of Gotland approximately 160 km to the north-west. The distance to Stockholm is 216 nautical miles.
The urban transport network of Liepāja relies mainly on buses and minicoaches. There are 11 bus routes and 6 minibus routes in Liepāja. 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 Liepāja power plant in 1899, which makes it the oldest electric tram line in the Baltic states and now operated by municipal company Liepājas tramvajs.
The Port of Liepāja has a wide water area and consists of three main parts. The Winter harbor is located in the Trade channel and serves for the 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 accept large ships and ferry lines. Further north is Tosmare harbor also called Tosmare channel which formerly was a military harbor, but now is used for ship repairs and other commercial purposes. Liepāja also welcomes yachts and other leisure vessels which can enter the Trade channel and moor almost in the center of the city.
Liepāja has a railway connection to Jelgava and Riga and through them to the rest of Latvia's railway network. There is 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 in disuse due to economical reasons. The railway provides the main means of delivering cargo to the port.
Two main highways A9 and A11 lead out of the city providing another important transport link to the port. A9 road leads north-west towards Riga and central Latvia. A11 road leads south to the border with Lithuania and its only port Klaipeda and to Palanga International Airport.
City also hosts Liepāja International Airport, one of the three international airports in Latvia, which is located out of city limits north of the Lake of Liepāja in a little town named Cimdenieki. Regular daily flights to Riga, Hamburg and Copenhagen are available by the Latvian national airline AirBaltic.
After collapse of USSR's centrally planned economy, only a small number of these plants continue to work.
Within Latvia Liepāja is well know 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 investments growth slows down shortage of skilled labor force. The main industries in Liepāja is the steel producer Liepājas Metalurgs, building firm UPB and the underwear brand Lauma. Economy of Liepāja also relies heavily on its port which accepts wide range of cargo. Most notable companies working in Liepaja's port are Baltic Transshipment Center, Liepajas Osta LM, Laskana, Astramar and Terrabalt. After joining European Union in 2004, most Liepāja companies was faced with strict European rules and terse competition and was forced to stop production or to sell enterprises to European companies. In 2007 were closed Liepājas cukurfabrika and Liepājas sērkociņi; Līvu alus, Liepājas maiznieks and Lauma has been sold to European investors.
According to the 2007 data, native Latvians make up 52.0% of the population of Liepāja (by comparison, proportion of Latvians countrywide is 59%). Russian speaking people form a considerable minority. In 2007, Liepāja had a predominantly white population.
Higher and professional education in Liepāja represented by:
Liepāja Central Library has 6 branches and audio record library. Literature fund consists of about 460000 copies and online catalog. Average annual number of visitors - 25000.
|Nynäshamn, Sweden (1990)||Elbląg, Poland (1991)||Bellevue, Washington, USA (1992)|
|Darmstadt, Germany (1993)||Nykobing Falster, Denmark (1993)||Homyel, Belarus (1999)|
|Karlshamn, Sweden (1997)||Klaipeda, Lithuania (1997)||Gdynia, Poland (1999)|
|Rogaland county, Norway (1999)||Arstad District in Bergen, Norway (2001)||Palanga, Lithuania (2001)|
|Helsingborg, Sweden (2005)|