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About Latvia » Venspils

Ventspils

Some facts: Ventspils is located in the northwestern part of Latvia, by the estuary of the River Venta on the coast of the Baltic Sea, 189 km from the capital of Latvia Riga. The territory of Ventspils city is 55.4 km², 38% of which is covered with forests, parks and watercourses. Ventspils is the sixth largest city in Latvia (pop. 44 000).
History: Ventspils is one of the oldest cities of Latvia. The Castle of the Livonian Order, first mentioned in historical documents of 1290, is considered to be the first building in the present territory of Ventspils. Near the castle, that was built in an economically and strategically important place, the camp of the German colonists and later the city of Ventspils gradually formed. The rights of the city have been indirectly mentioned in a document dated 1378. Ventspils was known as a port city during the rule of the Livonian Order – it became a member of the Hanseatic League of trading cities. The first economic boom of Ventspils dates back to the time of the Duke of Kurzeme Jacob (1642-1682) when the city was known as the main port of the Duchy and as an important centre of shipbuilding and handwork. Dozens of trading vessels and warships were built at the time. During the Polish-Swedish War Ventspils was almost completely burnt down. The majority of the residents died in 1710 due to the plague brought to Ventspils during the Northern War. The Duchy was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1795. The activity of the port and the shipbuilding facility started anew in the middle of the 19th century. The Naval Academy of Ventspils started functioning in 1870. At the end of the 19th century Russia decided to build a modern port in Ventspils, as well as the railway route Ventspils-Moscow-Ribinsk. A rapid growth of Ventspils could be observed at the time, but the process was interrupted by World War I. During the independence years of Latvia (1919-1940) the port of Ventspils could not reach the level of the pre-war cargo turnover. The occupation and annexation of Latvia into the Soviet Union in 1940 affected the residents of Ventspils like the rest of the population of Latvia. The largest industrial and trade enterprises, as well as the largest dwelling houses were nationalised in 1940. The structure and number of the residents of Ventspils has changed considerably due to the Second World War, repressions and emigration. Significant years in Ventspils were the sixties and seventies when the city became the largest oil and oil product export port of the Soviet Union. Since the renewal of independence of Latvia (1991) enormous political and economic changes have taken place. As a result, a rapid flourishing of the city and the port of Ventspils can be observed. Many historical objects of the city, including the former dwelling-houses, have been renovated and are open to the public now.