Courland Governorate

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Coat of arms of the governorate

The Courland Governorate ( Russian Курляндская губерния / Kurljandskaja gubernija ) was the southernmost of the three Russian Baltic Governments . The capital was Mitau . Most of the subordinate area now belongs to Latvia .

Extension and location

The Kurland Governorate consisted of two parts of the landscape - the Kurland proper and Semigallia . It bordered Livonia to the north, the Vitebsk governorate to the east, the Baltic Sea to the west, and the Kovno and Vilna governorates to the south . Over a narrow coastal strip around Polangen (lit. Palanga ), administered as Wolost Polangen , the governorate bordered on the northernmost tip of East Prussia . It had an area of ​​27,286 km².

Administrative division

The governorate in 1821 (Russian / German)

When it was set up, it was divided into 9 circles. Later the four main teams were restored with two main teams each.

The Courland Governorate was divided into the following districts ( Ujesd ):

According to the general map from 1821
circle Main town, Latvian name High command
Bauske district Bauska Mitau
Friedrichstadt district Jaunjelgava Selburg
Goldingen district Kuldīga Goldingen
Grobin district Grobiņa Hasenpoth
Hasenpoth district Aizpute Hasenpoth
District Illuxt Ilūkste Selburg
Doblen district Dobele Mitau
Talsen district Talsi Tuckum
Tuckum district Tukums Tuckum
Windau district Ventspils Goldingen


  • Mitau
  • Tuckum
  • Selburg
  • Goldingen
  • Hasenpoth


The Governorates of Courland and Kaunas (Kovno) on a Russian map from around 1890

The Duchy of Courland and Zemgale came to the Russian Empire in the course of the Third Partition of Poland in 1795. Formally a vassal state of Poland-Lithuania , the last few decades have always been favorites of the Russian rulers in the government, most recently Peter von Biron , so that the country had de facto been ruled by Russia for some time. On March 18, 1795 the formal state parliament resolution came to submit to the Russian scepter, the duke was compensated with a pension. On February 12, 1796, the Julian calendar was also reintroduced.

Courland was organized as a governorate, whereby the Pilten ( Piltene ) monastery , which had belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Livonia , and the Lithuanian coastal strip around Polangen (lit. Palanga ) in 1819 , when Wolost Polangen became part of this new governorate, were also organized. Politically could deutschbaltisch embossed Kurländische knighthood maintain a dominant role. In 1817 the peasants were liberated, with the Baltic governorates playing a pioneering role within Russia. From the middle of the 19th century, there were first attempts to align the Baltic provinces with the rest of Russia ( Russification ). The Russian Code was introduced in 1835 and Russian as the official language in 1850, but it was not until later decades that serious attempts were made to enforce it. Until 1876 there was a general government of the Baltic provinces, which was abolished that year.

During the First World War , Kurland was in the combat zone on the Eastern Front and had been largely occupied by German troops since the spring or early summer of 1915 . It fell to Latvia, which had become independent in 1918 , after the failure of the formation of the Baltic German state supported by the German side .

Statistics for the year 1885

In 1885 the Courland Governorate had 652,570 inhabitants (24 per km²). 74% of them were Protestants , 18% Roman and Greek Catholics and approx. 8% Jews . The rural population consisted entirely of Latvians , while a substantial part of the urban population was Baltic German (8% in total). There were also 1.7% Russians and 1% Poles and Lithuanians.

By far the most important branch of the economy was agriculture. Rye (14.2 hl / hectare in 1884), oats (14.5), winter wheat (15.6), summer wheat (9.6), barley (15.1) and potatoes (120.9) were mainly grown . The livestock was 173,530 horned cattle, 165,788 sheep, 86,835 pigs and 122,692 horses. The main minerals mined were gypsum , clay , lime and peat , sandstone , marl and a little brown coal , and there was also amber deposits . In contrast, industry was rather insignificant, the most important branch of industry was the production of spirits .

The trade went mainly through the port of Libau ( Liepāja ), which was also an important base of the Imperial Russian Navy . The Riga - Kowno (lit. Kaunas ) line runs right through the area on railway connections .

In 1885 there were three classical grammar schools , namely in Mitau, Libau and Goldingen, with a total of 1857 students, five higher educational institutions for female youth, 24 district schools and orphanage schools, two city schools, 136 private teaching institutions, 418 elementary schools , three schools for the deaf and mute, and five navigation schools Elementary school teacher seminar and an agricultural school. There were a total of 44,029 learners, of which 17,310 were female. In rural areas there was one school for every 1290 people and one pupil for every 15 people.


According to the 1897 census in the Russian Empire

language number Percentage (%) male female
Latvian 507 511 75.29 240 672 266 839
German 51 017 7.56 23 372 27 645
Yiddish 37 689 5.59 18 137 19 552
Russian 25 630 3.8 16 319 9 311
Polish 19 688 2.92 9,985 9 703
Lithuanian 16 531 2.45 8 833 7 698
Belarusian 12 283 1.82 6 356 5,927
Romani 1 202 0.17 581 621
People who did not mention their mother tongue 5 > 0.01 4th 1
Languages ​​with less than 1000 speakers in Courland 2,478 0.36 1 993 485
total 674 034 100 326 252 347 782


  • Paul Anton Fedor Konstantin Possart: The Russian Baltic Sea provinces of Courland, Livonia and Esthland . Volume 1: Statistics and Geography of the Courland Governorate . JF Steinkopf, Stuttgart 1846., also statistics and geography of the Kurland governorate

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. "Mietau and Seelburg in Semgallen and Goldingen and Tukun in the actual Kurland" [1]
  3. ^ Language Statistics of 1897