LIBAU (Lettish, Leepaya), a seaport of Russia, in the government of Courland, 145 m. by rail S.W. of Riga, at the northern extremity of a narrow sandy peninsula which separates Lake Libau (12 m. long and 2 m. wide) from the Baltic Sea. Its population has more than doubled since 1881 (30,000), being 64,505 in 1897. The town is well built of stone, with good gardens, and has a naval cathedral (1903). The harbour was 2 miles S. of the town until a canal was dug through the peninsula in 1697; it is now deepened to 23 ft., and is mostly free from ice throughout the year. Since being brought, in 1872, into railway connexion with Moscow, Orel and Kharkov, Libau has become an important port. New Libau possesses large factories for colours, explosives, machinery belts, sails and ropes, tobacco, furniture, matches, as well as iron works, agricultural machinery works, tin-plate works, soap works, saw-mills, breweries, oilmills, cork and linoleum factories and flour-mills. The exports reach the annual value of 3,250,000 to 5,500,000, oats being the chief export, with flour, wheat, rye, butter, eggs, spirits, flax, linseed, oilcake, pork, timber, horses and petroleum. The imports average 1,500,000 to 2/000,000 annually. Shipbuilding, including steamers for open-sea navigation, is on the increase. North of the commercial harbour and enclosing it the Russian government made (1893-1906) a very extensive fortified naval port, protected by moles and breakwaters. Libau is visited for sea-bathing in summer.
The port of Libau, Lyra portus, is mentioned as early as 1 263 ; it then belonged to the Livonian Order or Brothers of the Sword. In 1418 it was burnt by the Lithuanians, and in 1560 it was mortgaged by the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order, to which it had passed, to the Prussian duke Albert. In 1701 it was captured by Charles XII. of Sweden, and was annexed to Russia in 1795.
See Wegner, Geschichle der Stadt Libau (Libau, 1898).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)