MITAU (Russian, Milava; Lettish, Yelgava), a town of Russia, capital of the government of Courland, 29 m. by rail S.W. of Riga, on the right bank of the river Aa, in a fertile plain which rises only 12 ft. above sea level, and has probably given its name to the town (Mitte in der Aue). Pop. (1897), .3S,on inhabitants, mainly Germans, but including also Jews (6500), Letts (5000) and Russians. At high water the plain and sometimes also the town are inundated. Mitau is surrounded by a canal occupying the place of former fortifications. It has regular, broad streets, bordered with the mansions of the German nobility, who reside at the capital of Courland. Mitau is well provided with educational institutions, and is also the seat of the Lettish Literary Society. The old castle (1266) of the dukes of Courland, situated on an island in the river, was destroyed by Duke Biren, who erected in its place (1738-1772) a spacious palace, now occupied by the governor and the courts. Manufactures are few, those of wax-cloth, linen, soap, ink and beer being the most important.
Mitau is supposed to have been founded in 1266 by Conrad Mandern, grand-master of the order of the Brethren of the Sword. In 1345, when it was plundered by the Lithuanians, it was already an important town. In 1 561 it became the residence of the dukes of Courland. During the 17th century it was thrice taken by the Swedes. Russia annexed it with Courland in 1795. It was the residence (1798-1801 and 1804-1807) of the count of Provence (afterwards Louis XVIII.). In 1812 it was taken by Napoleon I.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)