Jelgava yĕl´gävä [key], also Yelgava, Ger. Mitau, city (2011 provisional pop. 59,449), in Latvia, on the Lielupe River. It is a major rail hub and a trade center for grain and timber. The city grew around a fortress established by the Livonian Knights in the 13th cent., but was destroyed by the Lithuanians in 1345. In 1561, Jelgava became the residence of the dukes of Courland; it passed to Russia with the duchy in 1795. German troops held Jelgava during World War I. In 1919, during the struggle for Latvian independence, the city was occupied in turn by Soviet forces, by German free corps, and by the Latvians. Part of independent Latvia from 1920 to 1940, Jelgava was then seized by the USSR, held by the Germans from 1941 to 1944, and taken by Soviet troops. City landmarks include the 16th-century Trinity Church and the 18th-century ducal palace.
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