Kurzeme - Courland or Kurland (both: kūr'lānd, Ger. kūr'länt)
, Latvian Kurzeme, historic region and former duchy, in Latvia, between
the Baltic Sea and the Daugava river. Jelgava (Ger. Mitau), the historic
capital, and Liepaja (Ger. Libau) and Ventspils (Ger. Windau), the Baltic
seaports, are the chief cities. The early Baltic tribes—Letts and Kurs—who
inhabited the region were subjected in the 13th century by the Livonian
Brothers of the Sword. In 1561 the order disbanded and its grand master
became the first duke of Courland, under Polish suzerainty. In the Northern
War (1700–1721), it was taken (1701) by Charles XII of Sweden. Empress
Anna, who was, by marriage, duchess of Courland before her accession
in Russia, forced (1737), the nobles of Courland to elect her favorite,
Ernst Johann von Biron, their duke. Russian influence became paramount,
and with the third partition of Poland (1795) the duchy passed to Russia.
In 1918, Courland was incorporated into Latvia, except for a strip of
the southern coast that went to Lithuania.
Main rivers to go: Abava, Irbe, Engure, Rinda, Venta.