Jelgava Gymnasium or Academia Petrina is the oldest higher educational establishment in Latvia. It was established in Jelgava, capital of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, by Duke Peter von Biron in 1775. Duke wanted to attract as professors Immanuel Kant and Johan Gottfried Herder but they refused.
After the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Jelgava became part of the Russian Empire and the gymnasium unsuccessfully petitioned to become a university. Nevertheless, it became an important cultural hub not only for Latvians, but also Lithuanians. Many famous professors had lectured in Academia Petrina for example Johann Benjamin Koppe (1775), Johann August von Starck (1777-1781) and Wilhelm Gottlieb Friedrich Beitler (1775-1811).
During World War I, the school was evacuated to Taganrog in Rostov Oblast while its 42,000-volume library was burned by troops of Pavel Bermondt-Avalov. During World War II, the historical school building was almost completely destroyed, therefore school was reestablished in new premises. Original building was later restored and now functions as the Ģederts Eliass Jelgava History and Art Museum.
The students at the gymnasium included Latvian Presidents Jānis Čakste and Alberts Kviesis, Lithuanian President Antanas Smetona, Polish President Stanisław Wojciechowski, Lithuanian Prime Ministers Ernestas Galvanauskas and Mykolas Sleževičius, Latvian folklorist Krišjānis Barons, Latvian philologist Kārlis Mīlenbahs, Latvian poet Aspazija and Lithuanian writer Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė.
- Education, the Baltic States and the EU by Bryan T. Peck, page 89
- Estonian studies in the history and philosophy of science by R. A. Vikhalemm, page 52
- Lithuanian social democracy in perspective, 1893-1914by Leonas Sabaliūnas, page 98
- International dictionary of library histories, Volume 1 By David H. Stam, page 395
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