Ventspils Castle, built by the Livonian Order, and converted into a prison in 1832.
|• Mayor||Aivars Lembergs|
|• Total||55.4 km2 (21.4 sq mi)|
|Population (1 January 2012)|
|• Density||760/km2 (2,000/sq mi)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Calling code||(+371) 636|
|Number of city council members||13|
Ventspils (Latvian: [ˈvæntspils] ( ); Russian: Вентспилс; German: Windau; Polish: Windawa; Livonian: Vǟnta) is a city in northwestern Latvia in the Courland historical region of Latvia, the sixth largest city in the country. As of 2012, Ventspils had a population of 41,998. It is situated on the Venta River and the Baltic Sea, and has an ice-free port. The city's name literally means "castle on the Venta", referring to the Livonian Order's castle built alongside the Venta River.
As part of the Duchy of Courland, Ventspils blossomed as a shipbuilding center. 44 warships and 79 trading ships were built in the town, and it was from Ventspils that the Duke's fleet set out to colonize Gambia and Tobago. Metal, amber, and wood-working shops also became important to the city's development.
During the Polish-Swedish War and the Great Northern War, Ventspils was destroyed, and in 1711 a plague wiped out most of the remaining inhabitants. Ventspils fell under the control of Imperial Russia and its re-growth was stalled.
It was not until about 1850 that shipbuilding and trade became important again. The port was modernized in the 1890s and connected to Moscow by rail. It became one of Imperial Russia's most profitable ports, by 1913 turning a yearly profit of 130 million rubles. The population soared as well, growing from 7,000 in 1897, to 29,000 in 1913.
During the German occupation from 1915–1919, the population decreased almost by half, though some returned home during the First Republic of Latvia (1918–1940).
In 1939, the Red Army established a base in Ventspils. Under Soviet rule, an oil pipeline was built to Ventspils, and became USSR's leading port in crude oil export. Thirty kilometres north of Ventspils is the ex-Soviet radioastronomy installation VIRAC (Ventspils Starptautiskais Radioastronomijas Centrs or Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre). The existence of the Centrs was unknown to most Latvians until 1994. After independence, the Latvian government began a city-beautification process to make the city more attractive to tourists.
In 2004, Ventspils was a host city for a multi-national (United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden, Russia, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, Norway) naval exercise called Baltic Operations XXXIII (BALTOPS). The force was led by the guided missile cruiser USS Anzio and the destroyer USS Cole. The US vessels were the first American warships to visit the port of Ventspils since Latvian independence was declared.
A characteristic feature of Ventspils economy is the high development level compared to that of Latvia in general. At the moment, employment indicators (lower unemployment, higher employment) and indicators on income (higher average salary) suggest that Ventspils has created a favourable environment for business development.
Gross domestic product referring to the market value of all final goods and services produced by the public and private sector of certain territory within a year is considered the key indicator of economic growth. As of year 2008, GDPs of republic cities are no more being calculated. Consequently, one can only follow the dynamics of Ventspils GDP until 2007. Starting from 2008, Ventspils indicators are being added to those of Courland region and the Republic of Latvia.
In 2007, Ventspils nominal GDP was 327.87 million lats (7.9% increase compared to year 2006). Ventspils GDP of 2007 per capita was LVL 7,530, i.e. 16% higher than Latvia's average GDP per capita (LVL 6,493) and 51% higher than Courland region's average GDP per capita (LVL 4,979). Among cities, Ventspils recorded the second best indicator after Riga (LVL 11,163).
Other indicators of economic growth are non-financial investment and comparative index; like GDP, since 2007 they are no more being calculated in regard to each city separately. Non-financial investment in Ventspils in 2006 was 155.4 million lats; in 2007 it was 149.2 million lats (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (CSP), On Key Indicators of Structural Business Statistics. Latvia 2009). Ventspils non-financial investment per capita was the highest in Latvia. Non-financial investment per capita in Latvia in 2006 was LVL 1,810.1, in Riga – LVL 2,816.5, in Ventspils – LVL 3,568.8; in 2007 it was LVL 1,939.5 in Latvia, LVL 2,926.2 in Riga, and LVL 3.445.8 in Ventspils (State Regional Development Agency, Regional Development in Latvia. Latvia 2009).
In 2009, Ventspils had almost 2,000 registered business companies, of which 1,083 were economically active. Over the last few years, the economic activity of inhabitants and the number of economically active companies in Ventspils has grown. Thus, in 2004 Ventspils had only 890 economically active companies compared to 1,083 in 2009.
For a long time, there was only one dominating sector of activity in Ventspils; the situation has recently changed. Taking into account the city's specific location and its ice-free harbor, the principal sector of activity in Ventspils still is transport & storage (by value added and number of employed), however, its share during the last decade has decreased, while that of productive industry and service sector has significantly increased. At the moment, the city may be considered a multi-economy.
Value added by activity in Ventspils in 2000 and 2007,% (CSP data):
|Extractive industry;manufacturing; electricity, gas and water supply||3.6||6.7|
|Trade; repair of cars, household appliances and devices||6.6||10.6|
|Hotel, restaurant and catering sector||0.6||0.7|
|Transport, storage, communication||53.1||32.6|
|Financial mediation; real estate operations||3.7||14.4|
|State administration; education; health and social care; other services||10.2||16.4|
Despite a decrease in the share of transport and communication industry, it is still the dominating sector in Ventspils, represented by such well-known companies as SIA "Ventspils naftas terminals", AS "Ventbunkers", AS "Ventamonjaks serviss", AS "Ventspils Tirdzniecibas osta", AS "Kalija parks", etc. It accounts for a high proportion of employed (22.5% of the total number of employed in Ventspils), as well as a high proportion of collected peoples income tax (hereinafter PIT) – 59% of the total PIT amount.
The second major sector in Ventspils is construction, which employs 13.5% of the total number of economically active inhabitants and accounts for 15.6% of collected PIT.
A rapidly developing sector over the last few years has been the manufacturing industry. According to information provided by CSP, the number of persons employed in manufacturing has risen from 1,500 in 2003 to 2,000 in 2009. The proportion of persons employed in productive industry is about 12% of the total number of employed. At the beginning of 2009, the manufacturing industry employed a total of 1,750 persons: 585 of them were engaged in food and beverage production, followed by 275 people in hardware production except industrial machinery and equipment manufacturing, and 226 people in furniture production.
Also the tourism industry (trade, public catering and consumer services) plays an important role in the economy of the city. It employs 14.8% of the total number of economically active inhabitants. The number of tourist accommodation places and the quality of service in the city continue to increase. In 2010, there were 52 tourist accommodation places in Ventspils with a total of 1,703 beds. New public catering enterprises are being registered in Ventspils every year. In 2010, there were 95 places (e.g. cafés, cafeterias, bistros, restaurants, etc.) rendering public catering services. Every year, Ventspils City Council presents awards to the best public catering enterprises and their employees, organizing a competition "The Best Public Catering Enterprise in Ventspils".
At the beginning of 2011, Ventspils had an official population of 42, 509 (54.3% of them were women compared with 45.7% men).
66% of Ventspils population (28, 200 people) are 15–62 years old, 13.9% (5,949 people) are 0–14 years old, and 20.1% (8,585 people) are 62 years and over.
Population of Ventspils according to ethnic group:
|Ethnic groups||Per cent of total population|
Sectors of work experience (year 2010)
|Sector||Per cent of total number of employed|
|Transport, rescue and communication||21.3|
|Trade, equipment repair service||11.3|
In May 2011, 10.9% of all economically active inhabitants of Ventspils were looking for work (actual unemployment) compared to Latvia's average unemployment rate of 13.5%.
There were 1,869 registered companies in Ventspils in 2009, mainly engaged in trade, transport repair service, construction, and transport & storage.
The municipality tries to provide all inhabitants of Ventspils with good opportunities to attend various cultural and leisure events according to their interests ensuring both the availability of professional art, and opportunity to cultivate one's artistic talent in amateur art groups. After the reconstruction of Theatre House "Juras varti" and the construction of the new building of Parventa Library, Ventspils has certainly become an important regional cultural centre.
Ventspils is famous for its big concerts, festivals and other cultural and leisure events gathering thousands of people. The municipality does its best to establish new traditions and turn ordinary days into holidays.
Every winter Ventspils hosts the awarding ceremony of the Latvian Radio broadcast "Musical Bank" and the televised national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. In July everyone can enjoy the final concert of the Latvian pop music poll "The Musical Hits" in Renka Garden.
On the second weekend of July, the city holds celebrations of the Sea Festival. On the first weekend of August, people from far and near places come to Ventspils to take part in the annual City Festival.
Other traditional celebrations include the formal opening of summer tourism season, the Parventa Festival, the Children's Festival, the Blue Flag Raising Celebrations, the Festival of National Cultures "Ventspils Crown", the Meet of Baltic Sea Region's Bikers, the International Modern Rhythm Music Festival & Master Class organized in collaboration with Ventspils Music College, etc.
Educational and entertaining programmes for children are an integral part of the cultural life of Ventspils. Ventspils families with kids eagerly attend Sunday events in the children's playground "Children's Town" and the children's park "Fantasy".
Ventspils City Council regularly supplies a number of grants to help fund cultural events and free-time activities for the youth, thus promoting participation and engagement in the city life and increasing diversity of professional art.
There are several institutions taking responsibility for the cultural life of Ventspils, including:
Theatre House "Juras varti"
The Theatre House presents professional performing art of various genres – theater, opera and ballet performances; concerts of classical, popular, experimental, folk and other music; exhibitions of visual and new media art, and supports the development of professional interdisciplinary projects and activities.
Ventspils Museum is engaged in the research and recording of history of the city and region of Ventspils. It writes a Ventspils City Chronicle, builds up the collections of the museum and carries out scientific work, including organization and promotion of different scientific conferences, archeological expeditions, etc. Besides, the museum is systematically improving its permanent exposition and the unique digital exposition "Living History". Ventspils Museum manages several branches: Livonian Order Castle, Open-Air Seaside Museum, Memorial Museum of the Writer H. Dorbe, House of Crafts; all of which actively participate in the cultural life of the city.
Ventspils Library is a municipal cultural, educational and information institution. The library deals with reposition, systematization, cataloging, bibliographic description and maintenance of printed works, electronic materials, manuscripts, and other documents and makes the information available to inhabitants of the city.
Ventspils Library consists of 5 structural units: Main Library, Children's Library, Library of Ventspils University College, Gāliņciems Library, and Pārventa Library. Ventspils Library offers the community more than 206,000 printed works, 100 different periodicals and 8,000 audiovisual materials, free internet access points as well as bibliographical and full-text databases subscribed or created by the library itself.
International Writers and Translators' House
The International Writers and Translators' House is a non-profit organizations aimed at creation of an international multi-functional centre for writers and translators in Latvia to further the development of literature, encourage intercultural dialogue, promote local literary processes on the international level, as well as to facilitate decentralization of literature development process in Latvia, thus creating a favourable cultural environment in the regions.
Ventspils has a well developed sports infrastructure and represents a favourable environment with all preconditions for sporting and leisure activities according to every person's abilities and preferences. Modern sports complexes foster sports development in Ventspils. Sports facilities are constantly being improved so that each inhabitant of the city has plenty of opportunity to do sports and spend their free time in leisure.
Every year, Ventspils municipality allocates funds for maintenance of city's sports complexes to ensure that everybody is given an opportunity to use the stadium, football fields and the skate park free of charge. Sporting activities are done by inhabitants of all generations. Also, more than 40 children from children's home and those with disabilities can use the city's sports complexes and attend sports events free of charge.
The goal of the city authorities is to stimulate young people's interest in sport therefore one of annual events in Ventspils is the competition for students of comprehensive schools. Within the project "Come and Do Sport!" the community is offered to do sports free of charge. Project activities include open presentations of local sports services, sporting events for families, and Nordic walking training.
One of the most popular sporting facility in Ventspils is the Olympic Centre 'Ventspils' offering a basketball hall, ice hall, track-and-field arena, and football stadiums. One can also enjoy the Water Adventure Park,Seaside Aqua-Park, and Adventure Park that turns into a Skiing Hill 'Lemberga hūte' during the winter.
Ventspils is a family-friendly city offering various possibilities both for families living here, and visitors with children from other cities and countries. Harmony between the modern port, innovative plants and factories, and the beautiful and tidy beach that has been flying the Blue Flag since 1999 makes Ventspils a very special place.
Ventspils is a capital of flowers and fountains; all over the city (even in electrical posts) you can find colourful cow sculptures, but streets, parks, squares and courtyards are decorated with flower sculptures, figurative flower compositions and tasteful flowerbeds. Ventspils is in unwithering bloom even during the hottest summer days.
Ventspils is always an attractive tourism destination with its 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) narrow gauge train Mazbānītis and children's playgrounds that are perfect for families with children; the Beach of the Blue Flag and dunes offer good sunbathing conditions even if the air temperature is just 15 °C (59 °F), not to mention the stargazing with an up-to-date telescope at the observatory and unforgettable cosmic impressions at the most contemporary digital planetarium in the Baltics (which is the only one in Latvia).
Old Town of Ventspils Ventspils developed rapidly as a commercial harbour in the years of growth of Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, therefore the most active building works took place in vicinity of the present Market Square where a number of former storehouses of 17th century are preserved, and a dwelling house at the crossing of Tirgus and Skolas Streets is one of the most ancient houses of such type in Latvia (built in 1646).
Next to the Market Square, in historical school building on Skolas street, there is located Ventspils House of the Crafts (2007). International Writers’ and Translators’ House (2006) was opened in premises of the former City Hall (1850), on the City-Hall Square. The building is reconstructed to accommodate creative work and everyday needs of its writers. The recently renovated Ventspils Central Library (2006) and Evangelic-Lutheran Church of Nikolay (1835) are located next to it. The City-Hall Square, the Market Square and the Ostas Street Promenade are popular walk places.
CowParade in Ventspils took place in 2002, and now several cow sculptures reside in the city:
- ‘Latvijas melnā’ (Latvian Black Cow) dwells on the Promenade of Ostas iela;
- ‘Pretim gaismai’ (Towards the Light) that usually climbs the lamp post on Pils iela next to ‘Latvenergo’ JSC;
- ‘Ms. Moo-Dunk’ the basketball cow resides near the Basketball Hall of the Olympic Centre ‘Ventspils’;
- ‘Dzīve ir skaista’ (Life is Beautiful) is situated at the Children’s Park ‘Bērnu pilsētiņa’ (Children’s Town);
- ‘Jūras govs’ (Cow of the Sea) dwells next to the Livonian Order Castle facing the River Venta;
- ‘Nafta’ (Oil) lives next to the Children’s Home ‘Selga’;
- ‘Londonas govs’ (London Cow) welcomes the residents of the camping site ‘Piejūras kempings’.
There are also three considerably larger cows:
- ‘Ceļojošā govs’ (Travelling Cow) is shaped like a huge suit-case and awaits the city guests on the Promenade of Ostas iela to take some pictures;
- ‘Govs-Matrozis’ (The Sailor Cow) is a giant blue-coloured cow dressed as a seafarer and situated at the Southern Pier of Ventspils;
- ‘Šūpojošā govs’ (Cow on the Swings) is a large, but cute and girly cow sitting on the swings not far from the excursion boat ‘Hercogs Jēkabs’.
Ventspils is situated at the mouth of the Venta River, where it empties into the Baltic Sea, and is an important ice-free port. Large amounts of oil and other mineral resources from Russia are loaded aboard ships at Ventspils. The revenue from port services has made Ventspils the wealthiest city in Latvia.
The city has a basketball team that has won the Latvian championship in the last several years. In the 2001/2002 season, the team took third place in the North European Basketball League (NEBL). Ventspils also has a football team in FK Ventspils who compete in the Virsliga. In the 2006 season the team has won the Latvian championship for the first time.
- Fred Rebell (1886–1968) – single-handed sailor
- Fricis Kaņeps (1916–1981) – footballer
- Francis Rudolph (1921–2005) – painter
- Imant Raminsh (1943) – composer
- Dzintars Ābiķis (1952) – politician
- Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (1962) – politician
- Sandis Prūsis (1965) – bobsleigh pilot
- Gundars Vētra (1967) – basketball star
- Ēriks Rags (1975) – javelin thrower
- Gatis Gūts (1976) – bobsleigh pilot
- Ingus Janevics (1986) – speedwalker
- "Latvijas iedzīvotāju skaits pašvaldībās 01.01.2012. (PDF)". PMLP.gov.lv. Retrieved April 28, 2012. (Latvian)
- "Unveiling of a new city environment object "Cow Sailor"". 7 July 2006. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
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