LIBAU (Leepaja of the Letts), a port of Russia, on the Baltic Sea, in the government of Courland and district of Grobin, 143 miles by rail south-west of Riga. It is situated at the northern extremity of a narrow sandy peninsula which separates Lake Libau (12 miles long and 2 miles wide) from the Baltic Sea. The town is well built of stone, with good gardens, and has a gymnasium and more than twenty different schools, cigar manufactories, machine works, and a small wharf. The sea throwing lip a good deal of amber, many inhabitants are engaged in the fabrication of small articles of that substance. The harbour of Libau was 2 miles south of the town until a canal was dug through the peninsula in 1697 ; but this canal is liable to be silted up, and the depth at the bar is only 9 feet, or even (1 feet during south-west winds, so that larger ships must lie in the open roadstead. Libau being the most southern Baltic port in Russia has the advantage of freezing only for a few weeks during the winter. Since being brought, in 1872, into railway connexion with Moscow, Orel, and Kharkoff, it has become an important Russian port, and competes with the northern ports of Prussia, the exports already exceeding by 100,000 tons those from Konigsberg. In 1879 the port of Libau was visited by 1976 ships, and the export of corn, flax, hempseed, and linseed has reached 28,212,600 roubles (about £2,822,000), against 1,980,000 roubles and 367 ships in 1872. The merchants carry on an active trade in grain and flax, making their purchases directly in southern Russia ; their warehouses are numerous, spacious, and well built. The yearly fair has some importance for the neighbouring districts. The town is also a watering-place, yearly visited by several hundreds of persons. Population in 1881, 97,900 ; with military and railway servants, 30,000.
The port of Libau, Lyra partas, is mentioned as early as 1263 ; it then belonged to the Livonian order. In 1413 it was burnt by Lithuanians, and in 1560 it was mortgaged by the grandmaster of the order to the Prussian duke Albert. It was annexed to Ilussia in 1795.