(German Kurland) Baltic province of Latvia. In early medieval times it was inhabited by the pagan Cours (or Curonians). By 1230 the area had been conquered by the bishop of Riga, assisted by a small military order called the Sword Brothers. Following the Sword Brothers' defeat by pagans from neighboring Lithuania 1236, a larger military order, the Teutonic Knights, set up an independent state in the region and found a long campaign against the Lithuanians and Prussians.
From 1561 the area became a duchy of Poland, and passed by marriage to Russia 1795. The area was the scene of heavy fighting in World War I between Russian and German forces, resulting in the Germans capturing the area Aug 1915. They held the Courland until the end of the war and it then became part of Latvia 1920. It was again the site for bitter fighting during World War II when Hitler refused to allow a trapped German army group to evacuate by sea as it was delaying the Soviet advance on Germany. Six of the 26 divisions were eventually evacuated and the remainder surrendered May 1945.