Preili — one of the oldest inhabited places in Latvia
Preili is located in the southeast part of Latvia, in the west part of Latgale’s highland near the small river – Preilupe. Preili land is one of the oldest inhabited places in Latvia. First inhabitants to Preili region came 1 000 years BC. Historians connect the first centre of Preili land with the castle mounds of Anspaki and Plivdas; they believe that the inhabitants of one or both settlements have moved to territory of the present Preili town. Only the archeological evidences tell us about the lives of the ancient inhabitants of this area.
Preili county or, then, Preili land for the first time in historic materials appeared in 1348 when it became the property of Nikolajs Ikskilis (N.Ikšķilis), the vassal of Riga bishopric and descendant of Jersika ruler’s Visvaldis daughter. From 1289 to 1348 Preili land was this family’s fief.
In 1382 Preili became the property of the count Borch’s family who are considered to be the founders of the town because it belonged to the family for 500 years, and they had an important role in the history of Preili county and town. Borchs belonged to the oldest European noble families.
To develop craft and trade and to get additional income, Joseph Heinrich Borch allowed craftsmen and traders to settle down near Preili village. There developed a small Preili free-village that, in the course of time, became a huge village. In 1771 J. H. Borch built a wooden catholic church by the Market place. The market place became the center of the next Preili town. Until the 60s of the 19th century huge construction works took place in Preili manor house that were started by the count Heinrich, but finished by his son Michael Borch — the last owner of Preili.
In 1817 the chapel of the counts Borchs was built. At the beginning of the 19th century the construction of the new – the fourth manor castle – was started that was built in English Neo-Gothic style. In addition to the construction of the castle also the park was reconstructed, greatly enlarging its area. It was decorated by many sculptures and complicated pond system with several small islands. Were built also new household buildings.
In the 60s of the 19th century, for unknown reasons, Michael Borch started to sell out his property. The next ruler of Preili was Polish landlord Ian Mol (from 1873 to 1891). The official owner of the town at that time was German baron Johan Ungern-Shternberg. From 1891 to 1910 Preili belonged to Russian landlord, chamberlain of the czar court and the next Russian envoy in Italy and Sweden Constantine Gulkevich, but from 1910 to 1920 – to German landlord Carl Hipius.
Preili free-village that formed from traders and craftsmen gradually enlarged. The rights of the village Preili got in 1852 when there were already 85 houses, a catholic church and a pub. Ten years later in Preili were organized big markets that longed even for several days. The evidence of this is the large market place in front of the church.
In 1865 in Preili was established the first school, but at the beginning of the 20th century there worked already three schools, a hospital, post-office, telegraph office, distillery, brewery, water mill, and two state spirits shops.
On February 11, 1928 Preili received the town rights. The number of industry enterprises stayed constant, but the number of shops increased to 206; 46 from them were on the Market place. The biggest part of the shops belonged to Jewish, however many Preili citizens still worked in agriculture. Construction in Preili moved slowly, a lot of building plot were used as gardens and grassland.
During the Free Latvian State, Preili had an active cultural life. The organizers of the cultural activities were teachers and priests who had established several cultural organizations. Until 1930 Preili did not have a cultural centre, so all the cultural activities took place in Preili agricultural school’s hall that had a stage.
On September 30, 1938 the State President Karlis Ulmanis affirmed the count of arms of Preili that had a black raven on it looking to the right in the golden field – the symbol of wisdom, bravery and strength. The raven was chosen because the long-term owners of Preili – Borchs family – also had this bird image in their coat of arms.
Since December 31, 1949 Preili has been the administrative center of Preili district. Then the growth of the town started. During the next decades were built almost all administrative and social institutions’ buildings, manufacturing enterprises, and the majority of dwelling houses. During this time developed also manufacturing. Gradually were established several production enterprises and companies that offered different services to rural households. It promoted the inflow of people and the construction of dwelling houses. At this time were built light and food industry’s enterprises – flax factory, cheese factory and sewing companies.
On October 24, 2000 was established Preili municipality that included Preili and Aizkalne rural municipalities and Preili town. In 2009 two more rural municipalities – Sauna and Peleci (Pelēči) – joined the municipality.