History of Tauragė region
The first truly traceable inhabitants of the country were reindeer hunters who roamed here 12,000 years ago. This is evidenced by the horns found deep in the earth in Bataki. Examined under microscopes and dated by the radiocarbon method, they are the oldest evidence of human activity in the Taurage region. Stone Age people lived in groups on the shores of Ančia near Skaudvilė, as their campsites and flint tools were recently found there. Over the centuries, the region also came to know how to produce copper alloys and later iron. The stone was gradually replaced by metals.
The earliest very well-studied tombs are in the Dauglaukis community, which lived back in the I-III centuries. The settlement was distinguished by a platoon of wealthy individuals who ruled over vast fortunes. These were probably merchants who traded with the Roman Empire, as coins with Roman emperors, expensive imported necklaces, and high-crafted white jewelry were found in their graves. Later, difficult times came for the empire and trade relations deteriorated.
The migration of nations has begun, the hints of which can also be found in the Tauragė region. Very close to Skaudvilė are the magnificent mounds of Karšuva or Ivangėnai, and a little further on – the graves of the community that lived here, which have been washed away by Ančia for centuries. The repository is written in the name of Vėluikiai. Several graves have been found here – perhaps the last ones not yet washed by the river. They are from the IV-V c. One of the dead is buried with a horse. It was a wealthy representative of the military elite whose anthropological study of the skeleton suggests that the soldier took part in long-distance marches.
The accesses to Karšuva mounds have been inhabited for many centuries. Recent archaeological research confirms this. There are even those who say that the famous siege of Pilėnai could have taken place here. There is still a great lack of evidence for this, but it is obvious that the old Karšuva village, a well-fortified mound complex that has survived to this day, has occupied an important strategic place in the historical land – Karšuva. The last XIII-XIV c. it was a heavy bite for the crusaders who constantly attacked Lithuania. During frequent attacks, castles and villages were burned, and residents were killed and enslaved. That was the price of freedom. The importance of the territory is shown by the areas mentioned in the descriptions of the Crusaders’ war routes, and the place names that appeared during these wars: Leikiškė, Lylavėnai, Leitkapiai (now Nosaičiai) – reminiscent of the Grand Duke’s loyalists It is necessary to mention the Aukaimis Castle, known from written sources, which stood on the Batakiai mound. It was attacked as many as seven times, but rebuilt many times. The importance of the fortress is evidenced by the fact that it was built in 1329. attacked by Czech King John of Luxembourg with a joint army of troops from Western Europe. After the final destruction of the castle, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas also visited here. Legend has it that during the forced baptism, the most important Lithuanian sage – krivis – was hidden here, as the last shelter.
Karšuva is the Samogitian history of the northern district of Tauragė. But to the south of the city lived a mysterious tribe of scalps. Thanks to the struggle between her and the Nadruvai, Karšuva and other lands of the Lithuanian state had time to prepare for the invasion of cruel baptists. The land of Skalva, like the neighboring Prussian tribes, was conquered. Locksmiths kill newcomers, privileged bribes and privileges. Some of them, who had fled to the unconquered territory of Lithuania, were evicted by the Grand Dukes for guarding other front lines in the Pelesa area. At the end of the wars, the few scalps who remained living in their homeland fully integrated into the Lithuanian nation in just a couple of centuries and became Lithuanians – residents of Lithuania Minor. Today, only their cemeteries and the tools and ornaments found in them are scattered in a large area on both sides of the Nemunas.
After 1410 The Battle of Grunwald, won by the Battle of Grunwald, won by Lithuania and Poland, and in 1422 The Black Treaty finally established the border between the Teutonic Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The states changed, and the border remained almost unchanged until 1918. For centuries, this wall has had a special significance for the inhabitants of Tauragė region. As a result, the town of Tauragė, established in a convenient location for trade, began to grow.
The city got its name from the two words “cup” and “horn”. It is very likely that this area was called Taurage much earlier than the settlement was established, because here the Taurage grazed the Taurus on these land horns. Be that as it may, for the first time in 1507. Written sources mention the name of Tauragė, when Jadvyga Bartoševičienė, the owner of the Seaside (Tauragė) manor, founded the construction of the first Catholic church in the emerging town, and the second parish school in Samogitia was established nearby. The importance of the town is proved in 1539. The map “Carta Marina” compiled by the Swedish Archbishop Olaus Magnus and published in Venice marks Tauragė, although only a few important cities are marked throughout the territory of Lithuania. 1567 a parish is established and the first Evangelical Lutheran church in the town is built.
Speaking of the city, we must remember the Tauragė manor, which was an integral part of it. He was ruled by many nobles, notably Kontauts, Bartoševičius, Domarackius, Šemetas, the elders of Brandenburg, Radvilas, Vasilčikovs and Zubovs.
A particularly interesting time during the reign of the electorate of Brandenburg was 1690-1793, when the Tauragė estate formally remained part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but in reality it was strongly integrated into the Kingdom of Prussia economically and in everyday life. It was then that many Salzburgers who fled Austria from religious persecution moved not only to Prussian Lithuania but also to the Taurage region. This is how Lutheranism, the German language and traditions spread here. To this day, many people in the Tauragė region carry German surnames, there are evangelical Lutherans, and still live bandone music.
A rare Lithuanian city can boast of its history in Europe, and Tauragė can. 1795 Lithuania is occupied and becomes only a passive observer of what foreigners do on its land. 1807 During the Tilsit peace talks, Tsar Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia visited the tsar’s headquarters in Taurage manor. But the peace did not last long, Napoleon did not hesitate to conquer Russia. But underestimating the great distances, bad roads, and freezing winters, he was forced to retreat with his army of one hundred thousand. France was forced to help in the war with Russia and the soldiers of the Kingdom of Prussia, who, of course, were not happy with such violence. Instead of attacking the Prussian corps, the Russians offered negotiations to his commander. 1812 December 30 At the Dzžerūnai mill, generals Ivan Dibičius and York von Wartenburg of both armies agreed that the corps would no longer be at war with each other and would remain neutral. Mr Wartenburg acted against the will of his King Frederick Wilhelm III, who was still very much afraid of Napoleon’s power. But foresight brought victory, and the Taurage Convention became the starting point for the strengthening of Prussia and, ultimately, even for the unification of Germany. Napoleon lost about 19,000 troops and said, “This is the most painful thing that could have happened – not so much militarily as politically.” Today in Berlin and in a frequent German city, we will find Tauroggenstrasse, and many books have been written about this event. 1912 A monument was erected at the place of signing to commemorate the Tauragė convention, which was blown up during the Soviet era, rebuilt on the initiative of Tauragė people.
It is known that the wooden Taurage burned in 1780, 1782, 1815, 1836. Only eight healthy yards remained during the last fire. This greatly determined the further development of Tauragė, as it was in 1836. construction of the Tilze-Riga highway began. The new road stretched like a string through the outskirts of the then dilapidated town. Along the new road, the first brick buildings began to be built: customs, prison, post office, church, evangelical Lutheran church. Until 1844. the road has been completed to Šiauliai. The flows of transport, mail and goods increased significantly. The population began to grow rapidly, and Jewish and Russian communities grew. The scale of growth is well illustrated by population change. If in 1823. More than 200 people lived in Tauragė. before the outbreak of the First World War there were over 10,000 of them. A telegraph has been installed in Tauragė.
1843-1844 the city was visited by two world-famous celebrities. It is the French writer Onore de Balzac who wrote a letter to her beloved at the Taurage post office, complaining about the poorly written goose feather, the long journey and the lack of food compared to the feasts raised by the countess. A year later, breakfast was eaten at the Tauragė post office by one of the most famous composers of the Romantic period, Robertas Šumanas, who and his wife visited during a concert trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Here is what he wrote in his blog: “We drove from Tilžė to Tauragė with extra mail. In Taurage, Nernst had already booked us places for a trip with beautiful, comfortable double-speed sledges to Riga. In Königsberg, the Russian consul gave us a letter to the customs inspector (a very nice man) and received us here very kindly. As everywhere else, our luggage was opened, superficially inspected and closed again. They never checked musicians heavily. In Taurage we found a great post office and an especially appetizing breakfast. What’s more, the consul recommended us to one official border officer who behaved very culturally, helped to sort things out quickly with passports and suitcases, and so on. That is why we came to Riga very comfortably … ”. At the same time, other world-famous personalities stayed in Taurage: composer, chemist Alexander Borodin, physiologist Ivan Sechenov, cello virtuoso Karl Davydov, famous geographer-discoverer Piotr Semionov-Tianšanskis – one of the initiators of the abolition of slavery, and another researcher of the Tian Shan massif.
Public organizations were formed in the growing city. Lithuanians were hindered from such activities during the years of the ban on the Lithuanian press (1864-1904). Lithuanian books are printed in Prussia and are illegally transported across the border and distributed in the country at risk of life and punishment. Many booksellers were imprisoned in the castle prison, including Andrius Bielinis, the younger brother of the most famous bookseller Jurgis Bielinis. After the lifting of the press ban, local Lithuanians began to express themselves in the city, which was inhabited by a large number of Jews, Russians and Germans. Choirs and theaters were established, and close ties were established with Lithuanians living abroad in Lauksargiai, Tilžė. Many beautiful brick houses have sprouted in the fast-growing city. 1908 the Tauragians saw one of the first car races around the world in New York-Paris.
Rapid growth was abruptly interrupted by the First World War (1914-1918). In retaliation for the attacked Klaipeda, the German army took it back in 1915. equated Taurage with the ground. It was the most destroyed Lithuanian city in this war. The front between Tilžė and Tauragė fields changed several times, many soldiers were killed. Tauragė, Lauksargiai went to the Germans and the Russians. The situation is well illustrated by the fact that in 1915. After the Germans took back Lauksargius, the ruined railway station was abruptly rebuilt, and even the military conductor, General Field Marshal, who became German President Paul von Hindenburg, arrived at the rebuilding ceremonies. Having occupied the country more firmly, the Germans built a narrow-gauge railway through Tauragė and Skaudvilė. It was later quickly replaced by the wide railway, the route of which is still in use today.
1918 February 16 after the declaration of Lithuania’s independence, it had to be defended. In Tauragė, which was turned into a ruined wasteland, the Germans once again ruled the looting Bermontians. After they were finally driven out, reconstruction work began, and people began to return to the ghost town. In interwar independent Lithuania, many beautiful public and private houses sprouted. Especially outstanding are the designs of famous architects: railway station, Bank of Lithuania building, county hospital, health insurance fund building, Maistas AB factory, riflemen’s palace. Tauragė, in terms of population, was a leader in the construction of brick houses in Lithuania. About 1924 a telephone exchange started operating in the old post office. It was a time of global upswing, but there were also strikes over low wages and poor working conditions. O 1927 dissatisfied with the dictatorship of Antanas Smetona, the authorities in Tauragė and its environs were overthrown by the rebels. They were arrested the same evening, some convicted of being shot, some imprisoned. In history, this fact is known as the Tauragė coup. 1923 Lithuania’s rich Klaipėda region ensured Taurage prosperous times. However, with the strengthening of Hitler’s rule, Germany introduced various sanctions, artificially limited trade. It became almost impossible for Tilžiškės to come to Tauragė market for shopping. And for Tauragiškės – to sell products in Tilžė market. The approach of war was predicted by the annexation of Klaipėda region in 1939. March 23 Lauksargiai, Griežpelkiai, Kalėnai found themselves again in the territory of Germany.
Before the First World War and the heyday of the interwar period, the multinational Skaudvilė survived, which, despite the fires, grew into an important trading town, widely known for its markets and beautifully furnished market square, and largely overtaken by the flames of both world wars.
The sad time came in 1940. June 15 After the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union. Already on July 12. about 18 members of the intelligentsia were arrested. 1238 people who considered themselves Germans left Germany for Tauragė and its environs. 1941 In June, over 500 most educated people were deported from Tauragė and its environs – teachers, priests, businessmen, and large farmers.
After the deportation of exile wagons, Germany launched an attack on the USSR a few days later. Artillery shells fly from the annexed Lauksargiai to Tauragė, many beautiful buildings are destroyed, and many people are killed in the chaos. After the artillery attack, German Wehrmacht equipment and infantry follow. The Soviets hurriedly leave the city. In the following year, almost all Jews of Tauragė county will be killed, and at least 4,000 Tauragiškės will be shot. 1944 October 10 the city is again occupied by the Soviets. The battles over the streets finally equate Taurage with the land, leaving few healthy houses.
Immediately Prezidento st. 38 The NKVD headquarters is established, which has been operating there for 10 years. Many people from all over the county were imprisoned, tortured and killed in appalling conditions. Nevertheless, in 1946. In the summer of 2006, she became famous as one of the largest prison escapes in the territory of Lithuania, and the escaped prisoners joined the partisans. Squads of Kęstutis partisan district were operating around Tauragė, causing a lot of damage to the occupation apparatus. Today, the former NKVD headquarters houses the House of the Suffering of Deportees and Political Prisoners, in whose museum you can relive this difficult post-war history.
After Stalin’s death, the Soviet repressive apparatus begins to operate much more closedly and quietly, not so massively. Nevertheless, it has always been very dangerous to know about Lithuania’s independence. People’s lives are extremely slow but starting to get better. Tauragė is being turned into an industrial city, many large factories are being built: Ceramics factory, Tauragė meat factory, Calculator machine factory, Fruit and vegetable processing plant, dairy, Tauras furniture factory and others. At the expense of the surrounding villages and towns, people are flocking en masse to the growing Tauragė, one after another apartment buildings, schools, kindergartens and streets are being built. Despite the huge volumes of production, store shelves in the city were empty as the products traveled to the vast Soviet Union. In order to get a better product, you had to stand in long queues, often bribing sellers.
1988 When Sąjūdis came, Lithuania’s independence was remembered more and more boldly, and the tricolor flag was raised more boldly. On the initiative of folk artist Antanas Bagdonas and other artists, the monuments of V. Kudirka and V. Putvinskis are being restored, monuments are being erected in memory of the victims of Stalinism, Lithuanian soldiers, and real street names are being returned.
After the restoration of independence, the artificial growth of the city stopped. The large factories, which did not adapt to the conditions of the free market, gradually collapsed, the birth rate started to decrease due to lack of work and money, and emigration to the big cities of the country and abroad began. Despite the losses, Tauragė established itself as a city of car trade and cargo transportation, this time a more Western-oriented industry has recovered. The city has never been so beautiful, new buildings are being built. Tourism infrastructure is expanding, so more travelers come to the country every year. In recent years, the fact has emerged that salaries are the highest in the county center, the most labor is needed here, therefore Tauragė provides jobs for many residents of the surrounding districts.
Prepared by: Darius Kiniulis
Head of the History-Ethnography Department of the Tauragė Regional Museum “Santaka”