Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city and its capital for part of the twentieth century, is on the confluence of the rivers Vilnya and Neman in the south of the country. Its status is based on its importance as a river port and trade centre.
Kaunas was settled in the fourth century and was used as a fortress from the tenth century. Owing to its strategic significance on Lithuania’s western front, the town became a battleground as Teutonic knights fought Polish-Lithuanian troops and the city was sacked several times.
After the defeat of the knights in the early fifteenth century, Kaunas’ river port flourished. As part of the Hanseatic League, shipbuilding and papermilling prospered. Having been ceded to Russia on the third partition of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century, the city was attacked by Napoleonic forces in 1812. It benefitted from rapid industrialization in the nineteenth century, especially after the opening of the railways.
With banning of the...