Location: 315 km (195 mi) West of Vilnius


Klaipeda is the third largest city in Lithuania after the capitals Vilnius and Kaunas. It is located in its western part, where the Baltic Sea passes into the Curonian Lagoon. The administrative center of the Klaipeda district. The largest port in the Baltic States in terms of cargo turnover.

It is one of the largest ice-free seaports on the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. Klaipeda and the region adjacent to it have a special history, different from the rest of Lithuania. Archaeological data indicate that it was inhabited in the first centuries of our era. Until 1525, Memel belonged to the Knights of the Teutonic Order. Until 1923 - Germany, which was reflected in the architectural appearance of this "Baltic pearl". Due to its history, the ethnic and linguistic character of the city was and is of a multinational character. In addition to Lithuanians, a significant number of Russians live in it.

The Dange River (along with the historical name, also officially called Dane, and above the city - Akmena), the city is divided into two parts - the left-bank Old Town and the right-bank modern city center.

At the moment, the area of ​​Klaipeda is 98 km².


Klaipeda Castle Museum

Pilies 4

Tel. (46) 313 323


History Museum of Lithuania Minor

Didzioji vandens 6

Tel. (46) 410 524

Open: 10am- 6pm Tue- Sat


Blacksmiths' Museum

Saltkalviu 2a

Tel. (46) 410 526

Open: 10am- 6pm Tue- Sat

Clock Museum

Liepu 12

Tel. (46) 410 413

Open: 12- 5:30pm Tue- Sat

12- 4:30pm Sun


Picture Gallery and Sculpture Park

Liepu 33

Tel. (46) 410 416

Open: 12- 6pm Tue- Sun

12- 5pm Sun



Klaipeda changed its name several times. The fortress, founded by German knights on the territory of the ancient Curonians, was called Memel (according to the Skalovsky name of the Neman, which was also adopted by the Germans). The Samogitian tribes living near the Curonian settlements called the area Klaipeda. At present, the site of this castle is the historical center of the city.

The Lithuanian state renamed it Klaipeda, the city bore this name in 1923-1939. After the annexation by Nazi Germany, the city again turned into Memel (1939-1945).

The Lithuanian "Klaipeda", recorded in the first written sources as Kaloypede, Klavpede, Klaupede, Kleupede, has been regularly used to designate the surrounding region since the beginning of the 15th century. (first mentioned in 1413.) Local toponymy primarily reflects Curonian, Samogitian and Kursenieki names - Melnrage (Melnragė from Latvian, Old Curonian or Kursenieki - Black Horn / Black Cape, Giruliai from Lithuanian Forest, Smeltė from Lithuanian (smėlis, smiltis) and from Latvian (smilts, smiltis) - Sandy), so the ancient name Kaloypede is supposedly of Curonian or Samogitian origin. Since there is a rather significant Curonian substratum in the Samogitian dialects, it is quite difficult to give an unambiguous answer. German compilers of local maps, as a rule, did not rename, but Germanized local names. For example - Pogegen, Pilsaten, Akmonischken, in which the ancient Curonian and Lithuanian names are obvious. The ancient Lithuanians used the name Memele to describe the swampy areas of the lower reaches of the Neman. In an ancient document describing the first campaign of the Teutonic Order in the "pagan lands", it is indicated that the detachment walked along the right bank of the Memele River for a long time, intending to go to its mouth. Without accurate maps, they did not know that the Neman flows into the Curonian Lagoon. Continuing their march along the right bank of the bay, they went to the place where it flows into the sea, still thinking that in front of them is the mouth of the Neman. Accordingly, the founded fortress was called Memelburg. Later, the name was even mentioned in the national anthem of Germany ("Das Lied der Deutschen"), as the easternmost city of the German lands: "Von der Maas bis an die Memel" ("From the Meuse to Memel").

Although the city was mainly designated as Memel in cartography, already in such historical works as "Alt und neues Preussen" ("[./Https://deru.abcdef.wiki/wiki/Neuostpreu%C3%9Fen Archived copy of March 28 2022 at the Wayback Machine Old and New Prussia]") by Christopher Hartknoch (1689), labeled Caloypede on the map.

The territory of Klaipeda belonged to the northern part of the Lithuanian Department of East Prussia. In 1799, the King of Prussia gave the crown of this region to His Nephew Panaryin-Gotesky

German rule
The Curonian settlements on today's territory of the city have been known since the first centuries AD. e.

In 1252, the knights of the Livonian Order built the wooden castle of Memelburg, and then laid the foundation (1252-1253) of the city. The first document describes the laying of the castle on July 29, 1252 by the master of the Livonian Order, Eberhard von Seyne (German: Eberhard von Seyne) and the bishop of the same order, Heinrich von Courland (Henry of Courland), Count von Lutzelburg from Luxembourg. By 1258 (according to some sources - 1254), when Memel received the Lübeck right, a stone fortress already stood in the place of the original wooden one, and next to it was a trading settlement founded by merchants, mainly from Dortmund.

In 1384, the Teutonic Order annexed Memel. The city was a stronghold in the military actions of the German knights against the Lithuanian tribes and was repeatedly destroyed (1323, 1379, etc.). As a result of the Peace of Meln in 1422, Memel remained with the Crusaders.

From 1525 to 1618, Memel belonged to the Duchy of Prussia, from 1618 to Brandenburg-Prussia, in 1629-1635 to Sweden, from 1701 to the Kingdom of Prussia again. During the Seven Years' War, the city was besieged, taken by Russian troops and fleet in June 1757 and included in the Russian Empire (1757-1762). After the conclusion of peace with Prussia in 1762, the city was returned to the Prussian kingdom. In 1807-1808, during the Napoleonic occupation of Prussia, Memel was the capital of the Prussian kingdom.


Under German rule, Memel was an important trading port, competing with Königsberg and Danzig. In the middle of the XVII century the city was powerfully fortified; By the beginning of the 18th century, the Memel fortress had become one of the largest in Prussia. Memel was the northernmost city of the German Empire proclaimed in 1871. In the second half of the 19th century, during the ban on printing Lithuanian books in Latin on the territory of Lithuania, which was part of the Russian Empire, Memel became the center for printing books in Lithuanian in Latin letters; these books were illegally imported into Russia. The city at that time was experiencing rapid economic growth: a modern commercial port was built, industrial enterprises (mainly woodworking) were opened, shipbuilding was developing - at the end of the 19th century, the Memel fleet consisted of up to 80 ships. England was an active foreign trade partner of Memel. In the middle of the 19th century, the port of Memel was twenty-third in Europe in terms of cargo turnover. Among all the cities of the German Customs Union, Memel was second only to the port of Hamburg, and in the Baltic Sea - only to St. Petersburg (but not much). At the same time, the port in terms of cargo turnover (819 thousand tons in 1859) bypassed both the Danzig (732 thousand tons) and Riga (589 thousand tons) ports, and the Koenigsberg (219 thousand tons) port - almost four times.

20th century
Under the control of the Entente (1919-1922)
In 1917, the Russian Empire collapsed, and in 1918, the German Empire. On February 16, 1918, Lithuania was proclaimed an independent state. On June 28, 1919, after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, according to Articles 28 and 99 of the treaty, Memelland (Klaipeda Territory) was formed in the northern part of Lithuania Minor, which was separated from Germany by the victors and placed under the mandate of the League of Nations. The Treaty of Versailles also included the international recognition of Lithuania.

The chairman of the Paris Peace Conference, Georges Clemenceau, commented on the need for the formation of the Klaipeda region and its separation from Germany:
This region has always been Lithuanian, and the majority of its inhabitants are Lithuanian by origin and language. […] Klaipeda port is Lithuania's only outlet to the sea.

In 1920, the Memel region, according to the Treaty of Versailles, was transferred under the collective control of the Entente countries. A French garrison of 200 soldiers was brought into Memel, and current issues were resolved by local self-government - a “directory”, consisting mainly of Germans. Actually, then for the first time in the "new history" the key role of the Memel city government in the fate of the city and the surrounding region was identified.

On November 11, 1921, the Constituent Seimas of Lithuania approved the plan to annex Klaipeda to Lithuania on the basis of autonomy.

The mandated territory received temporary French administration until the status of Lithuania was recognized de jure.

Despite the fact that on December 22, 1922, France recognized Lithuania de jure, the French were in no hurry to transfer the region to Lithuania and were inclined to turn it into an independent republic. The Germans of the region, Germany, and Lithuanians also protested against the independent status of the region.

Representatives of the Malolithovians, in an effort to implement the program of the Tilsit Act on the reunification of Lithuania Minor and Lithuania, tried to influence the decisions of the Entente. For this purpose, on October 3-4, 1922, a delegation of the People's Council of Lithuania Minor left for the Entente Conference in Paris. The members of this council, Erdmonas Simonaitis, Vilius Gaigalaitis, Adomas Brakas, Jokubas Stiklerius, Jonas Labrentsas, Martynas Reisgis, demanded that the Entente abandon the idea of ​​the so-called “free city”, but the conference, after long debates, did not reach a satisfactory consensus for the Lithuanian side. Members of the People's Council of Lithuania Minor, the Little Lithuanians Erdmonas Simonaitis, Jokubas Stiklerius, Jurgis Bruvelaitis, Martynas Jankus, Jonas Vanagaitis and Vilius Šaulinskas put forward the idea of ​​an uprising against the French administration. Jurgis Bruvelaitis, Jokubas Stiklerius and Erdmonas Simonaitis approached Vincas Kreve, chairman of the paramilitary organization of riflemen, who organized secret negotiations between interested parties with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ernestas Galvanauskas. Preparations for the uprising were carried out in Kaunas and Klaipeda. On December 18, 1922, members of the People's Council of Lithuania Minor met secretly in Klaipeda and organized the Committee for the Rescue of Lithuania Minor, which included the Little Lithuanians Martinas Jankus, Jurgis Strekis, Jurgis Lebartas, Jonas Vanagaitis, Vilius Šaulinskis, Jurgis Bruvelaitis. 12 local branches of the Committee have been established in the region: in Silute, Pagegiai, Katiciai, Lauksargiai, Plasciai, Rukai, Priekule, Rusne, Kintai, Smalininkai, Saugos, Dovilai.


1923 uprising
By the beginning of 1923, relations between France and Germany had deteriorated. France began preparations to turn Memel into a free city, following the example of Danzig. Unwilling to put up with this, the Lithuanian authorities on January 10, 1923 inspired an "uprising".

One and a half thousand Lithuanian militias were sent to Memel from Lithuania (disguised policemen, regular army soldiers and members of the Šaulys paramilitary organization (lit. Šaulys - archer)). In addition, 300 local volunteers advanced to Memel in several columns. Major of the Lithuanian counterintelligence Jonas Budrys commanded the operation.

The Lithuanians were opposed by 200 French Alpine riflemen (the German police did not resist), the battles for the city went on for five days, and during the assault 12 Lithuanians, two Frenchmen and one German policeman were killed.

France sent a military squadron to Memel. Great Britain also sent the cruiser Caledon to Memel. Negotiations with the Lithuanian rebels that began on January 25 were unsuccessful. The rebel committee refused to hand over the city to the French, and the patrols that came ashore were fired upon and returned to the ships. Then the French command developed a plan for the armed capture of Memel, supported by the British. On February 2, a British cruiser landed a landing party to interact with the French infantry battalion that made up the Memel garrison. At the same time, an ultimatum was put forward to Lithuania demanding the return of the Memel region to the hands of the High Commissioner of the Entente. At the same time, the Entente promised that if the ultimatum was accepted, the Memel Territory would then be transferred to Lithuania.

Lithuania accepted the ultimatum, after which, on February 16, the Council of Entente Ambassadors decided to transfer the Memel Territory to Lithuania. This decision was subject to the condition that Lithuania fulfill the following requirements:
autonomy of the region;
freedom of transit and use of the Memel port by Poland;
development of the status of the region and the conclusion of a special convention;
equality in the region of the Lithuanian and German languages;
equalization of commercial rights in the autonomy of foreigners with Lithuanian citizens.

In addition, at an unofficial level, it was emphasized that the transfer of Memel to Lithuania is a kind of compensation for the loss of the Vilna region.

These conditions were enshrined in the Convention signed on January 8, 1924 between Lithuania and the Allied Powers (England, France, Italy and Japan), to which the "Memel Statute" was attached, which was its integral part. Then, in 1924, the actual transfer of Memel under the sovereignty of Lithuania took place (before that it was controlled by the Directory appointed by the Council of Ambassadors). According to the international treaty of January 28, 1928 on state borders, Germany once again recognized the Klaipeda region as part of Lithuania.

As part of Lithuania
After the transfer of Memelland to Lithuania, the city of Memel was renamed Klaipeda. Lithuania pursued a policy of planting in the field of the Lithuanian language, although, according to the census on January 20, 1925, out of 141,645 inhabitants who had the right to vote, 59,315 (41.88%) identified themselves as Germans, 37,626 (26.56%) - to the Lithuanians and 34,337 (24.24%) - to the Memellenders (those whose native language was Lithuanian, but who considered themselves a separate ethnographic group of Lithuanians, slightly different from the Lithuanians of "Greater Lithuania").

In 1926, a military coup took place in Lithuania, led by the leader of the Tautininki party (from the Lithuanian Tauta - people) Antanas Smetona established an authoritarian regime. After the coup, in December 1926, martial law was introduced in the region, German parties were banned and the local parliament was dissolved, which was a gross violation of the Memel Statute. At the request of the League of Nations, the Lithuanian authorities were forced to call new elections in the Memel region, which gave the majority to the German parties (25 mandates out of 29). However, already in 1932, the elected German authorities of Memel were arrested. The consequence was the appeal of the powers - guarantors of the Memel Convention to the International Court of Justice of the League of Nations, which demanded that Lithuania restore the rights of the Memel Parliament.

In November 1938, martial law was lifted in Memel.

Klaipeda, which was part of Lithuania, remained a major trading port - up to 80% of Lithuanian foreign trade was carried out through the port of Klaipeda.

On December 12, 1938, elections were held in Klaipeda to the "sejmik" (city self-government). Much depended on their outcome, therefore, on the eve of the elections, information about the situation in the city fell on the table to both Hitler and Stalin. As a result, 87% of the votes were cast for a single list of German parties.

On March 22, 1939, Germany presented an ultimatum to Lithuania demanding the return of the Klaipeda region, which Lithuania was forced to accept. The next day, Adolf Hitler arrived in Klaipeda on the cruiser Deutschland, accompanied by 40 warships. He delivered a speech to the residents from the balcony of the city drama theater and accepted the military parade.


As part of Germany (1939-1945)
After the annexation of the Klaipeda region to Germany, the city was again renamed Memel. On March 24, 1939, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler arrived in the city, where he announced that the port of Memel would become the base of the German fleet and a naval fortress. Already in April, the construction of a military airfield, permanent fortifications and an underground fuel storage facility began in the city. During the Great Patriotic War, Memel and Königsberg became the first targets of Soviet aviation bombardment in accordance with Directive No. 2, signed by Timoshenko, Zhukov and Malenkov at 7:15 am on June 22, 1941, that is, 3 hours and 15 minutes after the German attack on the USSR.

During the Second World War, Memel (Klaipeda) was turned by the Germans into the center of a powerful defensive area, four lines of fortifications were built around the city. In October 1944, during the Memel offensive operation, Soviet troops blocked Memel from land. Three German divisions held the defense in the city for about two months. During the assault on Memel (the 16th Lithuanian Rifle Division was among the troops storming the city) on January 28, 1945, the city was liberated from the German invaders. During the blockade and assault, the city was badly damaged; during the evacuation, German troops blew up industrial facilities and bridges, about 60% of the buildings were damaged, among which there were many architectural values. At the end of January, Antanas Snečkus arrived in the city.

Lithuanian SSR (1945-1990)
In August 1945, the Berlin (Potsdam) Conference of the Three Great Powers approved the transfer of the northern half of East Prussia to the Soviet Union. The Memel region was de facto transferred to the USSR. The city again received the Lithuanian name Klaipeda. On July 1, 1945, according to the data of Lithuanian researchers, based on the report and. about. People's Commissar of Public Utilities of the LSSR Astafiev, the city's housing stock consisted of completely destroyed residential buildings - 1205 (37% of the pre-war living space); with the degree of destruction of buildings up to 25%, requiring current repairs - 590 (19%); with a degree of destruction of buildings over 25% - 1424 (43%).

In April 1948, a law was adopted on the administrative-territorial division of the Republic of Lithuania, in which the Klaipeda region of the Lithuanian SSR was formed. By a decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of January 28, 1948, all residents of Klaipeda of Lithuanian nationality, who were Lithuanian citizens before March 22, 1939, received Soviet citizenship. Germans from Klaipeda could apply for Soviet citizenship on an individual basis.

On July 20, 1950, in the Lithuanian SSR, the former administrative division into counties, volosts and apilinki (lit. apylinkė, that is, “okrug”, an administrative-territorial unit smaller than a district with its own self-government, a distant analogue of a village council) was replaced by the Soviet division into regions, districts and apilinks. Initially, there were four regions (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda and Siauliai) and 87 districts (in addition, 71 cities and 9 urban-type settlements were distinguished).

The industry of Klaipeda, especially its port, was restored and reconstructed. In 1987, the international ferry crossing Klaipeda - Mukran was built. In the Soviet years, the city was built up according to standard master plans. Klaipeda University was founded in 1991.