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Kaunas. Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. Between the 1st and the 2nd world wars it became the only temporary capital city in Europe. Now it is the capital of Kaunas County, the seat of the Kaunas city municipality and the Kaunas district municipality. It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Church of Kaunas. Kaunas is located at the confluence of the two largest Lithuanian rivers, the Nemunas and the Neris, and near the Kaunas Reservoir, the largest Lithuanian artificial lake, created in 1959 by damming the River Nemunas. Before Lithuania regained independence, the city was generally known in English as Kovno. An earlier Russian name was Ковно Kovno, although Каунас Kaunas has been used since 1940.

Early history
kaunas1It is believed the town was founded in the year 1030, but it was first mentioned in written sources in 1361. In 1408 the town was granted Magdeburg Rights by our grand duke Vytautas the Great. In 1441 Kaunas joined the Hanseatic League, and Hansa merchant office was opened - the only one in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By the 16th century, Kaunas also had a public school and a hospital and was one of the best-formed towns in the whole country. In 1665, the Russian army attacked the city several times, and in 1701 the city was occupied by the Swedish army. The Black Death struck the area in 1657 and 1708, and fires destroyed parts of the city in 1731 and 1732.

Inter-war Lithuania - Temporary capital of Lithuania
The castle in Kaunas. Kaunas was a temporary capital of Lithuania between the 1st and the 2nd world wars. After Vilnius was occupied by the Russian Bolsheviks in 1919, the government of the Republic of Lithuania was established here. Later when the capital Vilnius was occupied by Poland, Kaunas became the temporary capital of Lithuania until 1939, when the Red Army handed Vilnius back to Lithuania. Between the two World Wars industry prospered in Kaunas; it was then the largest city in Lithuania. Kaunas grew rapidly, became modernised and was an active participant in European urban life. After World War II Kaunas became the main industrial city of Lithuania.
In 1944 the Soviet army took back all three of the Baltic states. Then Kaunas became the major center of resistance against the Soviet regime. During the Lithuanian partisans’ war battles the most important partisan districts were based around Kaunas. In 1956 people in the Kaunas region supported the uprising in Hungary and the first public anti-Soviet protest meeting took place in Kaunas: citizens burned candles in the Kaunas military cemetery and sang national songs. Of course, the meeting was suppressed by the Soviet police Militsiya.

The teachers on main street in Kaunas. Today, with almost 93 percent of its citizens being ethnic Lithuanians, Kaunas is one of the most Lithuanian cities in the country. Kaunas has a higher proportion of ethnic Lithuanians than Vilnius, and more ethnic Lithuanians than Riga has ethnic Latvians or Tallinn has ethnic Estonians.
The city is located in the centre of Lithuania, making it highly significant from a logistical point of view. Major motorways and highways connect Kaunas with the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, Riga (Latvia), and Tallinn (Estonia). Kaunas is also linked to Vilnius, Klaipėda, and Daugavpils (Latvia). Kaunas is an important railway hub in Lithuania. Kaunas International Airport  is one of the biggest airports in the Baltic states. Kaunas is one of the major river ports in the Baltic States and has two piers designated for tourism purposes and located on the banks of the river Nemunas and Kaunas Reservoir  - the largest Lithuanian artificial lake, created in 1959 by damming the River Nemunas.

Sports in Kaunas has a long and distinguished history. The city is home to a few historic clubs such as  Kaunas football club, Kaunas baseball club and Žalgiris basketball club. Kaunas Žalgiris basketball club is one of the strongest basketball teams in Europe, now the team plays in the Euroleague. This year European Basketball Championship  was held in Lithuania. For this purpose many sport halls were built in the biggest towns. The indoor Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas is the largest in the Baltic states. The arena is used to host sports matches and concerts. The city is also the birthplace of many of the country's top basketball stars such as Arvydas Sabonis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, Linas Kleiza, Donatas Motiejūnas and Šarūnas Jasikevičius.
Kaunas is often called  a city of students; because there are about 50,000 students enrolled in its universities.
There are 12 universities and higher schools in the city. Kaunas has also a large number of public and private basic and secondary schools, as well as kindergartens and nurseries.

Places of interest
•    A church in the center of Kaunas. Kaunas is famous for the Kaunas Castle which was built in the 14th century. There are many beautiful churches of the Gothic, Baroque and other styles and the Pažaislis abbey, an impressive monastery complex. Kaunas has a Zoo, a Botanical Garden, a Funicular Railway, the Park of Oaks, the Lithuanian open-air Ethnographic Museum Rumšiškės, displaying the heritage of Lithuanian rural life with big collection of authentic buildings. Kaunas is often called a city of museums, because there are many of them. The most famous are the following:
•    the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum with the works of the most famous 20th century avant-garde artist M. K. Čiurlionis who was both a painter and a composer and tried to combine painting and music into a single artistic medium;
•    the Devils' Museum, which houses a collection of more than two thousand sculptures and carvings of devils from all over the world. Of particular interest are the Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin devils, together doing the dance of death over a playground littered with human bones;
Kaunas is famous for its cultural life. It has Kaunas Symphony Orchestra, a circus and many theatres. There are at least 7 professional theatres, lots of amateur theatres, ensembles, various groups of art and sports. Some of the best examples of cultural life in Kaunas are theatres of various styles.

The city has a number of parks and public open spaces. The parks occupy 7.3% of its total area. Ąžuolynas (The park of Oaks) is the main public park in the heart of Kaunas.

Industry in Kaunas
Kaunas is a large center of industry, trade and services in Lithuania. The most developed industries in Kaunas are: food and beverage industry, textile and light industry, chemical industry, publishing and processing, pharmaceuticals, metal industry, wood processing and furniture industry. Recently information technology and electronics have become an important part of business activities in Kaunas. The city also has large construction industry, including commercial, housing and road construction.
Head offices of several major International and Lithuanian companies are located in Kaunas. Primary foreign investors in Kaunas are companies from the USA, Finland, and Estonia. Kaunas Free Economic Zone established in 1996 has also attracted some investors from abroad.

Annual events
Kaunas is best known for the International open-air Kaunas Jazz Festival, International Operetta, Festival, Photo Art Festival "Kaunas photo" and  music festival held in Pažaislis abbey, which usually runs from early June until late August each year.
Other events held in Kaunas: the International Modern Dance Festival, traditional folklore Fair Kaziukas (beginning of March), Day of Kaunas city (middle of May), traditional folk music competition "Play, Jurgelis" (November), Christmas tree lighting (end of November), Bike Show Millenium (middle of June) and international Hanseatic Days  (end of August).