Tavrig (Taurage)

Written by Yosef Rosin

English Edited by Sarah and Mordechai Kopfstein

I am obliged to acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Eliezer Paluksht from Ariel in providing me with important material on Tavrig.

Tavrig is located in the western part of Lithuania in the Zhamut (Zemaitija) region near the river Jura, a tributary of the Nieman. The town is about 30 kms from the border with East Prussia, now the Kaliningrad enclave of Russia, and until WW1 was only 7 kms from the Memel Gebiet (Region), which was then a part of Germany.

Tavrig was mentioned for the first time in 1507 on the occasion of the building of a church, and appears on a map drawn in 1539 by the Swedish Bishop Olas Magnus (Carta Marina). Since 1567 the town has housed government customs offices.

From 1691 till 1793 the beautiful estate of Tavrig - Tauroggen in German - with its big fields and surrounding woods, belonged to different owners, most of them Germans. According to an agreement at the time, Tavrig was transferred from the Prussian King to the Russians, and in 1846 Tzar Nicolai the First gave Tavrig to Prince Vasilchikov as a present.

After the third division of Poland in 1795 by the three superpowers of that time - Russia, Prussia and Austria - this part of Lithuania including Tavrig was handed over to Russia. During the Russian rule (1795-1915) Tavrig was included in the Vilna Gubernia in 1802, and from 1843 in the Kovno Gubernia. Since then Tavrig was a county center in the Rasein (Raseiniai) district. In 1812 the retreating French army damaged Tavrig when passing through the town.

During the first half of the 19th century trade with Germany developed greatly and large quantities of agricultural products passed through to Germany via the Tavrig customs office, which also handled imported industrial products. For example, in 1855 Tavrig customs processed imported goods from Germany amounting to 9,000,000 Rubels, and exported agricultural products amounting to about 3,000,000 Rubels.

Tavrig railway station 1930

In 1858 Tavrig’s commerce increased due to the completion of the Tilzit-Tavrig-St.Petersburg highway and the construction of the railway from St.Petersburg to Warsaw, which was connected to Tavrig by a branch from Kovno (1864). There was also quite a lot of smuggling.

Tavrig had special market days and big fairs. There were two hospitals, a big factory for bricks, one for spirits, a pharmacy and about seventy shops. In 1836 the town suffered a big fire.

In 1915, during WW1, the Germans occupied Tavrig, after most of its houses were bombed. During their rule, which lasted till 1918, they constructed the railway from Shavl (Siauliai) to Tilzit in East Prussia, which passed through Tavrig.

During the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Tavrig became a district center. New factories were built and its population continued to increase.

For one year (1940-1941) Tavrig, like all Lithuania, was under Soviet rule.

When the German army occupied Tavrig in June 1941, about 80% of its houses were ruined. The German rule with all its terror continued till autumn 1944.


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