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Sovietsk - Tilzit

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Tilsit, which received civic rights in 1552, grew up around a castle of the Teutonic Knights, known as the Schalauner Haus, founded in 1288.

The Treaties of Tilsit were signed here in July 1807, the preliminaries of which were settled by the emperors Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon I of France on a raft moored in the Neman River. This treaty, which created the Kingdom of Westphalia and the Duchy of Warsaw, com-pleted Napoleon's humiliation of the Kingdom of Prussia, when it was deprived of one half of its dominions.


This short-lived peace-treaty is also remarkable for quite another reason. Three days before its signing, Prussian queen Louise (1776–1810) tried to persuade Napoleon in a private conversation to ease his hard conditions on Prussia. Although without any result, Louise's effort greatly endeared her to the Prussian people.


Until 1945, a marble tablet marked the house in which King Frederick William III of Prussia and Queen Louise resided. Also, in the former Schenkendorf Platz was a monument to the poet Max von Schenkendorf (1783–1817) a native of Tilsit.
During the 19th century when the Lithuanian language was banned within the Russian Empire, Tilsit was an important centre for printing Lithuanian books which then were smuggled by Knygnešiai to the Russian-controlled part of Lithuania.
In general, Tilsit thrived and was an important Prussian town. By 1900 it had electric tramways and 34,500 inhabitants; a direct railway line linked it to Königsberg and Labiau and steamers docked there daily. The Act of Tilsit was signed here by leaders of the Lietuvininks in 1918.

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Adolf Hitler visited the town just before World War II, and there is a picture of him on the bridge over the Neman River.
Tilsit was occupied by the Red Army on January 20, 1945, and was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945. The remaining Germans who had not evacuated were subsequently expelled and replaced with Soviet citizens.
The town was renamed Sovietsk in 1945.

Many of the town's buildings were destroyed during World War II. However, the old town centre still includes several German buildings, including those of Jugendstil design. The Queen Louise Bridge, now connecting the town to Panemunė/Übermemel in Lithuania, retains an arch; all that is left of a more complex pre-war bridge structure.

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