Kaunas Fortress

Kaunas Fortress is a valuable military heritage object composed of number of buildings that used to be a military complex. However, the complex has been derelict for many years. Only in 2005 it was included into list of public knowledge and usage by Ministry of Culture. Tourism operators got interested in Kaunas Fortress in 2000. They composed special routes, analyzed history of these old fortifications and started taking tourists through unforgettable excursions in old military buildings where people faced many scary tunnels, hundreds of bats and spirit of war…

History

The Kaunas Fortress is a military project implemented by Russian government. In 1879 Russian Emperor Alexander II accepted a suggestion to build military fortress in Kaunas in order to defense the western border of Russian Empire from German invasion. In the general plan of fortifications there were many objects intended to be built like a surround of 7 fortresses and 9 interjacent  artillery batteries, defensive centers, military train station, workshops, stores and many more. Fortresses were built at the approaches to Kaunas city in distances of 2-2,5 km. The line of set fortresses formed almost a regular oval. Although an idea to build a fortress was set by Russians, the fortification was built by Lithuanians. Every year almost 4000 people worked here. In the end of constructional works, the new Kaunas was formed. All in all, 250 wooden and 200 stone buildings serving for military purposes were erected in the  territory of Kaunas fortification. Russian Empire paid  11 million rubles for these works. However, as building works were slower than modernization of technique, the Kaunas Fortress had to be modernized several times too. In 1912 the Kaunas Fortress had to be double widened, but a broke out of the First World War stopped the works. Finally, the Kaunas Fortress had to begin its` mission to defense Russian Empire. An army of 90 000 soldiers was garrisoned in the Kaunas Fortress to sustain a siege of German military forces. After 11 days of siege , Germans that were led by general Karl von Litzmann finally smashed into the Kaunas Fortress. It was 1915, the 18th of August. During the assault 4000 defenders and more than 4000 German soldiers died. 20 000 defenders were taken captive. More than 1300 various canons,  guns and military stores were taken by Germans.

After the First World War, some of fortifications were dismantled and the rest served for the troop and Kaunas city. During the Second World War Kaunas Fortress was not used for defensive purposes any more. The Sixth, the Seventh and the Ninth forts were used as concentration camps. In the postwar period Soviet occupants established military bases in most of these Forts and in former military towns (Panemunė, Freda, Šančiai) of Kaunas Fortress, Soviet military towns were established. The old buildings of fortification were not preserved as they were demolished and rebuilt. After Soviet military forces were pulled out, military bases located in Forts were liquidated. As Kaunas city expanded, some of these Forts got into territory of Kaunas city and were surrounded by living houses and city streets, interblending into an environment of Kaunas city.

Nowadays

Most citizens of Kaunas city nowadays consider these Forts as a memory of Soviet occupants that is not worth exploration. However, as it was already mentioned, some of these forts were used as concentration camps where thousands of people were killed. The most famous place of mass massacre is the Ninth Fort, which is marked with a distinguishing monument and includes a museum inside. So, these old buildings have a meaningful history, in addition to this, according to scientists, the complex of Kaunas Fortress is an important historical, architectural and urban heritage.

Some people say that visiting Kaunas Fortress is even more exciting than visiting Kaunas castle or Pažaislis monastery. Of course, it depends on what kind of impressions you are looking for. All in all, every extant fort of Kaunas Fortress has many unrevealed secrets that attract tourist and scientists to come here.

Kaunas Fortress

Fort no. IV