Marijampole, the seventh town in Lithuania, according to size, has been the regional center since 1994. The city covers an area equal to 2050,7 hectares. The sesupe river divides the city into two parts connected by 6 bridges. The number of inhabitants in Marijampole total 48,7 Thousand.
Marijampole is easily accessible to the rest of Lithuania. Vilnius, the countries capital is 139 km., while Klaipeda, the seaport city is 231 km.
Marijampole is fortunate to be located at the crossroad of two very important mainroads. The Via Baltica (after reconstruction) will connect Helsinki with Central and Southern Europe. The other highway links the city of Königsberg (Kaliningrad) with Byelorussia.
The inhabitants of Marijampole elect 27 members to the City council. The members of the City council, which are representatives of different Lithuanian political parties, then elect the mayor.
The city of Marijampole has signed agreements of co-operation with Kokkola (Finland) Bergisch Gladbach (Germany), Suwalki and Piotrkow Trybunalskie (Poland), Kvam municipality of Hordaland (Norway), Viborg (Denmark), Cherniachovsk (Russia).
Marijampole is connected to its partners by business, sport, education, tourism and other ties. Marijampoles' local means of mass media include a local television station, a local radio station, the newspapers „Miesto laikrastis“, „Suvalkietis“, „Savaite“, „100 percent“, magazine „Suvalkija“. Culturally, Marijampole enjoys one cinema and a municipal drama theater.
Most of the inhabitants of Marijampole work in light industry enterprises, including construction, transport, trade and other service businesses. The advent of privatization and a free market economy has created a basis for private business.
The business community of Marijampole is continually in search of possible partners in foreign countries, as well as foreign capital investors.
Marijampole has a strong educational system with state education institutions: 7 pre-shool institutions, 5 nursey-schools, 2 primary schools, 12 lower secondary scools, 7 secondary schools, 2 gymnasiums, youth school, adult education center, 3 nonstate education institutions.
Historical Review of Marijampole town
Marijampole is the largest town in Suduva (Suvalkija Region), and is home to the Sesupe river which flows through the centre of the town.
Archaeological excavations in the area reveal that the town was first settled by the Jotvingiai people in the first century B.C. Various artifacts were found in the hills of Meskučiai, Kumelionys and the town's ancient settlements.
In the southern part of the town, known as Liepynai village, burial sites date back to the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.
In the 13th century, when the Teutonic Knights were inflicting their brutal assaults on Lithuania and Poland, it was noted that the town and the surrounding settlements were deserted. The Jotvingiai people had fled, died in battle or been deported by the Knights throughout the years of fighting.
In 1326, the Chronicler Duisburg noted, „thus the land of Suduva has been desolate until now." The people who returned to the area found that the country was surrounded by dense woods and was rich in hunting, beekeeping and fishing.
In 1422, Vytautas the Great signed a treaty which restored the lands of Suduva to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Soon the territory was inhabited by merchants, woodcutters, and craftsmen who cut wood and exported it to Europe. Settlements, roads and villages sprang up near the rivers and lakes surrounding Suduva. In 1557, the Valakas Law, which granted land to peasants and other settlers was introduced. As a result, people from the surrounding areas of Dzukai, Aukstaičiai, Zemaičiai, Mozurai, Tatars from Russia and others came to make Suduva their home. The majority of immigrants settled in the village of Pasesupys.
The village of Pasesupys quickly grew into a town. Pasesupys was first mentioned in the taxation list of the Kaunas region in 1667. Mr. A.Narbutas is recorded as collecting taxes from 24 farmsteads in the area of Pasesupys. Additionally, in the records of the Catholic church, the following villages are mentioned: Trakiskiai (1677), Degučiai (1682), Mokolai (1683), Meskučiai (1684), Netičkampis (1582). Once villages, some of these names now refer to the districts of Marijampole.
At the beginning of the 18th century a chapel was built in Southern Pasesupys on the estate of Kvietiskis where the Earl of Prienai M.Butleris, and his wife, the Countess P.Sciukaite-Butleriene, lived. Since obtaining ownership of the area, the Earl and the Countess were eager to establish their rule over the town. In 1736, Earl M. Butleris organized the village into an industrial town named Starapole (Senpile). While her husband was busy with industry, the Countess chose to invite an order of monks to the newly established town. The Marijonai monks arrived in their new home in 1750 and immediately started building and developing the place into a larger town.
In 1758 the church and monastery were built between the Sesupe River and the Jevonis stream. The monks were given 8 acres of land and the permission to establish a town under the name of Mary, or as we know it today, Marijampole.
The site of the church involves an interesting legend. One day the Countess was walking from her estate at Kvietiskis and praying with her rosary. At the end of the path, a servant had planted a lime tree; near this tree the Countess finished her rosary and ordered the church to be built upon this site. The church can still be found there along the banks of the sesupe River.
In 1783, the Marijonai monks established a school, a church parish and a system of record keeping for the town and its inhabitants. There were 99 farmsteads mentioned in the inventory taken in the 18th century. The townspeople were divided into the following categories: owners, farmers and Jews. The street names of Pasesupio (now Vilkaviskio St.), Vilniaus (now Kęstučio St.), Pelketoji (now Gedimino St.), Varsuvos (now Vytauto St.) and Kauno were mentioned.
On February 23, 1792, by order of the Polish King and the Lithuanian Grand Duke Stanislovas Augustas, Marijampole received its town charter and the right to govern itself. The King wrote: „I wish the town, which has succeeded in establishing both the principles of law and a governing council will flourish in the years to come. That is why I honorably award it the emblem of St. George and give permission to use it on seals and stamps of any kind." After receiving the town charter, the people of Marijampole obtained the right to own land, hold public elections, build a town hall, and develop trade. G.Michalkovskis was elected the first mayor.
In 1795, when Austria, Prussia and Russia divided Poland and Lithuania among themselves, all of Suduva fell under Prussia's rule. In 1807, after the French army's victory against Prussia, Marijampole was placed under the control of the Duchy of Warsaw. The French occupied the surrounding regions and the Marshal Nejus settled in to the Estate of Kvietiskis. During the War between France and Russia, the 3rd French Army, the 4th Italian Army and the 6th Bavarian Army followed the road through Marijampole on their way to Vilnius. On December 5, 1812, on his way back from Russia, Napoleon stopped in Marijampole.
In 1815, according to the Vienna Congress, the Duchy of Warsaw was adopted into the Kingdom of Poland and eventually fell under the control of Czarist Russia. On June 16, 1825, Marijampole was visited by the Russian Emperor Alexander I.
In the middle of the 19th century, Marijampole experienced a growth in trade and local industry. The growth was due to the completion of the road from St. Petersburg to Warsaw in 1829, which ran through the centre of town. An abundance of travelers and trade passed through the region now, and Marijampole was able to benefit from the new contacts.
During the uprising of 1831 against the Russian Czar, rebels under the leadership of A.Puseta and K.sonas, fought actively against the Czar's army in the fields of the Kvietiskis Estate and the town districts. After achieving victory, the Czarist government, suspecting the Marijonai monks of supporting the uprising, took repressive actions. The government restrained the activities of the Catholic clergy, closed the monastery, refused new admissions to the Seminary, confiscated church property, and forbade the printing of Lithuanian press. To increase the Russian presence in town, a Russian Gymnasium was established. In later years this school became a centre for promoting Lithuanian nationalism. After a fire in 1868, which destroyed the old town area of Marijampole, the town received royal approval from Czar Alexander II for new borders.
Neighbouring lands were acquired, which led to the establishment of housing estates, street construction, markets, parks and eventually a plan for the layout of the old town and the surrounding town districts.
The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century brought a national independence movement and an active resistance against Czarist oppression in Lithuania. Marijampole possessed numerous leaders of the Lithuanian independence movement, including: P.Arminas-Trupinelis, P.Kriaučiunas, J.Basanavicius, V.Kudirka, K.Grinius, J.Matulaitis and V.Slekys. Along with outright resistance, many other methods were used to fight for independence from the Czar. Book distributors spread banned Lithuanian books, and secret schools and educational circles were established. These schools taught the Lithuanian language and promoted the national culture and heritage. Additionally, Lithuanian newspapers and magazines were published, among them the „Ausra," (meaning Morning) and „Pavasario Balsai", (meaning Spring Voices). Music concerts and performances were also organized throughout the region.During the First World War the town suffered greatly. The Church and the monastery were destroyed as well as numerous buildings in the town. The town suffered a loss in population when many citizens fled to inner Russia or were deported to German concentration camps, or went into hiding in the woods. In 1918, Lithuania declared its independence. Marijampole provided numerous volunteers to the national army; students from the gymnasium were especially eager to join. The soldiers fought bravely against the invading German, Polish and Russian forces.
During the period of Lithuania's independence, Marijampole was able to grow under the strong leadership of its various Mayors. (J.Sirutis [1918-1920], J.Barkauskas [1920-1922], A.Staugaitis [1922-1931], and J. Maurukas [1931-1940]). During the independence period, many buildings of distinctive architecture were built. The Marijonų Gymnasium, the Teachers' College, a hospital, an out-patient clinic, a parish hall, several primary schools, the railway station, the sugar factory, a hydroelectric power station and a few bridges across the sesupe - were all new additions to Marijampole's landscape. Additionally, Marijampole was home to the Rygiskių Jono Gymnasium, the Jewish Gymnasium, the book-publishing organization „Dirva," the Marijonai printing and publishing house and the Marijonai library with 60,000 volumes of books, documents and manuscripts.
Also located in the town was the park of Vytautas the Great. The park was famous for its remarkable gates which displayed Vytautas the Great's bas-relief on the front, and were designed by P.Rimsa, as well as a splendid bridge across the Jevonis creek. President of the Lithuanian Republic A.Smetona delivered an address and planted an oak in the park to commemorate his visit. The city was also proud of its monument to Lithuanian Duke Vytenis and the sculpture „Iron Wolf," both erected in the area where the 9th Infantry Regiment was housed. The monument and sculpture were later destroyed by the occupying Soviet forces.
During the Second World War, the town experienced heavy losses. In 1940, the Soviet occupiers eliminated government institutions and closed the Marijonų monastery, the Jewish Synagogue, and the publishing houses. They also demolished the Marijonai library and confiscated property from private citizens. But the terror did not end there; thousands of citizens were arrested, tortured and deported to labour camps in Siberia. In 1941, the Germans invaded the town, occupying the area and murdering the Jewish community as well as active members of the Communist party. Once again the town was drained of people as many were deported to concentration camps or forced to work in labour camps in Germany. The summer of 1944 tells the grim story of numerous battles which destroyed countless buildings and farms and caused the overall destruction and devastation of the town.
Additionally, various bridges were exploded and the sugar factory, one of the main industries in the town, was destroyed.
When the war finished and the second Soviet occupation began, St. Vincent Pasaulietis' Church (founded in 1940) and the Evangelic Lutheran Church were closed. Numerous altars, paintings and other property owned by these churches were ruined. The Soviets again forced thousands of citizens, especially intellectuals, clergymen and farmers to relocate to camps in Siberia. In total 6,092 citizens of Marijampole were deported or killed by the Soviet authorities in the years after the War.
To fight the Soviet government an armed resistance was formed in 1944. The partisan fighters were active in the Marijampole region and fought bravely until the Soviet forces, under the KGB, destroyed their organizations and brought the resistance to an end in 1955. These events are significant in the history of the area and for more information on partisan activities one can visit the Tauras Regiment Partisan Museum (Vytauto St. 29, 2nd floor). The Museum is centrally located and provides facts, dates, and a detailed history of the partisan activities.
After the defeat of the partisan movement, Marijampole continued to grow and change. Beginning in the 1960's, the town began to restore and re-develop the centre and neighbouring districts. In the General Plan of 1977, the historic old town centre was reorganized and the central square enlarged. New housing districts were built and newly established industrial factories turned the town into an important industrial centre of Suduva. The town was renamed Kapsukas (after a famous Lithuanian Communist leader) under the Soviet government. Although, for the locals this name was seen as a transitional title until independence could be achieved. For many in Marijampole, the fifty year period under Soviet rule is a time best forgotten. Lithuanians today would rather live for the future and focus on what tomorrow will bring to their independent state instead of reviving the memories of the past and discussing a painful history.
In 1990, Lithuania proclaimed its independence. With the restoration of independence, Marijampole regained control over its own cultural and economic development. One can see the return of this freedom through increasing activities at the Christian Cultural Centre and Museum located at zemaites Street. Active religious communities, organizations and churches are an important example of regaining the life that had been lost during the Soviet times.
Marijampole has grown during independence but it will not forget the suffering of the past. The town has chosen to commemorate various Lithuanian historical figures with several monuments. Around the town one can see monuments to its prominent citizens, such as: the linguist J.Jablonskis, the teacher P.Kriaučiunas, the freedom fighter R. Juknevičius and the writer and priest V.Mykolaitis-Putinas. Adding to Marijampole's rich history, Dr. A.Miskinis published a book in Lithuanian (with summaries in German and English) entitled „Marijampole up to 1940. History and Architecture." This book enables the citizens of Marijampole to reflect on their past and appreciate what the future has to bring them.
Additional monuments were erected in Marijampole to commemorate partisans, or freedom fighters, in the area. Murdered partisans of the Tauras Regiment were honored by the building of various chapels and the planting of the Peace Park. One final act re-established the independence of Marijampole in free Lithuania--on December 18, 1997, the historic emblem of the town, St. George, was restored. Today it is used as the town seal and symbol.