True Lithuania

Soviet Micro-Districts of Kaunas

Like other cities of Lithuania Kaunas has a fair share of dull Soviet micro-districts that were built to be self-sufficient but today are nicknamed "sleeping districts" because many of their inhabittants supposedly come home only to sleep as they work and spend free time away from their districts.

Most of these districts are north of the city center, between the downtown area and the Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipėda highway. Therefore the large white housing projects is the first and only glimpse of Kaunas seen by those travelling between Vilnius and Klaipėda, which is deceptive. Soviet districts of Kaunas include Šilainiai, Kalniečiai, Marvelė, Milikonys, Dainava, Eiguliai, Smėliai and others. Much of them was built after completely obliterating the previous suburbs that used to stand in their locations.

Soviet housing projects at Kalniečiai district (Taikos and Studentų street intersection). The statue in front (1998) is of Elena Spirgevičiūtė, a Lithuanian girl murdered (together with her aunt) in 1944 by Soviet partisans for refusing to have sex with them. She is considered a martyr by the Catholic church as she died for her moral beliefs. While Spirgevičiūtė's house has long since been demolished the memorial reunites the area with its history. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

A different type of Soviet district is Birutė on the other (left) bank of Nemunas. It consists of single-family homes rather than multistorey housing projects.

In general the Soviet districts of Kaunas have little in particular to offer but it may be interesting to see at least a single one to understand where the majority (some 65%) Kaunas inhabittants live at.

After independence these boroughs received new churches and retail buildings. All the major shopping malls save for "Akropolis" are located there. "Mega" mall (72 000 sq. m) next to Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipėda road attempts to posit itself as a tourist sight for its 10 m tall shark-filled aquarium. While an interesting free sight if you need shopping, it is not on par with foreign oceanariums.

Only a minority of new developments are architecturally interesting, such as the postmodern 1000 litų building in Petrašiūnai.

The glass facade of the 1000 litų building in Petrašiūnai resembles the most valuable interwar Lithuanian banknote. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Another type of Soviet districts are the Industrial zones, located in eastern and western Kaunas.

Expecting World War 3, factories had extensive nuclear shelters built underneath. One such shelter was converted into the Atomic bunker museum (Western Vilijampolė), hosting a quality collection of war communication, civil defense and intelligence devices. The emphasis is on Cold War era Soviet technology; KGB surveillance systems are the prime exhibits.

Global evolution of gas masks as seen in the Atomic Bunker museum. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Soviet Kaunas sights are included into the Fortress districts of Kaunas and Suburbs of Kaunas maps.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Kaunas, Kaunas by borough (district) Leave a comment