True Lithuania

Pakruojis Manor and Town

Pakruojis (pop. 5000) town is primarily known for its manor, the largest in Lithuania.

With 43 surviving buildings spread over 48 ha area it serves as a great reminder of a pre-WW1 Lithuania when noble families residing in such manors dominated politics, business and culture alike. They also effectively owned the surrounding villages with all local peasants (serfs) living there.

Pakruojis manor palace looking from the technical yard. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Pakruojis manor grounds consist of four sections.

Nobility and its guests would have stuck to the Main section, dominated by a small Neoclassical palace and a partly-overgrown park.

Two Technical sections were devoted to keeping the manor operational. They included servants housing, stables, barns and cattle sheds.

Industrial section held the manor owners' business power, with two mills, an inn and a Roman-aqueduct-styled dam (1821). It is prettier than its rather prosaic purpose would imply.

Industrial zone of Pakruojis manor with dam and water mill visible. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Like many of the Lithuania's large manors, Pakruojis was owned by non-Lithuanians (a German Von Ropp family). As the serfs were generally Lithuanians the manors were often seen as a source of discrimination. Together with independence (1918) came a land reform when  the manor landholdings were severely reduced, forcibly selling the rest to peasants. The true destruction, however, came in the 1940s as Soviets nationalized the manor, remodeling the palace for an agricultural school and letting many other buildings to slowly crumble. After 1990 independence much was restored, although the full splendor has yet to return.

In weekends part of Pakruojis manor turns into Lithuania's sole American-style living museum. Marketed as "a single day of Pakruojis manor life in late 19th century", the activity combines actual history (tours of the partly-renovated manor interior), 19th century-inspired performances, entertainment and artisan souvenir shopping. Each visitor may participate in shortened adaptations of historical traditions (a wedding party with traditional songs) and witness local urban legends (a "punishment cellar" is inspired by tales of manor owner Hermann Von Ropp bloodthirstiness, although the torturing devices exhibited there are copied from all over Europe). Professional actors perform the key roles and Lithuanian language knowledge is essential (non-speakers are advised to have somebody to translate for them).

A serf is to be beaten by the manor administrator (tijūnas) during the living museum event. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Pakruojis town itself has few sights: a 19th-century small red-brick printing house, a church, an abandoned wooden pre-WW2 fire watch tower.

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