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Mazeikiai district is located in the north-west part of Lithuania, bording on with the Republic of Latvia. It is one of the districts in the Zemaitija (Lowland) district, covering an area of 100,922 hectares. Here one can find vast forests and fertile farming plains with the River Venta and its tributaries winding through them. There are twelve mounds of different sizes. The most important mounds are: Dapsiai, Daubariai, Grieze, Rimoliai, Jautakiai, Vadagiai and Leckava. The Zemaiciai people simply refer to them as "hills", which remind us of the ancient Kursiai and Ziemgaliai tribes who lived there a long time ago.
Unique remains from ancient times include: the Raganu, Kartuviu, Bugnu Hills, the valley of Milda and the biggest stone in Geidziai which is simply called the "hut". One pagan altar and several old burial grounds also remain. The village of Gruste is still steeped in legends as are the small towns of Seda, Zidikai, Tirksliai, Laizuva and Renavas. Renavas, in a wonderful cosy nook, is also called the Switzerland of Zemaitija. This area is known for its wonderful forests, its mound and the biggest fir tree in Lithuania. During the 19th century the area was famous for the manor of the Ronne Barons and today it is the site of a fine art museum where you can hear verses recited, the sounds of noble music, and ancient mysterious tales retold.
There is also another historic manor in Mazeikiai district near the village of Plinkses. Here one is always moved by the wonderful scene of the lake with its legends, and songs about Earl Konstantin Pliater. Past memories are still alive in the minds of the people living in Plinksiai and the spiritual culture remains in their folklore. It is remarkable that the folk traditions continue to be practiced by those with a "Rimoliai" heritage in the small town of Seda. The Easter rituals of Zemaitija in Pievenai are considered to be some of the oldest and most archaic in the world.
There are 23 Catholic churches in Mazeikiai district. The oldest and most beautiful ones are in Pikeliai, constructed in 1636, and in Seda, constructed in 1770.
Possibly because of the cultural traditions of this land, a number of talented and celebrated scientists and artists have grown up here. The settlement of Ukrinai was the home of one of the greatest Lithuanian artists of the 19th century, S. Gailevicius. The village of Zastauciai takes pride in the founder of the professional Lithuanian theatre, J. Vaickus. The patriarchs of Lithuanian music, K. Kaveckas and Vyt. Klova, came from the small town of Tirksliai. The poets A. Baranauskas, V. Macernis and L. Andriekus lived in the small town of Seda. The Lithuanian woman writer M. Peckauskaite Satrijos Ragana is buried in Zidikai and A. VienaZindys is buried in Laizuva.
The centre of the district is the town of Mazeikiai founded by the Duke of Zemaiciai Mazeika. This name was mentioned in records from 1290. Historical sources from the beginning of the 14th century tell about the Manor of Mazeikiai. The village of Mazeikiai was mentioned in the 16th century. This small town started growing with the construction of the railway through the town at the end of the 19th century. In the 20th century the town grew rapidly and was referred to as "the town of the future". This turned out to be true. In 1886 there were 364 people but in 1996 the population was 46,300, with another 18,100 living in the district. It is the most densely populated district in Lithuania.
In 1919 Mazeikiai became the centre of the district and since 1950 it has been the centre of the district. When the construction of the oil refinery started in 1972 Mazeikiai became the eighth largest town in Lithuania. The oil refinery, "NaftaČ, is located 18 km northwest of the town.
In Mazeikiai today we find two Cultural Centres, a Public Library, a museum, a new large medical clinic, a gymnasium and seven secondary schools. There are also schools of music, art and dance as well as a sports centre, the House of Schoolchildren, the Young Naturalists Centre, and the Home of Technical Creation and Labour. Centruries old historical and cultural traditions are being carried on. The Museum of Local Lore arranges ethnographic expeditions and the schoolchildren take care of the old mounds. In the homes and in the schools, the people speak the dialect of northern Zemaiciai. The tree of national customs which was broken is putting forth new leaves.
Mazeikiai is famous for its Zemaitija brass band festivals which take place every three years. There is also a tradition of the weavers of Lithuania gathering each year, and our young dancers are proud that international children's dance festivals are also held here. Time changes and by living through any difficulties the people have matured also. The Zemaitija people are patient and hard working and by working with the people who came here from other areas are ready to take our native land on into the 21st century.
You are most welcome to Mazeikiai!
View of the City. Photo by J. Strazdauskas.
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