Kaunas, Lithuania

City in Lithuania 55 mi WNW of Vilna. Founded as a fortress in 1030, it was a much contested stronghold of the Lithuanians against the Teutonic Knights, after whose final defeat in 1410 the town’s commerce thrived. It passed to Russia in the partition of Poland in 1795. The city was captured by the Germans in World War I despite heavy Russian fortifications. It was provisional capital of Lithuania from 1918 to 1940 while Vilna was held by Poland and then by Russia. In World War II the Germans occupied it from 1941 to 1944 and destroyed much before their evacuation. It has ruins of 14th- and 15th-century castles, the Vytautas church of 1400, a 16th-century town hall, and a noted 17th-century monastery.