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Klaipėda

History

Klaipėda was Memel until 1925. Founded in 1252 by the Teutonic Order who built the city's first castle, it was a key trading port from the 15th century until 1629 when Swedish forces destroyed it. After the Napoleonic wars it became part of Prussia (1807) and stayed in Prussian hands until WWI. The population at this time was an even split of Germans and Lithuanians.

Under the Treaty of Versailles, Memel town, the northern half of the Curonian Spit and a strip of land (about 150km long and 20km wide) along the eastern side of the Curonian Lagoon and the northern side of the Nemunas River were separated from Germany as an 'international territory'. It remained stateless until 1923, when Lithuanian troops marched in, annexed it and changed its name two years later to Klaipėda.

Klaipėda was rebuilt and repopulated after WWII, developing into an important city on the back of shipbuilding and fishing. In 1991 its university opened, followed in 2003 by a new cruise terminal. Few Germans remain today.