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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zarasai ( pronunciation (help•info)) is a city in northeastern Lithuania, surrounded by many lakes and rivers: to the southwest of the city is Zarasas, north – Zarasaitis, southeast – Baltas, and east – Griežtas. Zarasaitis and Griežtas are connected by Laukesa rivulet.

The plenty of natural resources create extremely favourable conditions for developing tourism and wellness services, thus, Zarasai has been famous as a territory perfectly suitable for relaxation and recreation for a long time. In 2008 Zarasai town was awarded a status of the resort territory. In 2010 Zarasai district declared as the EDEN destination in Lithuania for aquatic tourism.

In Polish, the town is known since the first third of the 16th century as Jeziorosy. In 1836, the town was renamed to Novoalexandrovsk in honor of the Tsar Nicholas I's son Alexander. This name was maintained until 1918. In 1919-29, in the independent Lithuania the town was called Ežerėnai, from ežeras, the Lithuanian word for lake. (This change was done because its old Polish name Jeziorosy was considered to be derived from jezioro, the Polish word for lake.) Yiddish name ezherene is derived from Ežerėnai. The current Lithuanian name Zarasai was constructed only in 1929.

Zarasai is also known place for highest temperature in Lithuania of 37.5 °C.


At the moment there are no extremely accurate data or weighty historical sources that could tell the date when Zarasai town was founded. However many agree that the end of the 15th century – the beginning of the 16th century should be considered the beginning of foundation of Zarazai. It is supposed that in those days a manor stood in the present town’s territory and on Didzioji Island of the Zarasas Lake there was a monastery and a church. Hypotheses on the settlement which was developing in those days confirm that the terrain and natural conditions were in particular favourable for living; one of the largest trade-route from Riga to Pskov crossed this territory since the old days. The year 1506 is officially considered to be the date of the town’s foundation, thus in 2006 Zarasai commemorated the 500th anniversary.

The terrain itself was one of the domains of Vilnius diocese from the 14th century to the 18th century Zarasai manor was mentioned in the written sources of the end of the 15th century and in 1522 – Zarasai small town itself. In 1598 Zarazai was called a volost. The year 1613 was extremely important to Zarasai – city was marked in the map of the Grant Duchy of Lithuania, true, the place-name was written in Polish - Jeziorosa.

Although in 1669 in the small town already lived more than 300 people, there were craftsmen’s workshops and an inn, a network of streets and the main roads to the nearby towns were formed, the further development was obstructed by wars, diseases and fires. The Great Northern War and the plague at the beginning of 18th century caused great damage to the small town and its citizens. According to an inventory there lived only 100 people in 1721 and the craftsmen did not develop their activities.

It is important to note that the first Zarasai Orthodox church of the Old Believers was built in Barauka in 1735. At the second half of the 18th century the growth of Zarasai is observed – a school and customs, which was responsible for the issue of permissions to sell flax in Riga to the local citizens as well, were founded then. In 1795 after the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Zarasai and the nearby territories were taken by the Russian Empire, Zarasai manor with the town were given to Vilnius Guberniya. The growth of Zarasai was highly influenced by St. Petersburg – Warsaw route (large transport road) the building of which began at the first half of the 19th century, and its section Zarasai – Kaunas was built in 1830-1836.

Despite several confrontations between the Tzar’s army and rebels near the town and the big fire of 1834 that burned down practically the whole centre of the town, the number of citizens was increasing and the town was rebuilt and was rapidly developing. In 1836 Nicholas I, the Tzar of Russian Empire, visited the town and was so impressed by the wonderful landscape that he decided to rename the town in the name of his son Alexander. As there were a few towns in the Empire named Aleksandrovsk, Zarasai was renamed to NovoAleksandrovsk and was called so from 1836 to 1918. It should be noted that in 1836 not only the name of the town was changed but also the coat of arms was granted and Zarasai county (Zarasai county covered an area of 7223 sq.m. in 1897) formed out of a part of Braslaw county was attached to Kaunas Guberniya.

The year 1837 was extremely important in the history of Zarasai town – then, in order to prevent big fires, Zarasai town’s plan with an interesting and distinctive location of streets was approved. And today the layout of the central part of Zarasai town has remained without any major changes: a quadrangular, on one side semicircular square with radial streets coming out of it which intersect with circular ones give not only grace but also unique looking – Zarasai is the only town in Lithuania which has such plan.

Zarasai was liberated from the Bolsheviks’ oppression only at the end of August in 1919, namely in that year a Lithuanian name – Ezerenai – was given to the town. However the town was called by this name relatively not long – ten years – as linguists found out that the place-name of the town was of Selonian origin. Since 1929 the town has been officially called Zarasai. In 1924 a territory of Zarasai county was finally approved; public offices of the independent Lithuania were developed in the town. During the independence period Zarasai was given a status of a summer resort and the increasingly larger number of holidaymakers came to town from all Lithuania. The years of the Second World War and the Soviet occupation were extremely painful for the citizens of Zarasai region.

Zarasai today

Today Zarasai is one of the most beautiful Lithuanian towns which charms not only with its wonderful nature and distinctive history but also with plenty of cultural events. Didzioji Island of Zarasas Lake – unconventional space for culture where many local and international events take place – makes the town exceptional. The year 2008 was extremely important to Zarasai as the town was awarded not only the honourable name of the first Lithuanian capital of culture but also a status of a resort territory. It is not an accident that lately more and more guests from Lithuania and abroad visit Zarasai. The increasing number of providers of tourism services only confirms that Zarasai is a newly found place for resting. 

Zarasai – a town not only of the pure nature and nourished culture, but also a lively, open to investments and sustainable cooperation town.

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Copyright: Saulius Baublys
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 12856x6428
Taken: 05/08/2012
Uploaded: 04/03/2013
Updated: 06/01/2019


Tags: zarasai; lithuania; monument; circle; viewpoint; landscape; lake; zarasas; sunset
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