HISTORY OF THE CITY
XIII – XIV centuries
Šiauliai is located in Northern Lithuania on the picturesque hillsides of the Žemaičių (Samogitian) Hills in the watershed of the rivers Venta, Dubysa, Nevėžis and Mūša. The lake of Talša lies in the very center of the city. There are more lakes in and around the city: Lake Ginkūnai lies to north of Lake Talša, the picturesque minor Lake Švedė borders in the eastern part of the city while Lake Rėkyva, which is the largest lake in Lithuania, lies to the south.
Šiauliai is a historic city, and in the chronicles of the crusader Knights of the Sword (1236) it is variously referred to as Soule, Saulia and Saulen. 22 September 1236, the date of the battle of the Sun which took place nearby is now considered to be the date of the city's foundation.
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Šiauliai was seen as the center of the „Sun-land“.
XV – XVI centuries
In 1445, a wooden church was built, and this was replaced in 1625 with the present brick one which can be seen in the center of the city today. From the sixteenth century Šiauliai had Magdeburg rights.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century the region of Šiauliai was established and included the township of Šiauliai, Joniškis, Radviliškis and Meškuičiai, with Šiauliai as the center, referred to as „Didieji Šiauliai“.
XVII – XVIII centuries
From the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries Šiauliai was devastated both by the Swedish army and by an epidemic of the plague; but by the end of the eighteenth century it had become the center for thirteen lowland districts. In the same century a variety of manufacturing industries were set up, and the town was developed along classical architectural lines.
From 1795 Šiauliai became the administrative center of the district, and in the nineteenth century became on the principle trade centers connecting Lithuania to the ports of Riga and Liepoja.
In 1839, the St. Petersburg to Königsberg highway and in 1871 the Liepoja to Romnai railway were built, both of which passed through Šiauliai.
In 1872, the city was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt, and new factories were developed to manufacture or process silk, wool, chocolate, leather, cigarettes and to brew beer.
In 1897, Šiauliai was the second largest city in Lithuania after Kaunas according to the number of inhabitants (16128 people). In 1909, 56.4 percent of inhabitants were Hebrews.
During World War 1 there were great battles in and around Šiauliai from April to June 1915, and not only the center of the town was destryed on April 17th, but overall, eighty five percent of the buildings in Šiauliai were burned down, and the city was occupied by the German army.
Šiauliai during the period of the First Independent Lithuanian Republic
This period is called often as inter-war period, when the city began its new life. After the First World War the town has been reconstructed, and five leather or shoes factories were established, as well as weaving and knitwear factories, a furniture factory, the „Gubernija“ brewery and a linen weaving factory. By 1938 growth of Šiauliai was marked, and it accounted for 85 percent of all the leather production, 60 percent of shoe production, 75 percent of linen production and 35 percent of chocolate production in Lithuania. During this inter-war period, Šiauliai was the second most important city of Lithuania after the capital Kaunas.
With the advent of the Second World War, Šiauliai was once again in the center of battles, and once again it was occupied by the German army, and suffered the destruction of eighty percent of its buildings. After the war, the town was reconstructed, and factories were either rebuilt or started from scratch. The city center was reconstructed and many new residential districts were completed. Once again Šiauliai became the regional center, a place it still occupies, with the municipalities of Joniškis, Pakruojis, Radviliškis, Šiauliai, Kelmė and Naujoji Akmenė forming the region.