Location and Description

Ritavas (Ritove) is a small town situated on the coastal plain of north-western Lithuania.  In the days before Lithuania gained its independence, and the area was still in the Czarist empire, it was in the Rasseiniai district of the province (guberniya) of Kovno (Kaunas).   It was on the main road to the German port of  Memel (present-day Klapeida, part of Lithuania), which is 30 miles away to the west, and was the main commercial centre in the area.  It was also not far from the Courland port of Libau (Liepaja, now part of Latvia), which was the main departure points for ships sailing to London.  

The countryside between Ritavas and the coast was low-lying and marshy, and the area was known as Samogitia (Zamut), which meant "low land".  Transport was by horse and cart, but the road to Memel - at best a dusty track - was often muddy and unpassable in wet weather.  The road to the north led to Plunyan (Plunge) 13 miles away, and from there eastward to the other large town in the area, Tels (Telsiai).  There was no railway station before the establishment of the independent state of Lithuania in 1918; the nearest rail station was in Plunyan. The River Jura flows through the town, and eventually joins the River Nieman in the south, which flowed through parts of Germany to the sea.  There were many lakes, streams and forests, and the area was one of great natural beauty.  Today the area north of Plunge is a national park.

Locality map for Ritavas    Courtesy  Mapquest
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Town plan of Ritavas in 1997


Ritavas today

Photograph bycourtesy Rietavo Savivaldybe and S.Jokuzio Leidykla-Spaustuve

More images of  Ritavas today

Site map
Contemporary Records

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Webpage compiled by  Sam Aaron  February 1999    Last Update: March 2020