Siaulenai, Lithuania

(Other Names: Shavlan, Shavlyan, Shavlyany, Siauleny, Shyaulenay, Savlan, Shavlian, Sialenai or Szawlany)




Siaulenai is first mentioned in various documents 1440-1492 as an estate and a manor house.1

The Samogitian2  part of Lithuania had accepted Christianity only in the previous century. A wooden church was built in Siaulenai in 1514 and from 1551 through
1612 served the Reformed Evangelical congregation following the traditional “Cuius regio, eius religio".3  A 1613 map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania shows
Siaulenai prominently alongside with nearby Siauliai, Radviliskis, Kurtuvenai and other towns.

The town and surrounding area was in succession an enormous latifundium4 of  various owners and, after 1554, it passed in part to the Semeta family. 

Documents show that in 1542 the town had 26 families, and in 1619, 83 lots with 310 inhabitants. The 1729 Siaulenai estate inventory lists 36 families and judging
by last names, about half were of the Jewish faith, though they are not identified as such. In 1818 and 1874 fires devastated the town. In 1833 the town had
142 inhabitants.  In 1897 there were 1034 inhabitants and 1923, 801 inhabitants.  In 1959 the town had 806 inhabitants and in 1970, 646 inhabitants.

When the Jews first came from Russia and settled in Siaulenai is not clear, but the Bishop of Samogitia states in 1748 that besides the town church, there was also
a synagogue. Furthermore, there was a mill on the river, rented by the German, Paul Zimmer. There were 33 families and 12 stores around the market square that
were rented to Jewish merchants. Sixteen Jewish families and an old Jewish Synagogue are also mentioned. Records show that there was an old wooden
Jewish Synagogue5 in Siaulenai dating back to the mid-seventeenth century which would put the Jewish people first inhabiting Siaulenai on or before 1650. In the
county villages there were 61 Jewish homes with 327 inhabitants.  A 1765 inventory lists 33 Jewish homes with 160 Jewish inhabitants. 

During the 1784 census, Šiaulėnai was located in the Žemaitija (Samogitia) duchy/eldership.

Under Czarist occupation of Lithuania, the town was known in Russian as Шавлан. It may also be listed on historical documents in the United States as Shavlan,
Shavlyan, Shavlyany, or Szawlany, Russia.

The town had intermittent parochial schools and as of 1836 the Russian language became mandatory in all schools. On the date of the dissolution of serfdom in 1863,
one school had 108 pupils. The county vigorously participated in 1831 and 1863 in unsuccessful uprisings against the Russians resulting in the participating gentry
being sent to Siberia.

After the last Semeta owner of Siaulenai and the surrounding area and estates died in 1871, his young widow remarried and the estates were divided between her and
other close relatives. The lots in the town of Siaulenai belonged to the Pasusvis estate of Henrikas and Roze Sirjatavicius. 

All property during this period and earlier were rental properties and both Jews and non-Jews had to pay rent to the estate owners for the lots they lived on.  An
1880 map exists showing the layout and lots of the town.6   See the 1880 Map showing the Jewish Quarter.7 

The town of Siaulenai’s  crest is a Swan on an azure background with Short-handle Scythe on gold.  The short handle scythe was specific in the Siaulenai region. 
The swan, in various attitudes on azure background, is the crest of the Semeta family received in the 14th century for valor in a battle which is indicated by a Lion
Rampant with the Sword above the coronet.  The town incorporated in its shield the crest of the Semeta family, Labedz (the Swan).8

At the outset of World War I, Russian soldiers and local peasants, responding to a rumor that Jews were supplying information to the German army, launched
attacks against Jews in several provincial towns in western Lithuania.   Even though a Duma committee refuted this libel, the authorities never withdrew their allegation
and deported tens of thousands of Jews from the Kovno district to the Russian interior.  The Czar regarded the Jews as a possible ally of Germany and wanted them
away from the border with Germany. 
The Jews from Siaulenai were sent to Ekatrinislav9 in the Ukraine.

Chaika Grazutis gives narrative of her experiences in Siaulenai and being deported to Ekatrinislav in the Ukraine during World War I.10

Many of the Jews, upon returning home after the war ended, had difficulties getting back into Lithuania.  Lithuania had become an independent country and
required all “foreigners” entering the country to have passports or documentation, which many of the Jews did not have.

A list of both Christian and Jewish “Delinquent Renters” from Siaulenai dating from 1914 to1916 contains some of the names of people who owed back rent.11  One
could deduce that, since the Jews were sent out of Siaulenai in 1915, payments by them were delinquent because they were not around to pay the rental fees.

 Below is a list of some delinquent renters who appear to be Jewish according to their names:


No.      Name

----       -----------------------------------------------------------------

24       Davidovic Nochim

25       Veicman Kirs Burianinovic

26        Beniamin Veicman

28a       Meier Girsovic Levitan

            28b      Lararow Leiba Davidovic

29        Judel Jankeliovic

34a      Girsa Leibovic Kaplan

            34b      Hirs Kac Movsovic Jeselevic

            36        Jankiel Fridman

            40a      Bera Joseliovic Landsman

            40b      Chaim Joseliovic Zirechovic

            41        Feiga Trigin Berelovic Ric

            42        Fredie Frein Rudelovic Lipe

            43        Smujla Jankielovic Lanzarovic

            44b      Bejlia Gilka and Leiba Gilka 

            45        Bereloic Milicz, Abramovic

            51        Ruvel Nochin  and Girsonas and Rejza Leia Rabinovic

            53a      Chabe Abramovic Jankilivas

            53b      Roche Davidovic Micheliov

56                Dzingielova Mortcheliova, Leizer

57                Kreina Lipman and Nosim Leibovic Dzinka

58                Leiba Abramovic

66                Synagogue

67                Jewish Study

            68       House of the Rabbi

68                Jewish Mikvah

After Lithuania regained independence from Russia in 1918, inhabitants were free to purchase the lots or pay rent.  Some did and others did not according to their circumstances. After their independence, the town remained a small sleepy town serving the surrounding community. 

 Following is the 1939 Telephone directory for Siaulenai listing among the twenty subscribers names which appear to be Jewish last names:

Abramavicius, Ruvinas Nr. 3 - iron and agricultural implements

Gell’as, Manus, Nr. 8 – manufacture

Mozelsonas, Icikas Nr. 7 – forest products buyer

Nurokas, Leiba Nr. 18 – hide buyer

Sapiro, Aronas Nr. 6 – iron products 

During the World War II occupation by the Russians, a number of town inhabitants, as well as from the surrounding area, were deported to Siberia and during a brief,
but relentless German occupation, most of the Jewish inhabitants perished in the Holocaust. 

When the Russians occupied Lithuania in 1941 and again in 1945 all private property was nationalized without recompense.  Those who had continued renting lost
nothing and, those who bought the lots, lost quite a bit and were much more prone to be deported to Siberia.


The Lithuanian Encyclopedia, sundry articles in the Lithuanian press and from a monograph “Siaulenai", a book of 204 pages comprised of various topics and
many authors, published in Vilnius in 2004. Historians, being of cautious nature, warn that some dates and accounting of populations and other matters based on
old or partial documents may be disputable and could change as new material is discovered.


Footnotes and Descriptions

1See Photo No.16: Partial ruins of the Siaulenai Manor House showing glazed windows of an Orangery, 2002 and Photo No. 17: Detail of the Siaulenai
Manor House Orangery, 2002

2 The Samogitian:

3 Cuius regio, eius religio - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

4 latifundium - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

5See Drawing No. 9: Synagogue in Siaulenai and Photo No.10: Interior of the Synagogue, showing the Bimah.

6See Map No.34: 1880 Map of Siaulenai.

 7See File 33 - Map - 1866 Map of Shavlan - Jewish Quarter circa 1915.

8See Photo No. 18: Semeta Family Crest “Labedz” (the swan) Siaulenai, 2002.

9Ekatrinislav was built in the 1770’s for Katherine II, but renamed Dnipropetrovsk in 1926 after the fall of the czar. 
See Map No. 54.

10Watch a video of Chaika Grazutis’ narrative of her experiences in Siaulenai and being deported to Ekatrinislav in the
Ukraine during World War I.

         11See documents No. 13 and 14: List of Delinquent Renters 



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Last updated on August 13, 2008
  Copyright © 2008 Eunice Blecker