Sovetsk (Russian: Сове́тск), before 1946 known as Tilsit (Lithuanian: Tilžė; Polish: Tylża) in East Prussia, is a town in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, located on the south bank of the Neman River. Population: 41,705 (2010 Census); 43,224 (2002 Census); 41,881 (1989 Census).
Sovetsk lies at the confluence of the Tilse (Russian: Тыльжа Tylzha, Lithuanian Tilže) with the Neman.
Tilsit, which received civic rights from Albert, Duke of Prussia in 1552, grew up around a castle of the Teutonic Knights, known as the Schalauer Haus, founded in 1288.
The Treaties of Tilsit were signed here in July 1807, the preliminaries of which were settled by the emperors Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon I of France on a raft moored in the Neman River. This treaty, which created the Kingdom of Westphalia and the Duchy of Warsaw, completed Napoleon's humiliation of the Kingdom of Prussia, when it was deprived of one half of its dominions.
This short-lived peace-treaty is also remarkable for quite another reason. Three days before its signing, Prussian queen Louise (1776–1810) tried to persuade Napoleon in a private conversation to ease his hard conditions on Prussia. Though unsuccessful, Louise's effort greatly endeared her to the Prussian people.
Until 1945, a marble tablet marked the house in which King Frederick William III of Prussia and Queen Louise resided. Also, in the former Schenkendorf Platz was a monument to the poet Max von Schenkendorf (1783–1817) a native of Tilsit. During the 19th century when the Lithuanian language was banned within the Russian Empire, Tilsit was an important centre for printing Lithuanian books which then were smuggled by Knygnešiai to the Russian-controlled part of Lithuania. In general, Tilsit thrived and was an important Prussian town. By 1900 it had electric tramways and 34,500 inhabitants; a direct railway line linked it to Königsberg and Labiau and steamers docked there daily. It was occupied by Russian troops between 26 August 1914 and 12 September 1914 during World War I. The Act of Tilsit was signed here by leaders of the Lietuvininks in 1918.
According to German data in 1890 35% of the Tilsit district (which Tilsit was not part of) population was composed of Prussian Lithuanians.
Hitler visited the town just before World War II, and a photo was taken of him on the famous bridge over the Memel River. Tilsit was occupied by the Red Army on January 20, 1945, and was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945. The remaining Germans who had not evacuated were subsequently forcibly expelled and replaced with Soviet citizens. The town was renamed Sovetsk by the new communist rulers, in honor of Soviet rule.
Modern Sovetsk has sought to take advantage of Tilsit's rich traditions of cheese production (Tilsit cheese), but the new name ("Sovetsky cheese") has not inherited its predecessor's reputation.
In April 2007, government restrictions on visits to border areas have been tightened, and for foreigners, and Russians living outside the border zone, travel to the Sovetsk and Bagrationovsk areas required advance permission from the Border Guard Service (in some cases up to 30 days beforehand). It was alleged that this procedure slowed the development of these potentially thriving border towns. In June 2012, these restrictions were lifted (the only restricted area is the Neman river shoreline), which gave a boost to local and international tourism.
Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is incorporated as the town of oblast significance of Sovetsk—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the town of oblast significance of Sovetsk is incorporated as Sovetsky Urban Okrug.
Many of the town's buildings were destroyed during World War II. However, the old town centre still includes several German buildings, including those of Jugendstil design. The Queen Louise Bridge, now connecting the town to Panemunė/Übermemel in Lithuania, retains an arch – all that is left of a more complex pre-war bridge structure.
Ethnic composition in 2010:Russians: 86.7%
Sovetsk is twinned with:Daniel Klein (1609–1666), Lithuanian pastor and grammarian
Johann Christian Jacobi (1719-1784), German oboist
Max von Schenkendorf (1783–1817), German poet and author
Franz Meyen (1804–1840), German botanist
Hans Victor von Unruh (1806–1886), German politician and technician
Wilhelm Voigt (1849–1922), the inspiration for The Captain of Köpenick
Gustaf Kossinna or Kossina (1858–1931), archaeologist
Johanna Wolff (1858–1943), German author
Emil Wiechert (1861–1928), German geophysicist
Raphael Friedeberg (1863–1940), German physician and politician
Max Gülstorff (1882–1947), German actor
Carl Brinkmann (1885–1954), German sociologist and economist
Friedrich Schröder Sonnenstern (1892-1982), Illustrator
Frank Wisbar (1899–1967) German director
Karl Hermann Martell (1906–1966), German actor
Franz Abromeit (1907-1964), SS officer, Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Judenreferent)
Joachim Sadrozinski (1907–1944), officer and resistance fighter
Siegfried Graetschus (1916–1943), SS-Oberscharführer, killed during revolt in Sobibor extermination camp
Johannes Bobrowski (1917–1965), German writer
Werner Abrolat (1924–1997), German actor
Gunter Wyszecki (1925–1985), German-Canadian mathematician
Armin Mueller-Stahl (born 1930), German actor, honorary citizen since 8 December 2011
Sabine Bethmann (born 1931), German actress
Jürgen Kurbjuhn (1940-2014), football player
Klaus-Dieter Sieloff (1942-2011), football player
John Kay (born 1944), lead singer of the popular late 1960s rock band Steppenwolf
Edgar Froese (1944–2015), German founder and leader of the electronic music group Tangerine Dream