|The Historic Town of Trakai was established as the historic
capital of Lithuania by the Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341)
in the early 14th century, at which time he built the Peninsula
Castle. Vytautas the Great (1392-1430) resettled a number of
Karaite families from the Crimea to Trakai in the early 15th
century, who served as royal guards. The simple log houses
and modest Kenesa of the Karaims give Trakai its warm scale
and our protected by the state. The Island Castle was built
during this time, when the city enjoyed its greatest prosperity in
the 15th century. Trakai was granted the Magdeburg Rights
and had extensive diplomatic and trade links with Europe.
Vytautas is largely credited for leading the combined armies of
Poland, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries in
their victory over the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald,
or Zalgiris as it is known in Lithuania. Later, the capital was
moved to Vilnius, at which time the Trakai began to decline,
losing it political and economic importance. There was revived
interest in Trakai in the 19th century with the rise of a nationalist
movement in Lithuania, which had fallen under Russian rule.
The two castles had suffered the ravages of war and time. The
Island Castle was reconstructed in the mid 20th century, during
the Soviet era, and now serves as a focal point for tourism.
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