The Development of Gruzdžiai valsčius and its population

Vidmantas Daugirdas

The aim of this paper is to reveal the peculiarities in changes of the territorial organisation of the administrative units in the Gruzdžiai Valsčius (rural district) and adjacent areas. The attempt has been made to reveal the main stages of the changes in the area’s administration system, population number and composition, as well as to generalise the archive and statistical material. The descriptive comparative analysis has been applied as the key method of the investigation. 

Only from mid–1649 Gruzdžiai became the economically significant centre within the Šiauliai economy; from 1842 it was a parish seat and in the second half of the 19th c. it turned into a centre of the Valsčius. Such late formation of its administrative role was determined by its peripheral geographical position, complicated historical development of the area and neighbourhood of larger and more important settlements–first of all Šiauliai–which overshadowed the nearby townships by their economic and administrative potential. By the end–19th c. population in Gruzdžiai and the area was growing slowly, sometimes decreasing or increasing. This was caused by the 18th c. economic crisis, common for the Lithuanian and Polish state, wars, famine, plague and lack of stimulus for townships to grow. 

The Gruzdžiai Valsčius formed after the abolition of the serfdom in 1863 was the largest one in the Šiauliai Uyezd (a district in tsarist Russia), and topping by its area (424 km2) in the Šiauliai County and being among the leaders in a whole Lithuania during the period before the WWII. During the first Soviet period (1940–1941), WWII and second Soviet period, the boundaries of the Valsčius had not been changed. The Gruzdžiai Valsčius was abrogated together with the County of Šiauliai on June 20, 1950. The township became a centre of a small countryside district, the east and west boundaries of which largely coincided with those of the former Valsčius, but its area was 2.3 times smaller than that of the Valsčius. 

The Gruzdžiai Neighbourhood (Seniūnija) formed in 1995 mainly coincided with the Soviet countryside district (186 km2). Its population is gradually decreasing. In 2005, there were 3 188 inhabitants (1781 in Gruzdžiai, 450 in Šiupyliai, and 158 in Žiogai).