Three main changes in the landscape of Sintautai land

Filomena Kavoliutė

The area of Sintautai underwent three changes in its landscapes. It was the 16th century when the colonisation of the very rarely inhabited forests growing on the glacio-lacustrine plain began, but the dominance of agrarian area had been reached only in the 18th century; however, the landscape remained forest-agrarian. Distribution of old villages shows that the configuration of the river basin has affected largely the settlement of the area. Absence of tributaries ‘forced’ people to settle more densely along the Nova River, while the widely branching Penta River basin favoured wider spreading of population in the plain.

In mid-19th century, the earliest in all Lithuania, the post-serfdom homesteads had settled. Although the arable lands expanded, the landscape remained of agrarian-forest type. It was formed by greened homesteads and bogged shrub-rich meadows.

In the second half o the 20th century, during the Soviet period, when the landed and immovable property was nationalised, kolkhozes established and land amelioration performed, the landscape turned into that of a forestless agrarian-industrial type. Only the place names in written books of the beginning 20th century confirm that peat had been taken in small bogs of Sintautai environs. Later the drained low-moor bog peat has mineralised, and now the peat is hardly reflected in the soil layer.

The Šakiai district had 7108 homesteads; it was the second district in Lithuania according to the number of homesteads, after Kapsukas (Marijampolė). In 1971–1975, the authorities of the district were liquidating the homesteads (paying people for their destroyed property) with a highest rapidity in Lithuania; so, in five years, the Šakiai district having removed 1006 homesteads appeared to be a leader of this campaign. There were plans to keep hold of 4 homesteads in Sintautai kolkhoz, as well as 10 ones in the Laisvė kolkhoz, 14 in Šakiai horticulture sovkhoz and 8 in Šešupė sovkhoz, but the plans had not been carried through, depending on the efforts of farming leaders to implement tasks ordered by the communist party and government. The destruction of homesteads equalled the second deportation, because due to removal of homesteads, entire villages disappeared. Moreover, during the second half of the land draining, most people departed to towns and cities instead moving to kolkhoz settlements.

During the land draining, the channels of small rivers were regulated and turned into ditches. In all history of the Sintautai land, the Nova River was a very important life artery, a centre of attraction, where old villages and homesteads were building up. But in the second half of the 20th century, the Soviet period, people were ordered to turn their backs on this river. People were removed from the riverside that turned into a rarely visited periphery with wild vegetation; thus the cultural landscape was transforming into a natural one.

The open contempt upon Catholic (traditional) culture during the Soviet time, as well as brutal behaviour with green plantations at the homesteads of the ‘class enemies’, formed an indifference of a part of the society, its cultural insensitivity to the natural environment and the past of the land in general.