Rokiškis is a city in north-eastern Lithuania with population of about 16,000. Citizens of Rokiskis celebrate the 500 anniversary of the city (1999).
The legend of the founding of Rokiškis tells about a hunter called Rokas who had been hunting for hares (Lt."kiškis"). However, cities ending in "-kiškis" are quite popular in the region.
The city was first mentioned in 1499. At first it was Prince Kroszinski's residence, later counts Tyzenhaus build a beautiful neo-gothic church of St. Matthias and a castle which is well preserved today and houses Rokiškis Regional Museum. The town was planned in a classicism manner.
The city started to grow in 1873 when a railroad was built which connected Dvinsk/Dunaburg/Daugavpils with the ice-free Baltic port of Libau/Liepaja. Situated on the Daugavpils-Liepaja railroad, during the 19th Century Rokiškis served as a commercial center for a large rural area and a point for the export of wood, grain, and flax.
Rokiškis is well-known for its cheese. "Rokiškio sūris" is one of the largest cheese manufacturing companies in Lithuania. It grew from a small local dairy established in 1925 . In 1964 Soviets built a specialized factory. At present after reconstructions and foreign capital investments, its sales reach 400 million litas (about 155 million USD). 60% of the production are sold in foreign markets. The company is a very important employer in the region. It is also an important supporter of community initiatives.
The forests, which are considered the richest for the hunters in the whole country, comprise an area of 46,2 thousand ha in the region. There are 99 lakes, 62 ponds, 42 rivers flow through the region.
There are more than 300 immovable cultural values in the region. The landscape is decorated by 27 mounds and barrows, 19 church ensembles, 17 former manor homesteads. Special attention of the many tourists is paid to one of the biggest and the richest museums in the country – Rokiškis regional museum, located in the former Rokiskis manor estate, Rokiskis St. Matthew's church – the most beautiful neo-gothic ensemble in Lithuania, Rokiškis St. Matthew's church the most explicit and valuable urban monument in the country – Rokiškis city Independence square.
The impressive cultural heritage of the region encourages the cultural workers of the region to carry out active work. Quite many regional, republican and international festivals, concerts, events, plain-airs, exhibitions-competitions, take place here, the festival of professional Lithuanian theatres continues for the third decade already, for which there are no analogous events. Hunters' festival in Rokiškis Cultural center of Aukštaitija region is being established in Rokiškis.