Lukiškės Prison

Coordinates: 54°41′29″N 25°15′59″E / 54.69139°N 25.26639°E / 54.69139; 25.26639
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Lukiškės Prison
LocationVilnius, Lithuania
Security classdetention center
Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church, part of the Lukiškės Prison complex

Lukiškės Prison (Lithuanian: Lukiškių tardymo izoliatorius kalėjimas; Polish: Więzienie na Łukiszkach or simply Łukiszki; Belarusian: Лукішкі) was a prison in the center of Vilnius, Lithuania, near the Lukiškės Square.



Until the late 19th century the main form of punishment in Russian-held part of partitioned Poland was the katorga, or forced resettlement to a remote area to heavy labour camps or prison farms. This was true for both criminal and political prisoners alike. The Russian Penal Code of 1845 further strengthened the notion.[1] Furthermore, prior to the Emancipation reform of 1861 the serfs, who constituted most of the society in contemporary Russian-held Europe, could be incarcerated by their master rather than in state-run prisons. Because of that, for most of the 19th century the small criminal prison at Vilna's suburb of Łukiszki (modern Lukiškės), converted from an earlier Roman Catholic monastery in 1837, was enough to suit the needs of the Russian authorities.[1] Most prisoners spent only a short period in the prison before being either released, sent to the gallows or sent to distant regions of Russia for penal servitude.

However, the 1874 revision of the criminal code of Russia introduced two additional penalties: a short-term prison confinement (up to 1.5 years) and long-term prison confinement (up to 6 years).[1] Meanwhile, the old prison became dilapidated and severely overcrowded.[1] It was clear that a new prison complex was needed. Because of that in 1900 G.A. Trambitski, the official architect of the Main Prison Authority, was tasked with designing a modern, high-security prison complex.[1] Instead of moving it out of the city, the tsarist authorities decided to demolish the old prison and build the new one in its place. One of the reasons for it was the site's proximity to the newly built Provincial Court building (today Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights).


The project was inspired by Jeremy Bentham's idea of Panopticon, and was based on the design of Kresty Prison in Sankt Petersburg, which in turn was modelled after Moabit Prison in Berlin and the Holmesburg Prison and Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.[1] In 1901 construction work began and the old prison was closed down and demolished.[1] The works were supervised by General Anatoliy Kelchevskiy.[1] The plot of land occupied by the old prison was too small to accommodate a modern prison. Because of that an adjoining plot of land previously occupied by a Lipka Tatar cemetery was bought for the price of 20 thousand roubles.[1]

The new complex covered the entire block. It included a penal prison with cells for 421 inmates, a detention centre for 278 inmates, as well as several other buildings.[1] Those included an office building, kitchen, bakery, baths, ice cellar and a laundry.[1] In addition, there were family apartments for the warden, his four deputies and 37 officers, and 24 smaller flats for single officers.[1] One of the most distinctive buildings in the complex was the Orthodox St. Nicholas Church, one of the finest Orthodox churches in Vilna.[1] However, as most of the inhabitants of the Vilna Governorate were Catholics or Jews, a separate Catholic church and a small synagogue were also built into one of the prison blocks.[1] The new prison had its own water supply and had its own sewage system.[1] The complex was surrounded with a stone wall.[1]

The prison complex was the most expensive building constructed in the region in the early 20th century.[1] The cells were fully equipped, heated and ventilated, and constructed entirely of non-combustible materials (except for window frames and doors).[1] The prison block containing the churches alone cost 504,000 roubles.[1] The building of the detention centre cost 285,000 roubles,[1] while the administrative building with offices and apartments for the staff cost approximately 180 thousand roubles.[1] Despite its complexity, the project was finished in 1905, a full year ahead of schedule.[1]


The prison is located in a prestigious area, next to the Seimas Palace and Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. One of the best schools in Lithuania known for its mathematics program, School No.6, was located across the Lukiškiu street from the prison.

History of use[edit]

Prison during the interwar period

Second Polish Republic[edit]

In the interwar Second Polish Republic, the prison was used by Polish authorities to hold numerous notable West Belarusian political prisoners, for example: writers Maksim Tank, Maksim Haretski, Michaś Mašara, Uladzislau Pauliukouski, teacher Barys Kit, musician and composer Ryhor Šyrma, ballet dancer Janka Chvorast. The largest group of prisoners during the interwar years were communists and socialists, and the Communist Party of Western Belorussia frequently attempted to hold protests against the prison, calling it a place of "fascist terror."[2]

World War II[edit]

Following the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states in 1940, the prison was equally used as a temporary holding detention for prisoners who were then deported to the Gulag. Menachem Begin, who later served as sixth Prime Minister of Israel, was notably held in the prison after his arrest in September 1940. In June 1941, during the German invasion, the NKVD shot prisoners at Lukiškės Prison (see NKVD prisoner massacres).[3]

The prison became more notorious during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, when it was used by the Gestapo and Lithuanian Saugumas as a holding cell for thousands of Jews from the Vilna Ghetto and Poles, picked up in łapankas (roundups) in reprisals for actions by the Polish resistance. The majority were taken to the outskirts of Vilnius and executed at Ponary (Paneriai).[4]

When Soviets reoccupied the territory in 1944, the prison was returned to the NKVD who detained thousands of Polish activists and partisans of Armia Krajowa.[5][6]

Post-Soviet era[edit]

The prison was the site of Lithuania's last execution in 1995.[7]

As of 2007, it housed approximately 1,000 prisoners and employed around 250 prison guards.[8] Most prisoners there were under temporary arrest awaiting court decisions or transfers to other detention facilities, but there was also a permanent prison with about 180 inmates; about 80 of whom were serving life terms.[9] After more than a century of continuous service, the prison suffered from overcrowding and was in need of improvements.

In 2009, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture reported "several allegations from prisoners concerning physical ill-treatment inflicted by staff" and that conditions in the parts of the complex that had not been recently renovated had "deteriorated to the extent that they could be described as deplorable."[10]

According to a 2014 plan, the prison was to be relocated to Pravieniškės by 2018.[11] The prison was officially closed on 2 July 2019.[12] After its closure, it became open to the public for tours.


Followings the closure of the prison, the complex was turned into a cultural centre. In 2020, it was used as filming location for the fourth season of Stranger Things.[13] Later that year, the Lithuanian government announced that part of the complex would be sold.[14] In 2022, the Vilnius tourism agency announced that a Stranger Things-themed cell in the complex would be available to rent on Airbnb.[15] This drew controversy from various groups who felt that it overlooked the prison's role in WWII.

Notable prisoners[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Marganavichyene, E. V. (2008-03-31). Замок на Лукишках [Lukishki Castle]. Express Nedelya (in Russian) (1935). Vilnius: Savaitės ekspresas: 1–2. ISSN 1691-3310. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
  2. ^ Łukasiewicz, Sergiusz (2012). "High treason : The activity of the Communist Party of Western Belarus in Vilnius in 1930-1935". Journal of Education Culture and Society: 82–93. doi:10.15503/jecs20121-82-93. ISSN 2081-1640.
  3. ^ Paszkowski, Bolesław (March 2005). "Golgota Wschodu" (in Polish). Moto. Archived from the original on 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
  4. ^ Langerbein, Helmut (2003). Hitler's Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 66–68. ISBN 1-58544-285-2.
  5. ^ Kościesza, Eugeniusz. "Chapter 19". Ojczyźnie skradziona tożsamość (in Polish). Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  6. ^ Hrybacz, Janusz. "Karta dziejów wileńskiej i nowogródzkiej Armii Krajowej" (in Polish). p. 1. Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  7. ^ "Lukiskes Prison, a reminder of blood-soaked history, is to shake off the fame with relocation". Retrieved 2022-05-21.
  8. ^ Arbušauskas, Ruslanas (2007-03-30). "Lukiškės: prižiūrėtojams blogiau nei kaliniams" (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  9. ^ "Kalėjimų departamentui prie Lietuvos Respublikos teisingumo ministerijos pavaldžių įstaigų vystymo strategija" (in Lithuanian). Prison Department of Lithuania. Archived from the original on February 11, 2012. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  10. ^ "Report to the Lithuanian Government on the visit to Lithuania carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 21 to 30 April 2008". European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. 25 June 2009.
  11. ^ Baltic News Service (2015-08-20). "Lukiškių kalėjimo ateitis vis dar miglota" (in Lithuanian).
  12. ^ Baltic News Service (1 July 2019). "Iš Lukiškių kalėjimo iškelti paskutiniai nuteistieji, antradienį – oficialus uždarymas" (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  13. ^ "'Stranger Things' filmed in Lithuania jail where Nazis held Jews". The Times of Israel.
  14. ^ "Tsarist-era prison in Vilnius that hosted Netflix Stranger Things to be sold". 19 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Stranger Things-inspired prison cell available for booking in Vilnius – photos". 27 May 2022.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Pasitarimas dėl būsimo tarptautinio memorialo–muziejaus" (in Lithuanian). Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras. 2 June 2021. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  17. ^ a b c Struve, Alena (11 May 2011). ""А над намі чорнай хмарай вісьне цесная турма…"" [And over us, the cramped prison hangs like a dark cloud]. Радыё Свабода (in Belarusian). Radio Svaboda. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  18. ^ Aksak, Valancina (18 February 2013). "120-годзьдзе Максіма Гарэцкага: дом зьнесьлі, збор твораў ня выдалі" [120th anniversary of Maksim Harecki: house demolished, collection of works not published]. Радыё Свабода (in Belarusian). Radio Svaboda. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Рукапісы не гараць. Максім Гарэцкі: Жыццё праляцела, як адзін дзень" [Manuscripts don't burn. Maksim Harecki: Life flew like one day]. (in Belarusian). Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  20. ^ Marakou, Leanid. "Рэпрэсаваныя літаратары, навукоўцы, работнікі асветы, грамадскія і культурныя дзеячы Беларусі. 1794-1991. » Том II » МАШАРА Міхась" [Repressed writers, scientists, education workers, civic and cultural activists of Belarus. 1794-1991. Band II. MASHARA, Mikhas]. Leanid Marakou. Retrieved 14 September 2016. Арыштаваны ў 1928; зняволены ў віленскай турме Лукішкі.
  21. ^ "Рукапісы не гараць. Міхась Машара" [Manuscripts don't burn. Michaś Mašara]. (in Belarusian). Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Гумарыстычныя вершы Уладзіслава Паўлюкоўскага" [Satiric verses by Uładzisłaŭ Paŭlukoŭski]. (in Belarusian). Czasopis - Białoruski miesięcznik społeczno-kulturalny. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  23. ^ Drańko-Majsiuk, Leanid (16 October 2012). "Максім Танк" [Maksim Tank]. (in Belarusian). Arche. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  24. ^ Kruk, Herman; Harshav, Benjamin (2002). The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles From the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944. Yale University Press. pp. 53 n.22. ISBN 978-0-300-04494-2.

External links[edit]

Media related to Lukiškės Prison at Wikimedia Commons

54°41′29″N 25°15′59″E / 54.69139°N 25.26639°E / 54.69139; 25.26639