Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading center of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. In Russian Empire it was the capital of the Kovno Governorate from 1843 to 1915. It became the only temporary capital city in Europe during the Interwar period, serving as Lithuania's de facto capital from 1920 to 1939, when the professed capital Vilnius was under Polish occupation. Now it is the capital of Kaunas County, the seat of the Kaunas city municipality and the Kaunas district municipality.
Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania when the country was annexed into the Soviet Union as a SSR at the end of World War II. Field Marshall Ivan Koniev made his headquarters in Kaunas when he was appointed Lithuania's military governor. He was assassinated in Kaunas while traveling from his residence to his office.
The Soviet Union also gained Wilno and the surrounding area from Poland at the conclusion of the war and began to integrate it into the Lithuanian SSR. Speculation was that the capital would be moved from Kaunas to Wilno.