Panemunė is the smallest town in Lithuania, situated on the border between Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast. The town is situated by the Nemunas River with Tilsit (Sovetsk) on the other side of the river. It is the only town that has now eldership (sub-district) (it belongs to Pagėgiai Sub-district).
The settlement has been known from the 19th century. The political events of great importance to the entire Europe took place namely in the vicinity. Friedrich Wilhelm III, King of Prussia, declared a war to the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on 9 October 1806. Peace negotiations were started in Tilsit on 25 June 1807, and the French Emperor Napoleon dictated the conditions. Piktupėnai (Pagėgiai Municipality, ~8 km away from Panemunė), became a residence of Friedrich Wilhelm III, King of Prussia, his wife Luise and their large family for four weeks, i.e. during the negotiations. The meeting of the Queen Luise with the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte that took place on 6 July 1807 did not bring any positive results. Therefore, the French Emperor Napoleon and Russian Tsar Alexander I signed Treaty of Tilsit, the terms and conditions whereof were especially unfavourable to Prussia, on a specially constructed raft in the middle of the Nemunas on 7 July 1807.
The old post route running along the Curonian Spit was directed to the new tract via Tilsit and Taurage, and a railway bridge was built at the end of the 19th century. This created favourable conditions for the development of Panemunė settlement. The construction of a bridge over the Nemunas River by Panemunė and Tilsit was finished in 1907. The bridge was named after Luise, the Queen of Prussia. The bridge was blown up during the World War II and restored later on. The length of the bridge is about 416 meters. The bridge connects both Lithuania and the European Union with Russia today.
The routes of the book smugglers and the border officers of the tsarist Russia crossed over in the localities of Panemunė during the Lithuanian press ban period from 1864 to 1904. The security of the border was strengthened by establishing three security checkpoints at the end of the 19th century. Observation towers were installed every 3 km on the first border line that was supervised by armed border guards on horses. The second border line was located 2 km away, and the third – approximately 6 km away from the border. These last two border lines were posts of the secret border guards.
Panemunė flourished after the events of 1923, when it became a border town between Lithuania and Germany. Border police office, customs office, a lot of shops, restaurants and pubs were established here. The market flourished in particular during that period. A narrow-gauge railway line (Lith. siaurukas) along the route Tilžė-Pagėgiai-Smalininkai was built. Smuggling flourished due to the big difference of food product prices in the Republic of Lithuania and Germany.
After the events of World War I and World War II, Panemunė town became a dilapidated roadside settlement. Life in Panemunė town has been improving gradually after Lithuania regained its independence, and the image of the town has been changing for the better.
The population of Panemunė is approximately 350 at the moment. Panemunė checkpoint is functioning.