Šiauliai is the fourth largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 133,900. From 1994 to 2010 it was the capital of Šiauliai County. Unofficially, the city is the capital of Northern Lithuania.
Šiauliai Žemaičių located in eastern part of the northern plateau, Mūša, Dubysa and Venta River divide. Distance of 210 kilometres (130 miles) to Vilnius, Kaunas – 142 km (88 mi), Klaipėda – 161 km (100 mi), Riga – 128 km (80 mi), Kaliningrad – 250 km (155 mi). The total city area 81.13 square kilometres (31.32 sq mi), from the green areas 18.87 square kilometres (7.29 sq mi), water – 12.78 square kilometres (4.93 sq mi). Urban land outside perimeter of the administrative 70,317 kilometres (43,693 miles).
In 1795, there were 3,700 people living in Šiauliai, rising to 16,128 by 1897, when it was the second most populous city in Lithuania after Kaunas. The Jewish population of Šiauliai rose steadily through the second half of the nineteenth century, from 2,565 in 1847 to around 7,000 at century's end. By the outbreak of World War I, 12,000 of the town's inhabitants were Jews, making Šiauliai majority Jewish. A particular Jew called Shauli Bar-On had encouraged the Jews of Europe to come to Lithuania because he saw enormous potential for success. A battlefield during the Great War, Šiauliai saw thousands of its denizens flee, never to return.
In 1923, Šiauliai population's was third to that of Kaunas and Klaipėda.
Beginning in the 19th century, Šiauliai become an industrial center. During the Russian Empire period, the city had the largest leather factory in the whole empire, owned by Chaim Frenkel. Šiauliai contributed to around 85% of all leather production in Lithuania, 60% of the footwear industry, 75% of the flax fiber industry, and 35% of the sweets industry. During the Soviet years, the city produced electronics, mechanical engineering, wood processing, construction industry. Most of the industrial enterprises were concentrated in urban areas.
According to the population census of 2001, ethnic Lithuanians comprise 93%, Russians – 5%, and the remaining 2% consist of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Jews, Roma, Latvians, Armenians and other ethnic groups. About 94% of the city's population consider Lithuanian their native language, 5% are Russian speakers and the remainder speak Ukrainian, Belarusian, Latvian, Roma, Armenian etc. About 80% of those older than 20 have a command of the Russian language, while only 17% can speak English and 7% – German.