city and exclave
- the 15,100 km2
) region is
sitting between Poland
some 400 km/250mi from the Russian border.
The whole province - oblast
in Russian - has 960,000 inhabitants
, half of it
in the city (2000).
The region Kaliningrad was part of the German East Prussia until 1945
when the Russian Red Army took it and made it a part of the Soviet Union.
The Prussian name Königsberg was changed to the present, as a tribute to the
president Michail Kalinin working for Joseph Stalin. The city was the base
for the Soviet Baltic Sea fleet, and therefore closed for foreigners until
1992 when the union was dissolved.
The city was founded as Königsberg around an old fortress for German crusaders,
and earned its city rights in 1286. In the mid 14-th century, the city was
included in the German Hanseatic League as an important port. The University
of Königsberg was founded in 1455 and became famous for its philosophical
and religious studies, with Immanuel Kant working there 1755-1796. The
city was capital for the Prussian kings and there used to be a royal castle in
After World War I, the city was isolated for the first time, when Poland
was moved and given Baltic Sea access. The city remained German until World
War II, when the old city was almost completely destroyed by British RAF
and later by the Russian Red Army, who finally gained control over it. When
Lithuania gained its freedom after almost 50 years under Soviet ruling, the region
was once again separated from the mother land, although this time
The people in Kaliningrad live of the paper industry, fishing and of the
amber export. Kaliningrad has roughly 90% of the world's supply of amber. The
oblast is hevily plagued by corruption, mafia, environmental catastrophes,
HIV and poverty. Politicians want to make it the Hong Kong of the Baltic
region, but that's is not the case yet. The city still has many unique beautiful
historical buildings, and rare animal life and long sandy beaches, so it
may one day succeed in attracting the money of tourists. As a memory of the
Soviet dictatorship, a colossal concrete building stands where the royal
castle used to be. It was ordered by Leonid Brezhnev but stands unfinished
today, and is referred to as "the monster" by the local people.
With the coming expansion of the European Union, of which both Poland and
Lithuania may well be a part, it will be interesting to see what the future has in
mind for Kaliningrad.
reference: dn.se, ne.se, britannica.com for English terminology