Kaliningrad is the western-most enclave of the Russian Federation. Some 450 kilometres from the homeland, it sits on Baltic Sea, surrounded by southern Lithuania and eastern Poland. Originally founded in the 13th century as a fortress of the Teutonic order of knights, it was then named Königsberg. The philosopher Immanuel Kant spent all his life in the city. It became one of the cities of the Hanseatic League and until the end of the Second World War, the area formed the northern part of East Prussia. The city was largely destroyed in the latter stages of the War, first by Allied bombing in August 1944 and then with the storming of the city by the Red Army in April, 1945. The German population fled or were removed by force. Historian Anthony Beevor wrote: ‘A population which had stood at 2.2 million in 1940 was reduced to 193,000 at the end of May 1945.’ It was renamed Kaliningrad on July 4, 1946 in honor of Mikhail Kalinin. Annexed from Germany at the end of the War, the territory was a closed military zone throughout the Soviet period, repopulated by volunteers from all over the Soviet Union – as one of our travellers calls it was “a city of arrivals.” It houses the Russian Baltic Fleet at the port of Baltiysk and is the country’s only ice-free European port. Approximately 400,000 people live in metropolitan Kaliningrad and a total of nearly one million are in the oblast, which is approximately one-fifth forested.
In 2005 Kaliningrad celebrated its 750 years of existence. It is undergoing significant transformation. With the collapse of the Soviet system, the enclave suffered, and was made an Special Economic Zone in 1996, an attempt to turn it into ‘the Russian Hong Kong’, both a regional manufacturing hub and trade zone with Europe. Today the economy of Kaliningrad is growing more than any other region of Russia. In 2005 Kaliningrad celebrated its 750 years of existence, and it looks forward to significant transformation.
The city will be one of the venues for the FIFA 2018 World Cup finals.
Image of the city on an old postcard from the beginning of the 19h century.
Kaliningrad is twinned with the largest city in the Podlasie region, Białystok, in North Eastern Poland.
As the project progresses we will post information on this page from our cultural guides. Here is an article (in Russian only) by way of a useful introduction:
Here’s a blog site with some info on the city - http://www.inkaliningrad.com/english/
One of our travellers on the project, Vera Kondratyeva, sent us some pictures of her homeland…