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Kaliningrad (Russian: Калининград), seaport city, capital and main city of the Kaliningrad Oblast, a small Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania with access to the Baltic Sea. As Königsberg (Polish Królewiec, Lithuanian Karaliaučius, Latin Regiomontium) it was the capital of the German province of East Prussia, the earlier Ducal Prussia and before that the Teutonic Order State of Prussia.



Order's state

Königsberg ("king's Mountain") was founded in 1255 by the Bohemian King Ottokar II, who came to help Teutonic Knights during their conquest of Prussia disguised as the Christianization effort called the Northern Crusades. This event started the genocide of local Baltic Prussians and German colonisation of the area. The small remaining population of local Baltic Prussians eventually became germanized. However, the Baltic-Prussian language did not become extinct until 18th century.

Königsberg was the capital of Sambia, one of the four dioceses into which Prussia had been divided in 1243 by papal legate William of Modena. Saint Adalbert of Prague became the main patron saint of the Königsberger Dom (cathedral). Königsberg became a member of the Hanse and an important port for Prussia, Province of Prussia and Lithuania.

As a result of the Thirteen Years' War between the Order and the Polish Crown, the Teutonic Order state was reduced by the 1466 Second Treaty of Thorn to the area of later Ducal Prussia, under the overlordship of the Polish crown.

Ducal Prussia

With the secularisation of the Order's territories (1525), the first Hohenzollern ruler, Albrecht of Prussia, committed Prussian Tribut to the king of Poland (Sigismund I) and received Ducal Prussia with capital in Königsberg as a fief.

Königsberg became one of the biggest cities and ports of Ducal Prussia, which now perhaps was considered by some as one of the members of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with considerable autonomy, a separate parliament, and currency.

Anna, daughter of Duke Albrecht Friedrich of Prussia (reigned 1568-1618), married Elector Johann Sigismund of Brandenburg, who was granted the right of succession to Ducal Prussia on his father-in-law's death in 1618. From this time Prussia became ruled by the Electors of Brandenburg.

Brandenburg-Prussia and German Empire

In 1660 the Hohenzollerns were released from the overlordship of the king of Poland, unless the dynasty should become extinct, in which case Prussia was supposed to return to the Polish king. By the act of coronation 1701 in Königsberg, the Hohenzollerns became kings of Prussia, finally independent from the Polish king, and in 1795 under Napoleon Prussia resigned from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Königsberg was then capital of the Province of Prussia, outside the formal borders of German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) of 1815-66, until German unification , when it was incorporated in the German Empire (1871).

Königsberg became a centre of education when the Albertina university was founded by Albert of Brandenburg Prussia in 1544. It was the birthplace (1690) of the famous mathematician Christian Goldbach and the home of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. In 1736, the mathematician Leonhard Euler used the arrangement of bridges and islands at Königsberg as the basis for the Seven Bridges of Königsberg Problem which led to the mathematical branch of topology.

As capital of East Prussia, Königsberg shared the fate of its surrounding province. In 1860 the railroad connecting Berlin with St. Petersburg was completed and made Königsberg an important commercial center. After World War I, the creation of a Polish Corridor had cut off East Prussia from the rest of Germany. The Ostmesse (East European Fair) at the Königsberg Tiergarten was organized every year since 1920, it was intended as a compensation for the geographical distance that handicapped the economic development of East Prussia and its capital Königsberg.

In 1929, Königsberg amalgamated with some surrounding suburbs. 1932, Prussia's legal (Social Democratic) government under Otto Braun was ousted by the Reich Government, and Gauleiter Erich Koch replaced the elected local government from 1933 to 1945.

Königsberg had been heavily bombed by the British Royal Air Force in August 1944. Segments of the German population had fled the advancing Red Army in early 1945, but some returned after the city surrendered on April 9, 1945. However, all German residents who remained at the end of the war, an estimated 200,000 out of the city's prewar population of 316,000, were brutally expelled or killed by the Soviets from 1945-49. Königsberg was the site of horrible war crimes committed by the Soviet regime. Many people died of hunger during the war's closing stages and the shortages which followed, as well as during the Soviets' arduous expulsion process.

Soviet Union

At the end of World War II, in 1945, the city was annexed by the Soviet Union and it was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 after the death of Soviet President Mikhail Kalinin.

Many surviving expellees and refugees in Germany joined the Landsmannschaft Ostpreussen, whereas many other former inhabitants were scattered around the world. The city museum of Duisburg contains a small collection dealing with the history of Königsberg, though much of the historical records were destroyed during the communist period. The communists tried to create the idea that Kaliningrad was historically a Slavic land.

During the Cold War, Kaliningrad -- with the northern third of former East Prussia now the Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic -- was an important naval base and closed to visitors.

Russian Federation

As a result of independence for Lithuania and Belarus in the early 1990s, the territory became a Russian exclave, separated from the rest of Russia. When Poland and Lithuania became members of the European Union in 2004, the region became completely surrounded by the EU. Special travel arrangements for the territory's inhabitants have been made.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union it has been discussed whether to give the city its old name back, as has happened in several Russian cities like St. Petersburg and the city of Tver, which was also known as Kalinin during the Stalinist period. But after some discussions the further use of "Kaliningrad" at least for the next years seems to be sure. "Kenig" (short Russian form of "Königsberg") is often used in advertisements for tourism companies in this region.


Kaliningrad is located at the mouth of the River Pregolya, which empties into the Vistula Lagoon. Sea vessels can access Gdansk Bay and the Baltic Sea by way of the Vistula Lagoon and the Strait of Baltiysk.



Famous people from Königsberg/Kaliningrad

External links

  • (Königsberg history)
  • (regional administration)
  • (orthodox Cathedral in Kaliningrad, Russian)
  • (territorial history 1815 - 1945, German)

Maps of Prussia

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45