Historically part of East Prussia – Königsberg
Population – 932 thousand (data at July 2009)
82.4% Russian, 5.3% Belarussian, 4.9% Ukrainian, 1.5% Lithuanian, 5.9% other – each less than 1% (data from a 2002 census).
Culture: Having for years been a secret area closed to visitors, Kaliningrad has now begun to attract an increasing number of tourists. The city includes a Museum of Amber. The World Ocean Museum stands next to some historic ships, including one involved in shooting unique materials for the film Titanic. Around 70,000 German tourists, most with family roots in East Prussia, visit the enclave every year. Ethnic Germans were expelled from the area under Stalin.
In the sciences Kaliningrad has several research institutes, two Universities, and both technical and arts colleges.
Architecture: Much of the historic heart of the city of Kaliningrad was levelled by British fire bombing in 1944, and aggressive Soviet attempts to remove German cultural symbols demolished many surviving monuments, churches and castles.
Königsberg city was the birthplace and residence of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), and he is buried there beside the reconstructed cathedral.
More recently, Vladimir Putin’s wife Lyudmila was born in the enclave.
Some facts and figures
The Kaliningrad enclave of Russia is situated on the south-east coast of the Baltic Sea. The area is half the size of Belgium. It is entirely surrounded by EU states, with Poland to the south, Lithuania to the north and east and the Baltic Sea to the west. Historically it was the territory of East Prussia, with its capital city Königsberg. Conceded to the USSR, the borders of the region were fixed by the Potsdam conference in 1945. Kaliningrad port became the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet, and was formerly a closed Soviet military zone.
Kaliningrad is the only ice-free port of Russia in the Baltic Sea. There is an international airport, regular river and ferry communication, railways and bus routes to Poland, Germany, the Baltic States, and a motorway to Berlin is being reconstructed.
From the 15th century Königsberg was the residence of the Grand Master of the Order of Teutonic Knights. During the Middle Ages, it was a member of the important Hanseatic League federation trading from the Baltic ports. East Prussia was captured by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union at the Potsdam conference. One third of Eastern Prussia passed to the USSR, and another part to Poland. In 1946 Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad and became an administrative centre of the Kaliningradskaya oblast (region). The name was in honour of senior Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin, although he had no particular connection and never actually visited the area.
Kaliningrad was popularly called the Amber Region, and is a major source of amber – fossilised tree resin used for jewellery and decoration. More recently a new economic structure has been designed and different investment programmes have been developed. The port city aims to revive its historic role as a European centre of culture, science, trade and business, with investments from more than 60 countries.
In the 1990s EU officials used to call Kaliningrad a “black hole” of criminality. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union organised crime was rampant in the enclave, and it was suggested that crime may have accounted for half of local income.
The region is now being developed as a special economic zone. For several other Russian regions Kaliningrad has become the starting point for links to the European economy. One proposal has been to set up a free financial zone for foreign banks.
According to the World Bank, Kaliningrad receives proportionally more foreign direct investment than Russia as a whole, but far less than neighbouring Baltic countries. There was a point at which estimates suggested the enclave’s residents were 65 times poorer than EU citizens.
The Seven Bridges of Königsberg – a maths puzzle
In the old city of Königsberg, seven bridges were built so that people could cross water from one part to another. The river runs through the centre with an island in the middle, and then the river divides into two branches. Was it possible to walk around the city in a way that would involve crossing each bridge just once, and end in the place you started? This problem became a celebrated mathematical puzzle, leading to the birth of graph theory. Sadly, after the destruction of the old city centre in World War II, only two of the seven bridges remain.