Kaliningrad

"Kaliningrad is not the West, but the westernmost point in Russia; it is not Europe, but the most European city in Russia."
So one local journalist described the isolated Russian exclave wedged between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

For nearly 700 years Königsberg was the easternmost outpost of the German empire, but since World War II the renamed and rebuilt Kaliningrad region has been the most western point in the Soviet Union, and is now part of Russia.

Kaliningrad today is an absolutely different city from the one that stood on this land half a century ago. The people, the buildings and especially the character of this city have changed. For the foreign visitor and especially the German Heimweh tourist looking for his roots, Kaliningrad can seem horrible at first glance. But beware comparisons! Endless surprises hide behind those concrete facades.

Kaliningraders love this place. Some say it's just like America, since the mainly Russian population came from all across the Soviet Union to rebuild this region, hoping for a new beginning in a place with no history they knew. And despite its derelict appearance, the standard of living in Kaliningrad was always higher than in other regions of the Soviet Union.

We compiled our little booklet to help tourists & business travelers find their way around this fascinating place. But remember, this is a guide to Kaliningrad. It is not a guide to Königsberg! Do not read this booklet looking for a tour of what was. Though we have included a section on major monuments left from the past, we are not trying to revive it. Finally, as you use this guide, remember that Kaliningrad, like the rest of Russia, is on the move. What is true today might not be true tomorrow. That's part of the excitement.

A Little History

Prior to the advance of the Teutonic Knights, a Baltic tribe called the "Prussians" lived on this territory. They spoke a baltic language, now lost, similar to Lithuanian.

1255
The Teutonic Knights, led by Bohemian king Ottokar II, defeat the Prussian "infidels" after a series of holy wars. They built a fort on the Pregolya.

1340
Königsberg, now one of the leading cities of the Teutonic Order, joins the Hanseatic League.

1457
The Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order lose their former capital in Marienburg to the Poles and so take up residence in Königsberg.

1525
The last Teutonic Grand Master, Albrecht von Brandenburg, dissolves the Order and converts its territory into the secular Duchy of Prussia, under Polish sovereignty. King Sigismund I names him Duke of Prussia and Königsberg is his capital.

1544
Foundation of the Königsberg university, Albertina, on the island in the Pregolya.

1618
The Prussian Duchy is united by royal marriage with the German state of Brandenburg, to whose control it will be transferrred.

1701
Friedrich III. of Brandenburg is crowned Friedrich I., King of Prussia, in Königsberg. During this century the Prussia-Brandenburg union grows in strength and Königsberg enjoys its "golden age", when the arts and philosophy flourish.

1724
Immanuel Kant is born in Königsberg.

1758-63
During the Seven Years' War, East Prussia falls temporarily into the hands of the Russian tsar.

1807
Napoleon marches into Königsberg and the popular Queen Louise flees to Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithuania). Prussia looses several parts of its territory, but Königsberg remains Prussian.

1861
Wilhelm I. is crowned king of Prussia in Königsberg cathedral.

1919
According to the Treaty of Versailles, East Prussia is separated from the rest of Germany by the "Polish corridor".

August 1944
In just four days the centre and northern regions of the city are destroyed by Allied bombing raids.

April 1945
Königsberg is captured by Soviet troops. About 90 percent of the city lies in ruins.

1956
Renamed after Stalin's henchman Mikhail Kalinin, Kaliningrad (Königsberg) is incorporated into the USSR.

1948
The last German refugees leave Kaliningrad and it is closed to foreigners.

1965
The 800-year-old Königsberg castle is dynamited to make way for the House of Soviets.

1990
The city council decides to open the city to foreigners despite opposition from the Russian Defense Ministry.

August 1991
The Kaliningrad region is opened to foreigners. Lithuania becomes independent, cutting the region off from the rest of Russia. The first direct train since 1945 runs from Berlin to Kaliningrad.

April 1995
The rouble is still not stable and the Free Economic Zone remains a sweet dream.

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