|"Kaliningrad is not the West, but
the westernmost point in Russia; it is not Europe, but the most European city in
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.
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.
Königsberg, now one of the leading cities of the Teutonic Order, joins the Hanseatic
The Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order lose their former capital in Marienburg to the
Poles and so take up residence in Königsberg.
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.
Foundation of the Königsberg university, Albertina, on the island in the Pregolya.
The Prussian Duchy is united by royal marriage with the German state of Brandenburg, to
whose control it will be transferrred.
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.
Immanuel Kant is born in Königsberg.
During the Seven Years' War, East Prussia falls temporarily into the hands of the Russian
Napoleon marches into Königsberg and the popular Queen Louise flees to Memel (now
Klaipeda, Lithuania). Prussia looses several parts of its territory, but Königsberg
Wilhelm I. is crowned king of Prussia in Königsberg cathedral.
According to the Treaty of Versailles, East Prussia is separated from the rest of Germany
by the "Polish corridor".
In just four days the centre and northern regions of the city are destroyed by Allied
Königsberg is captured by Soviet troops. About 90 percent of the city lies in ruins.
Renamed after Stalin's henchman Mikhail Kalinin, Kaliningrad (Königsberg) is incorporated
into the USSR.
The last German refugees leave Kaliningrad and it is closed to foreigners.
The 800-year-old Königsberg castle is dynamited to make way for the House of Soviets.
The city council decides to open the city to foreigners despite opposition from the
Russian Defense Ministry.
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
The rouble is still not stable and the Free Economic Zone remains a sweet dream.