Learn more about Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian: Калинингра́дская о́бласть; German: Gebiet Kaliningrad or Nordostpreussen, "Northeast Prussia"; polish Obwód Królewiecki), informally called Yantarny kray (Янта́рный Край, meaning Amber region) is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast) on the Baltic coast, with no land connection to the rest of Russia; it is an exclave of Russia surrounded by Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic Sea. As Lithuania and Poland both are members of the European Union and NATO, the oblast is, as well, surrounded by territories of these organizations. It is the westernmost part of Russia. Its largest city is Kaliningrad (formerly known as Königsberg), which has historical significance as both a major city of Prussia and the capital of the former German province East Prussia, of which the region remains the northern core remnant.
 Prussian people
In prehistory this area had been inhabited by Eastern Balts (eastern parts - most of the territory) and the Western Balts (Sambian peninsula and the areas nearby). Over time, the Western Balts consolidated into the Baltic Prussian nation (not to be confused with East Prussian, which means local German), while the Eastern Balts consolidated into a part of the Lithuanian nation.
As the indigenous Prussians were pagans, the Teutonic Knights entered the area under the pretext of spreading Christianity. According to German chronicles, the centre of Baltic paganism, which was also adhered to by the Lithuanians, Samogitians, and various other Baltic tribes, was a sacred wood known as Romuva.
 Teutonic Order State
Unlike other Baltic tribes, the Prussians were unable to unite and establish their own state, allowing their lands to be quickly overrun by the Teutonic Knights. Atop a destroyed Prussian settlement known as Tvanksta, the Order founded the major city Königsberg, the current Kaliningrad. The native Prussians formed the bulk of the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights, although Germans from the central Holy Roman Empire, as well as Flemish and Dutch pioneers colonized many villages and waste lands. The Baltic Prussians initiated several organized revolts, including one led by Herkus Mantas. These uprisings ultimately failed, resulting in the eventual destruction of the original Prussian culture, as the nation became thoroughly Germanised.
The German language became dominant in government affairs. The Baltic Prussian language is known to have survived into the early modern period (16th and 17th centuries) as some Lutheran Bibles from these periods (after the Protestant Reformation) were written in the Prussian language for people who did not speak German. The west of Königsberg region was a cultural, educational and printing centre for this language before it eventually died out.
In the 13th century, the Teutonic Order conquered what is now the eastern half of the Kaliningrad Oblast, an area which was previously ruled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Warfare between the Order and the Grand Duchy continued for several centuries (with some interruptions), and many battles took place in this area.
The Second Treaty of Thorn in 1466 left western Prussia under Polish control under the name of "Royal Prussia", while the Knights retained control of eastern Prussia under the sovereignty of Poland. In 1525 following another war with Poland, Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg secularised the Prussian branch of the increasingly archaic Teutonic Order and established himself as the sovereign of the Duchy of Prussia and as a vassal of the Polish crown.
 East Prussia
The Prussians established the Albertina University, one of the most important centres of German-language education, in Königsberg in 1544. Gradually, the Duchy of Prussia passed to the electors of Brandenburg, forming Brandenburg-Prussia. The elector-dukes freed themselves of their Polish vassaldom in the Treaty of Wehlau in 1657.
The Hohenzollern dynasty transformed their state into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701 and annexed Warmia, part of Royal Prussia, in the First Partition of Poland in 1772. The former Duchy of Prussia was reorganized into the province of East Prussia in 1773. Prussian kings were crowned at Königsberg Castle, although the area was briefly overrun by the Russian Empire during the Seven Years' War.
By this point Lithuanians made up the majority of the population in the eastern half of what is now the Kaliningrad Oblast, while there were also significant Lithuanian minorities elsewhere. As a result this area was sometimes called Lithuania Minor. The Lithuanians living in Lithuania Minor (Lietuvininks) were Lutherans, unlike the Catholics Lithuanians in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The four counties where Lithuanian was spoken were referred to collectively as the Lithuanian province. In this province church sermons were predominantly preached in Lithuanian. There were Lithuanian Lutheran schools as well, but the number of them decreased over time due to Germanisation and government regulations.
Germans formed a strong majority in the city of Königsberg and the areas around it. The Curonian Spit and some villages in the east of the Curonian Lagoon as well as ones on the coast of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by the Courlandians, who were later on partly Germanised due to natural assimilation.
Since Germans had been the ruling ethnic group in East Prussia since the conquest of the area by the Teutonic Order in the Middle Ages, the German language was primarily used by the government. Other nationalities, despite inhabiting large chunks of land, were mostly peasants, while landowners and nobility were primarily German. Thus the Lithuanian-speaking areas gradually became Germanised due to the migration of wealthy Germans from other parts of the country into the Lithuanian areas and the fact that the German language was perceived to be more prestigious than Lithuanian and Baltic Old Prussian. Lithuanian-speaking areas became smaller over time; the same could be said about the Courlandian area. By the 18th century the population in the southwest of then northeastern Prussia was totally German speaking and were the majority, despite significant Baltic minorities, in the other parts of the area as well.
East Prussia was an important centre of German culture. Many important figures, such as Immanuel Kant, originated from this region. The cities of Kaliningrad Oblast, despite being heavily damaged during World War II and after, still bear typical German architecture, such as Jugendstil, showing the rich German history and cultural importance of the area.
Lithuania Minor within East Prussia was also an important centre for Lithuanian culture. The less conservative Lutheran government of Prussia promoted science, culture, and education, allowing Lithuania Minor to advance scientifically and culturally faster than the Lithuanians within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where Polish was seen as more prestigious than Lithuanian. The first books printed in Lithuanian were published in Königsberg in the 16th century. Printing in Lithuanian increased after the Grand Duchy was annexed to Russia and again as Lithuanians in the Russian Empire were subject to Russification. Lithuanian-language publications were then smuggled from East Prussia into Russia.
The Lithuanian-speaking population in East Prussia continued to diminish due to further Germanisation; in the early 20th century Lithuanians made up a majority only in the far northeast of what is now Kaliningrad Oblast, the rest of the area being predominantly German-speaking.
When the Nazis came to power in Weimar Germany in the 1930s, they radically altered about a third of the place names of this area by Germanising most names of Old (Baltic) Prussian or Lithuanian origin in 1938.
 Kaliningrad Oblast
During World War II the Soviet Red Army entered the eastern-most tip of Prussia on August 29 1944. Rumours of massacres committed by the Soviet troops spread panic in the province and caused a mass flight westward. More than two million people were evacuated, many of them via the Baltic Sea. The remaining population was deported after the war ended and the area was repopulated primarily by Russians and, to a lesser extent, by Ukrainians and Belarusians (see "Demographics", below).
The Yalta Conference of world powers assigned northern East Prussia to the Soviet Union. According to some documents written during the administration of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet government had planned to make the rest of the area a part of the Lithuanian SSR. The area was administered by the planning committee of the LSSR, although the area had its own Party committee. However, the leadership of the Lithuanian SSR (especially Antanas Sniečkus) refused to take the territory mainly because of its devastation during the war. Instead the region was added to the Russian SFSR and since 1946 it has been known as Kaliningrad Oblast. According to some historians, Stalin created it as an oblast separate from the LSSR because it further enclosed the Baltic republics from the West. Names of the towns, cities, rivers, and other geographical objects were changed into newly-created Russian ones.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the independence of the Baltic states physically isolated Kaliningrad from the rest of Russia. Some ethnic Germans began to migrate to the area, especially Volga Germans from other parts of Russia. The economic situation has been badly affected by this isolation (and the large reduction in the size of the Russian military garrison which was previously one of the major employers), especially when neighbouring nations imposed strict border controls when they joined the European Union. Proposals for visa-free travel between the EU and Kaliningrad have so far been rejected.
In recent times, the situation has slowly changed as the people of Kaliningrad have begun to reexamine their past. Germany and Lithuania have renewed contact with Kaliningrad Oblast through town twinning and other projects. This has helped to promote interest in the history and the culture of the East Prussian and Lietuvinink communities.
Geographical features include:
 Time zone
 Administrative divisions
According to the Russian Census (2002), the population of the region is 955,300; 78% urban, 22% rural. The Kaliningrad Oblast is the fourth most densely populated oblast in the Russian Federation (62.5 persons per sq.km).
97 nationalities and ethnic groups live in the region, including Russians - 78.1%, Byelorussians - 7.7%, Ukrainians - 7.6%, Lithuanians - 1.9%, Armenians - 0.8%, Germans - 0.6%, Poles - 0.5%.
Almost none of the pre-World War II Lithuanian population (Lietuvininks) or German population remains in the Kaliningrad Oblast.
- Simon Grunau, Preußische Chronik. Hrsg. von M. Perlbach etc., Leipzig, 1875.
- A. Bezzenberger, Geographie von Preußen, Gotha, 1959
 External links
- Official site (Russian)
- Kaliningrad Oblast on Google Maps
- Recent photos taken by Joost Lemmens of the Netherlands shows examples of small towns neglected under the Soviet Union around Kaliningrad Oblast. This site gives the Prussian German town names and the corresponding Russian names after 1945/49. It starts out with the gate of the horse breeding stables in Trakehnen, and hopeful signs of new beginnings for this devastated land.
- Master's thesis by Sergey Naumkin on the possibility of Kaliningrad integrating with the EU as a special economic zone
- Life in Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian)
- [http://www.milovsky-gallery.albertina.ru/ Subtitled Spuren der Vergangenheit / СледЫ Пρошлого (Traces of the past), this site by W.A. Milowskij, a Kaliningrad resident, contains hundreds of interesting photos, often with text explanations, of architectural and infrastructural artifacts of the territory's long German past. German- and Russian-language versions.
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