Kaliningrad, formerly called Königsberg (; ; Old Prussian: Twangste, Kunnegsgarbs, Knigsberg; ; ), is a seaport city and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.
The locality was a site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement/fort Twangste. In 1255, a new fortress was built on this site by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades, and was named "Königsberg" in honour of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. The town was part of the State of the Teutonic Order, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Prussia and Germany (until 1945). Until the end of World War II, the area formed the northern part of the former East Prussia. The city was largely destroyed during World War II; its ruins were captured by the Red Army in 1945 and its German population fled or was removed by force. It was renamed Kaliningrad on July 4, 1946 in honor of Mikhail Kalinin. In 2005 Kaliningrad celebrated its 750 years of existence.
Königsberg was preceded by a Sambian (Old Prussian) fort known as Twangste (Tuwangste, Tvankste), meaning Oak Forest, During the conquest of the Sambians by the Teutonic Knights in 1255, Twangste was destroyed and replaced with a new fortress known as Königsberg. Sambians became extinct around 17th century, after they were exposed to assimilation and Germanization.
Kaliningrad was previously the East Prussian city of Königsberg. Founded in 1255 by the Teutonic Knights, the city was named in honor of the Bohemian King Ottokar II. Through the periods of Germanisation and colonisation over the following centuries, German culture became dominant, with sizable Polish and Lithuanian minorities and Sambians became extinct sometime in the 17th century. During World War II the city of Königsberg was largely destroyed by a British bombing attack and the Soviet offensive.
At the end of World War II in 1945, the city became part of the Soviet Union pending the final determination of territorial questions at the peace settlement (as part of the Russian SFSR) as agreed upon by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference:
VI. CITY OF KOENIGSBERG AND THE ADJACENT AREA
Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 after the death of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Mikhail Kalinin, one of the original Bolsheviks. The survivors of the German population were forcibly expelled and the city was repopulated with Soviet citizens. The German language was replaced by the Russian language.
The city was rebuilt, and, as the westernmost territory of the USSR, the Kaliningrad Oblast became a strategically important area during the Cold War. The Soviet Baltic Fleet was headquartered in the city in the 1950s. Because of its strategic importance, Kaliningrad was closed to foreign visitors.
In 1957 an agreement was signed and later came into force which delimited the border between Poland and the Soviet Union.
The town of Baltiisk, just outside Kaliningrad, is the only Russian Baltic Sea port said to be "ice-free" all year round, and the region hence plays an important role in maintenance of the Baltic Fleet.
Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kaliningrad Oblast became an exclave, geographically separated from the rest of Russia. This isolation from the rest of Russia became even more pronounced politically when Poland and Lithuania became members of NATO and subsequently the European Union in 2004. All military and civilian land links between the region and the rest of Russia have to pass through members of NATO and the EU. Special travel arrangements for the territory's inhabitants have been made through the Facilitated Transit Document (FTD) and Facilitated Rail Transit Document (FRTD).
Since the early 1990s, the Kaliningrad oblast has been a Free Economic Zone (FEZ Yantar).
In July 2005, the 750-year jubilee of the city was widely celebrated.
In July 2007, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov declared that if US-controlled missile defense systems were deployed in Poland, then nuclear weapons might be deployed in Kaliningrad. On November 5, 2008, Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said that installing missiles in Kaliningrad was almost a certainty. These plans were suspended, however, in January 2009.
But during late 2011, a long range Voronezh radar was commissioned to monitor missile launches within about . It is situated in the settlement of Pionersky (formerly German Neukuhren) in Kaliningrad Oblast.