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Kaliningrad city crest Kaliningrad is a seaport and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. The territory borders on NATO and EU members Poland and Lithuania, and is geographically separated from the rest of Russia. As of the 2002 Census, its population was 430,003, an increase from the 401,280 recorded in the 1989 Census. Its ethnic composition consists of 77.9% Russians, 8.0% Belarusians, and 7.3% Ukrainians.

Under its original German name of Koenigsberg, it was a capital of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, the Duchy of Prussia, and the German province of East Prussia. Before being renamed to Kaliningrad in 1946, it was briefly Russified as Koenigsberg.

During the conquest of the Sambians by the Teutonic Knights, Koenigsberg (Latin: castrum Koningsberg, Mons Regius, Regiomonti) ("King's Mountain" or "Montroyal") was founded in 1256 and named in honour of King Ottokar II of Bohemia, who paid for the erection of the first fortress there during the Prussian Crusade. Over a long period, the Teutonic Knights, assisted by various knights from Western Europe, conquered the indigenous pagan Old Prussians. The surviving population of Old Prussians became assimilated and Germanized by the German colonists who immigrated to Prussia. However, the Old Prussian language did not become extinct until the 18th century.

Koenigsberg was originally the capital of the Bishopric of Samland, one of the four dioceses into which Prussia had been divided in 1243 by the papal legate William of Modena. Saint Adalbert of Prague became the main patron saint of Koenigsberg Cathedral, one of the main landmarks of the city.

Koenigsberg eventually became a member of the Hanseatic League and an important port for the southeastern Baltic region, trading goods throughout Prussia, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In 1525 during the Protestant Reformation, Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg from the Hohenzollern dynasty secularized the Teutonic Knights' remaining territories in Prussia. By paying feudal homage to King Sigismund I of Poland, Albert became the first duke of the new Duchy of Prussia, a fief of Poland. The capital of the duchy was Koenigsberg (Polish: Królewiec). It became one of the biggest cities and ports of the Prussian region, having considerable autonomy, a separate parliament and currency, and with German as its dominant language.

Anna, daughter of Duke Albert Frederick, married Elector John Sigismund of Brandenburg, who was granted the right of succession to Prussia on Albert Frederick's death in 1618. From this time the Duchy of Prussia and Koenigsberg were ruled by the Electors of Brandenburg, the rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia.

In the Treaty of Wehlau in 1657, the Hohenzollern dynasty negotiated the release of the Duchy of Prussia from Polish sovereignty for the duration of their line, upon the expiration of which the duchy would revert back to Poland. By the act of coronation in Koenigsberg in 1701, Prince-elector Frederick III of Brandenburg became Frederick I, King in Prussia. The elevation of the Duchy of Prussia to the Kingdom of Prussia was possible because the Hohenzollerns' authority in Prussia was independent of Poland and the Holy Roman Empire.

On December 31, 1757, during the Seven Years' War, Empress Elizabeth of Russia issued an ukase about the incorporation of Koenigsberg into Russia. Five Imperial Russian general-governors administered the city during the war from 1758-62; the Russian army did not abandon the town until 1763.

After the First Partition of Poland, Koenigsberg became the capital of the newly-created province of East Prussia in 1773. The city also served as the capital of the Province of Prussia (1824-1878).

Koenigsberg as well was the place where the first printed books in Lithuanian language were published and it for long remained the center of the publishing in Lithuanian because here there were educated Lithuanians (from Lithuania Minor, which was as well part of East Prussia; in Lithuania Minor sermons after the Protestant reformation were held in Lithuanian, and thus Lithuanian prayer books were needed). Protestantism and policies of Prussia promoted education and this helped as well.

It was the birthplace (1690) of the mathematician Christian Goldbach, the writer E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the home of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. In 1736, the mathematician Leonhard Euler used the arrangement of bridges and islands at Koenigsberg as the basis for the Seven Bridges of Koenigsberg Problem which led to the mathematical branches of topology and graph theory. In the 19th century Koenigsberg was the birthplace of David Hilbert, the most influential mathematician of the first half of the 20th century and professor at the German intellectual centre at the University of Goettingen.

By 1800 the city was approximately five miles in circumference and had 60,000 inhabitants (including a military garrison of 7,000), making it one of the most populous German cities of the time (for comparison: Berlin ca. 170.000, Cologne and Frankfurt ca. 50.000 each, Munich ca. 30.000). After the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Koenigsberg remained the capital of East Prussia, which was outside the formal borders of the German Confederation of 1815-1866. It was incorporated into the German Empire in 1871.

An extensive local railway network was established linking the city to Breslau, Thorn, Insterburg, Eydtkuhnen, Tilsit, and Pillau. In 1860 the railroad connecting Berlin with St. Petersburg was completed and made Koenigsberg an even more important commercial centre. Extensive electric tramways were in operation by 1900; and regular steamers plied to Memel, Tapiau and Labiau, Cranz, Tilsit, and Danzig. Two large theatres were built during this time: the Stadt (City) Theatre and the Appollo. By 1900 the city's population had grown to 188,000, with a 9,000-strong military garrison.

In 1932 Prussia's legal (Social Democratic) government under Otto Braun was ousted by the Reich Government, and Gauleiter Erich Koch replaced the elected local government during Nazi rule from 1933 to 1945.

In 1935, the Wehrmacht designated Koenigsberg as the Headquarters for Wehrkreis I, (under the command of General der Artillerie Albert Wodrig) which originally took in all of East Prussia. Wehrkreis I was extended in March of 1939 to include the Memel area. In October of 1939, it was extended again to include the Ciechanów and Suwałki areas. In 1942, the Wehrkreis was again expanded to include the Białystok district. Army units that called Koenigsberg home included the I Infantry Corps, which was part of the pre-Nazi era Standing Army; the 61st Infantry Division, which was formed upon mobilization from Reservists from East Prussia. It took part in the invasion of Belgium, and Russia.

Winston Churchill [WWII, Book XII] referred to Koenigsberg as "a modernized heavily defended fortress".

Bombing by British

Main article: Bombing of Koenigsberg in World War II

In 1944 Koenigsberg suffered heavy damage from British air attacks and burned for several days. Occasionally bombed by the Soviet Air Forces, No. 5 Group of the Royal Air Force first attacked the city on the night of 26/27 August 1944. The raid was in the extreme range for the 174 Avro Lancasters that flew 1500 km from their bases to bomb the city. Fortunately for the Koenigsbergers, this first raid was not successful, most bombs falling on the eastern side of the town. (Four of the attacking aircraft were lost.)

Three nights later on the 29/30 August, a further 189 Lancasters of No. 5 Group tried the target again dropping 480 t of bombs on the centre of the city. Bomber Command estimated that 20% of all the industry and 41% of all the housing in Koenigsberg was destroyed in the attack. A heavy German night fighter defense downed fifteen of the attacking bombers (7.9% of the force).

The historic city center, consisting of the quarters Altstadt, Löbenicht and Kneiphof was in fact completely destroyed, among it the cathedral, the castle, all churches of the old city, the old and the new universities and furthermore the old shipping quarter.

Red Army's capture of Königsberg

Many people fled Koenigsberg ahead of the Red Army's advance after October 1944, particularly after word spread of the alleged Soviet atrocities at Nemmersdorf and Gumbinnen. Soviet forces under General Chernyakhovsky reached the city on January 13, 1945 and had encircled the city by the end of the month, but a temporary German breakout allowed many of the remaining civilians to escape via train and naval evacuation from the nearby port of Pillau (now Baltiysk). The siege of Koenigsberg (or Battle of Koenigsberg), which had been declared a "fortress" (Festung) by the Germans and fanatically defended, raged all through February and March. The city was bombed and shelled continuously. The Red Army force for the final assault numbered 137,250 men, supported by almost 5,000 artillery pieces, 540 tanks, and 2,450 aircraft. Chernyakhovsky was succeeded by Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky.

On April 9 — one month before the end of the war in Europe — the German military commander, General Otto Lasch, surrendered the remnants of his forces, which had numbered 35,000. For this act, he was sentenced to death in absentia by Hitler, who declared him a "traitor." At the time of the surrender, military and civilian dead in the city were estimated at 42,000, with the Red Army claiming over 90,000 prisoners. (Lasch's subterranean command bunker has been preserved in Kaliningrad as a museum.)

About 50,000 survivors (out of Koenigsberg's prewar population of 316,000) remained in the ruins of the devastated city. These survivors, and a few others who returned immediately after the fighting ended, were held as virtual prisoners until 1949, during which time many died of disease and starvation. The remaining German residents were expelled in 1949-50.

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: It 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 German population was expelled and the city was repopulated with Russian citizens. Life changed dramatically: the city had a new name (Kaliningrad), and German was replaced by Russian as the language of everyday life. The city was rebuilt and 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.

Kaliningrad is the only Russian Baltic Sea port that stays is ice-free year around and hence plays an important role in maintenance of the Baltic Fleet.

In 1996 Kaliningrad was designated a Special Economic Zone. Manufacturers based here get tax and customs duty breaks on the goods they send back to Russia.

Although corruption was an early deterrent, that policy means the region is now a manufacturing hub. One in three televisions in Russia are made in Kaliningrad, and it is home to Hummer and BMW automaker factories. Now Kaliningrad's major industries are Manufacturing, shipping, fishing and amber jewelry production. Moscow has declared it will turn the region into "the Russian Hong Kong".

With an average GDP growth of more than 10% for three years to 2007, Kaliningrad is growing faster than any other region in Russia, even outstripping the success of its EU neighbors.

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