Why does Russia own Königsberg?

History Converse

29-01-2022 • 4 mins

Königsberg was the name for the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement Twangste by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades and was named in honor of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. A Baltic port city, it successively became the capital of their monastic state, the Duchy of Prussia (1525–1701) and East Prussia. Königsberg remained the coronation city of the Prussian monarchy, though the capital was moved to Berlin in 1701.

Between the thirteenth and the twentieth centuries, the inhabitants spoke predominantly German, but the multicultural city also had a profound influence upon the Lithuanian and Polish cultures. The city was a publishing center of Lutheran literature, including the first Polish translation of the New Testament, printed in the city in 1551, the first book in Lithuanian, and the first Lutheran catechism, both printed in Königsberg in 1547. A university city, home of the Albertina University (founded in 1544), Königsberg developed into an important German intellectual and cultural center, being the residence of Simon Dach, Immanuel Kant, Käthe Kollwitz, E. T. A. Hoffmann, David Hilbert, Agnes Miegel, Hannah Arendt, Michael Wieck, and others.

Königsberg was the easternmost large city in Germany until World War II. The city was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in 1944 and during the Battle of Königsberg in 1945, when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. The Potsdam Agreement of 1945 placed it provisionally under Soviet administration, and it was annexed on 9 April 1945. Its German population was expelled, and the city was repopulated with Russians and others from the Soviet Union. It was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 in honor of Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin. It is now the capital of Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave bordered in the north by Lithuania and in the south by Poland. In the Final Settlement treaty of 1990, Germany renounced all claims to it.

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