The Port of Kaliningrad lies on the shores of the Pregolya River about six kilometers inland from the Frisches Lagoon in Russia's Kaliningrad region. The Port of Kaliningrad region is separated from the rest of the country, making the Port of Kaliningrad the western-most port in Russia. Located almost 70 nautical miles east-northeast of the Port of Gdansk, the Port of Kaliningrad is about 100 nautical miles south-southwest of Klaipeda State Seaport in bordering Lithuania. In 2006, over 423.6 thousand people lived in the Port of Kaliningrad.
Known as Konigsberg until 1945, the Port of Kaliningrad was once the capital of East Prussia. The Port of Kaliningrad became part of Russia after World War II under the terms of the Potsdam agreement between the Allies. Today, the Port of Kaliningrad supports fishing, lumber, engineering, machinery, and papermaking industries. To boost the local economy, a Special Economic Zone was established in the Port of Kaliningrad in 1996 that exempts most goods from customs duties. The special economic zone has helped make the Port of Kaliningrad a manufacturing hub. In 2007, economic growth in the Port of Kaliningrad was greater than elsewhere in Russia and in the European Union.
The medieval town of Konigsberg (meaning "King's Mountain") was born when the Knights of the Teutonic Order built a castle on the site in 1255. The Prussians destroyed the first town in 1263, and it was rebuilt near a fishing village on the site of the modern Port of Kaliningrad. In 1286, the city of Konigsberg was granted civic privileges, and it became a member of the Hanseatic League in 1340.
In 1457, the Teutonic Knights' Grand Master took up residence in the city. The Dukes of Prussia lived there from 1525 until 1618. In 1544, the Duke of Prussia, Albert I, established the Lutheran Albertina University in the city. Among its professors was Immanuel Kant, a native of the city born there in 1724.
The future Port of Kaliningrad was slow to grow as a port because the channels leading to the harbor frequently silted over. During the Northern Wars of the mid-17th Century between Russia and its allies against Sweden, the city was seriously damaged.
Frederick III of Brandenburg took the throne of Prussia in the castle in 1701. In 1724, Frederick William I of Prussia (the former Frederick III) combined the cities of Konigsberg, Kneiphof, and Lobenicht.
The city suffered during the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. It was here that rebels planned the Prussian uprising against Napoleon.
When a railway linked East Prussia and Russia during the 1800s, commerce increased dramatically, and the future Port of Kaliningrad became the main export point for grains, hemp, flax, and seeds from Russia. The capital until Prussia became part of the German Empire in 1871, the city was the second most important naval base on the Baltic Sea. Construction of modern fortifications began in 1843 and continued until 1905.
During World War I, the Russians laid siege to Konigsberg but did not capture the city. Creation of the Polish Corridor after the war isolated Konigsberg and East Prussia from the rest of Germany. By 1940, over 372 thousand people lived in Konigsberg.
Nearly destroyed by British bombing during World War II, the Russians occupied the city in 1945 and renamed it Kaliningrad. The historic city center had been completely destroyed and with it, the original Teutonic castle, the university, the churches, and the old port. The Battle of Konigsberg lasted for two months in early 1945, during which time it was bombed continuously. When the Germans surrendered to the Red Army in 1945, only about 50 thousand residents remained in the city. During Soviet occupation, the rest of the city's ethnic German residents were driven out of the city. Under the terms of the Potsdam Conference, the Allies agreed that Konigsberg and surrounding area should become part of the Soviet Union.
Russian became the main language in the Port of Kaliningrad, and the city was rebuilt. As it recovered from the war, the Port of Kaliningrad was modernized and industrialized. The Kaliningrad Oblast became strategically important during the Cold War as the USSR's western-most territory. The Port of Kaliningrad was headquarters to the Soviet Baltic Fleet during the 1950s, and it was closed to foreigners. As part of the USSR and now of Russia, the Port of Kaliningrad is the country's only port on the Baltic Sea that is free of ice throughout the year.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Port of Kaliningrad and the Oblast were geographically separated from the rest of Russia. When Lithuania and Poland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and then the European Union (EU), the Port of Kaliningrad's isolation was even clearer. Land links between the Port of Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia must go through EU territory, and special permissions have been made for travelers.
Today, residents of the Port of Kaliningrad are debating whether to change the city's name back to Konigsberg, as have other Soviet cities like St. Petersburg. The Port of Kaliningrad still plays an important role for Russia. In 2007, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said that nuclear missiles would be installed in the Port of Kaliningrad if the United States missile defense system were installed in Poland. The plans were deferred in early 2009.
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