Politics explained

How the Kaliningrad stalemate could get serious for Russia and the West

Kaliningrad is one of Europe’s curiosities. Beached on the Baltic shore when the tide went out on the Soviet Union three decades ago, it is now an exclave of Russia, surrounded by Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north.

Before 1945 it was Konigsberg, in what was East Prussia, but was occupied by the USSR under the Potsdam carve-up of Europe.

Konigsberg’s German population was mostly expelled and the area was rebuilt and renamed after an old Bolshevik, Mikhail Kalinin. Today it is a city of about a million, an important year-round naval base for the Russian Baltic fleet and for other military facilities. It is of vital strategic importance to Russia, which is why the Kremlin hung on to it when the rest of its empire dissolved in 1991.


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