How did this little chunk of land hundreds of kilometers deep into Europe even end up as being Russian in the first place? How did Kaliningrad become well Kaliningrad?
This piece of land, formerly known as Königsberg, has a rather complicated history that can be boiled down to the politics of World War II and the Cold War. The Soviet Union seized control of the city during the Battle of Königsberg in 1945 and further cemented its hold when Germany split in half.
At the time there were well over 2.6 million German civilians living within the area and the Nazi government began organizing their full-scale evacuation to the west in order to escape from the rapidly advancing Soviets. …After enormous bombing campaigns carried out by the British Bomber Command and overwhelming artillery shelling from the Soviet Red Army, the formerly beautiful city of Königsberg itself was almost completely destroyed and reduced to rubble.
In 1990, Germany reunified as the Soviet Union fell. Despite their retreat from most of Germany, the newly formed Russian Federation kept possession of Kaliningrad, where it remains to this day, although its power has been greatly distilled.
The plan was to transform Kaliningrad, Russia’s closest major city to the economies of Europe into a Baltic version of Hong Kong. Unfortunately, that’s not really how things ended up going. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and then Poland and Lithuania each joined the European Union and NATO by 2004, leaving the Kaliningrad Special Economic Zone deep within the West.