Kaliningrad (kəlyēˌnyĭn-grätˈ) [key], formerly Königsberg, city (1989 pop. 401,000), capital of Kaliningrad region, an exclave of W European Russia; on the Pregolya River near its mouth on the Vislinski Zalev, which empties into the Gulf of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Russia's only ice-free N European seaport and naval base, and an industrial, fishing, and commercial center, Kaliningrad has industries that produce ships, railroad cars, motor vehicles, and machinery and process food, fish, and wood. There are significant amber deposits nearby. The city has an institute of oceanography and botanical and zoological gardens. It is the home of the Russian Baltic fleet.
The city was founded (1255) as a fortress of the Teutonic Knights by King Ottocar II of Bohemia, whom the former name of Königsberg supposedly honors. It joined (1340) the Hanseatic League and became (1457) the seat of the grand master of the Teutonic Order after the knights lost Marienburg to Poland. It was the residence of the dukes of Prussia from 1525 until the union (1618) of Prussia and Brandenburg and became (1701) the coronation city of the kings of Prussia.
The Univ. of Königsberg (founded 1544) reached its greatest fame when Kant (who was born and lived his entire life at Königsberg) taught there. The university building, the 14th-century cathedral, and most of the old city were severely damaged by fighting in World War II. As part of the northern section of East Prussia, the city was transferred to the USSR in 1945, and the German population was expelled. The city (renamed Kaliningrad for Mikhail Kalinin in 1946) was rebuilt after 1945, although the old castle was demolished; the population became almost entirely Russian. In the 1990s, ethnic Germans from other parts of the former Soviet Union began moving to the city. The city and region suffered economically after the breakup of the Soviet Union, which isolated the region from the rest of Russia. Since 1996 the region has been a special economic zone; in 2006 the special economic status was extended for 25 years.