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. The site of a number of military facilities, the region was largely closed to outsiders during the cold war. 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. From 1996 to 2016 the region was a special economic zone, but the growth based on trade that resulted was reversed when tensions between Russia and the West led to sanctions and countersanctions in the 2010s.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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