Monday, December 12, 2016


Any political entity that is separated from its main political entity is an "exclave." Any political entity that is entirely surrounded by another political entity is an "enclave." Vatican City is an enclave. Kaliningrad is an exclave.

Kaliningrad is getting some interest lately because it is an important military outpost--it gives the Russians a port on the Baltic Sea--and it is tucked in by the Baltic States between Poland and Lithuania. It appears in novels as a sort of nexus of history and ethnicity. Recently the Russians have been stepping up their arming of the area to confront, intimidate and generally upset Europe and NATO. This kind of belligerent risk-taking is apparently the function of the modern state. In 2013, Russia deployed short-range Iskander ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the region, in what it said was a response to U.S. plans to deploy a ballistic missile defense system in Europe.

The city was founded by the Teutonic Knights in the Middle Ages as a fortress and trading center that was named Königsberg. It was part of Prussia and capital of East Prussia, which was physically severed from the rest of Germany following World War I. It continued as German until the second war when it was annexed by the Russians at the Potsdam Conference that divided Europe between the allied powers in 1945.

The Soviets renamed the seaport after a Bolshevik hero. The German population was expelled by Stalin, and it and the Baltic states were absorbed by the USSR. When the Baltics regained independence in 1991, Kaliningrad became an exclave again, as part of the Russian Federation.

It has a population of less than one million and is heavily forested. The city was severely damaged during World War II, both by British bombing raids and the Soviet assault to take the city. Much of its historic architecture was ruined, and the Soviets rebuilt much of the city in the classic communist style with concrete high-rises and industrial housing blocks. Some landmarks remain: The tomb of philosopher Immanuel Kant who lived most of his life in Königsberg is still at Königsberg Cathedral, and the magnificent stock exchange is now a cultural center.

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