Why Russia Owns A Former Piece Of Germany Next To Poland

Why Russia Owns A Former Piece Of Germany Next To Poland
Russia is a hot topic in the news these days. With its illegal invasion of Ukraine and increasing isolation, Russians aren't exactly welcome in many European countries. But while Russia might be relatively contained in the east, it weirdly owns a former part of Germany on the Baltic Sea. Here's why Russia owns this small piece of land next to Poland called Kaliningrad. Hello, and welcome to Geography by Jeff. Now, if you have all seen the news lately, you've probably seen a lot of maps of Russia. And most of those maps include a small area disconnected from mainland Russia on the border of Poland and Lithuania. As it turns out, there's kind of a fascinating story about why Russia owns this territory and what it means for Europe and NATO at large. But before we get to the episode, be sure to check out my podcast, Geography is Everything. This week we're covering the geography of the English language and how it's spread around the world. You can listen right here on YouTube Sub Stack, where there's exclusive content or whatever app you use to listen to podcasts. As with all parts of Europe, Kalindingrad's history is long, messy, and involved States and countries which really don't exist anymore. So as we dive deep into this region's history, just note here that a lot of smaller details are being left out. Kalindengrad's history can really be broken out into five distinct periods. An old Prussian Sambian tribal period before the year 1255, the Teutonic period between 12:55 and 1454, The Polish period from 1454 to 1657, the German Prussian period from 1657 to 1945. And then finally the modern period where the Soviet Union and now Russia owns this region of Europe. As you can imagine, getting from there to year has been quite messy. So let's go ahead and jump to the Teutonic period, where really the modern Kaliningrad we know today got its founding as a fortress and region called Koenigsberg. Russia, despite its name, had no considerable link to the modern day state of Russia, who owns the territory today. That said, Prussia was a state that formed out of various Germanic thief dumps in the early 1200s and existed in one form or another for many centuries. By 12:55, the Teutonic Order, an early Catholic military institution, was able to conquer and take the area we know today from the Prussian Sambian tribe, where it was then renamed Koenigsberg and established as a fortress. The Teutonic Order, which established the fortress, used it as a base in which they could further invade and raid the Samland areas just to the north of modern day Kaliningrad. By the middle of the 1400s however, the Teutonic Order waned in its power. An anti Teuton pro Prussian confederation rebelled against the order and asked the Polish King Casimir the 4th to incorporate this region into his Kingdom. The King agreed and the area became part of the Kingdom of Poland as the Dutchie of Prussia. This would set off a series of wars between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Order for many decades, but it was also during this period of time that Koenigsberg and its region would convert from Catholicism to Protestantism, thus ending its relationship with the Teutonic Order once and for all. Over the coming centuries, Koenigsburg would transform into a major port and trading hub on the Baltic Sea. During the 30 Years War in the early 1600s, Koenigsburg briefly became a fiefdom of the Kingdom of Sweden from Poland, only to then be granted full independence as part of the Treaty of Oliva, where the Brandenburg, Prussia, and eventually the Kingdom of Prussia would be born. For the next few centuries, Koenigsburg would primarily lie as a major seat of power within the Kingdom of Prussia, but Koenigsburg would largely remain as part of Prussia aside from a relatively brief 7 year period when, perhaps as a bit of cosmic foreshadowing, the Russian Empire would take it over. As Europe continued to evolve in the 1800s and into the early 1900s, Koenigsburg solidified itself as a culturally German city. When the German Empire was defeated in World War One and its territory broken apart, Konigsberg and its region remained as an exclave of the new Weimar Republic that established itself within Germany. But Europe, fresh out of its largest and most destructive war ever, was barrelling towards an even bigger war that would see the continent become divided in half and Konigsberg would once again change hands. Kaliningrad's history is incredibly complex. Everything we've covered up to this point is extremely high level, but it illustrates just how quickly lands and cultures could change in the Europe of old. Today, Koenigsberg is now Kaliningrad, and it would take a global event for that to happen. But before we get to how Russia came to own Kaliningrad, if you're enjoying this video, hit that subscribe button. More fun geography videos or just a single click away. World War Two had an incredible impact on Europe. While the subject of today's video is Kaliningrad, Just know that the war itself and the after effects changed the continent in so many ways that have had reverberating impacts that have lasted well into today, some of which involve the subject of this video, but that we won't get to explore very deeply. Now. During the invasion of Europe, the Allied forces began at basically two separate ends. The British, Canadian, American, and other Allied forces began their invasion of the continent in France and Italy respectively. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union began their invasion in Eastern Europe. Given the proximity of Koenigsburg to Russia, it was always going to be invaded by the Red Army before the rest of the Allies arrived in 1939. At its height, before the invasion by the Red Army, the city of Konigsburg had a population of about 372,000 people. Just six years later, only 73,000 remained. But while the Soviet Union invaded and held Konigsburg, it wasn't until after the war, during the Potsdam Conference, that it became officially part of Russia. You see, the Potsdam Conference was an event that took place after the Allies won to decide how the continent could avoid repeating the same mistakes after World War Two. And during the Potsdam Conference, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and United States made all kinds of decisions about Europe that largely excluded most Eastern Europeans from the decision making. Given that the continent and the Allies had been at war for a long time, there was very little desire to get into another conflict with each other. As such, much of Eastern Europe was ceded in various ways to the Soviet Union. This was largely considered to be a betrayal by those who lived in Eastern Europe, such as the Polish, Czech, and Slovakians. And of course, as part of the concessions from the US and UK, it was decided that Koenigsburg and its surrounding province would officially be transferred to the Soviet Union, despite the landmass bordering Poland and never having much of A Russian population prior to 1946. The rest is, as we say, history. But there's one little hitch here as well. The Kaliningrad territory was officially part of the Soviet Union, much in the same way that many Eastern European countries were. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many formerly Soviet republics were given independence from Russia. Kaliningrad, however, did not receive the same freedom, primarily due to its strategic location on the Baltic Sea. Kaliningrad is very important to Russia. While originally Kaliningrad's location was a relatively simple strategic location along the Baltic Sea, today there are far larger geopolitics at play. This is primarily because of the Russian exclave's proximity to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as NATO. In 2007, Russia declared that if NATO missiles were deployed in Poland, Russia would relocate nuclear armaments to Kaliningrad. And while the 250 mile difference between Russia and Kaliningrad might not seem like that much of a difference, the fact that it's closer at all really does give Russia a bit of an edge. After all, if Russia wanted to strike out at the heart of NATO, let's say Berlin, from the Russian mainland, it would have to send missiles over multiple countries in multiple defensive systems. With Kaliningrad, there are far fewer defenses to stop any such attack. In 2009, these plans were suspended, but it does prove the strategic location of Kaliningrad today. Kaliningrad Oblast is very much a Russian state if we go by the people who live there. As of 2010, Russians made-up 87.4% of the population, Germans and Polish made-up less than 1%. And it's for this reason that any formal return of Koenigsburg is probably not on the table. There's simply not enough German or Polish people left in the area for there to be any sort of physical claim. Germany also signed away all rights and claims it had to the region in 1990 with the Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany. That said, while there's basically no possibility of a return to Germany or Poland, in recent years residents of Kaliningrad have become more interested in the city's historic roots and German culture. While the city is officially named Kaliningrad, according to reports, many residents now take to Kong, the city Koenig after its historic name. There have also been open questions from local politicians about whether the city should be renamed back to Koenigsburg, much in the same way that Leningrad was renamed to Saint Petersburg after the Soviet Union dissolved. Unfortunately for the locals, in 2022 the federal government of Russia put a stop to these conversations as the country continued its slide back to Soviet era doctrine. Still, it seems like the locals may be open to a return to Koenigsburg if they had the choice. Kaliningrad is not likely to ever be a German or Polish city, but that doesn't mean it will always be Russian either. If we know anything about Europe, it's that it's country's borders tend to change every century or so. So while Kaliningrad is wholly owned by Russia Today, maybe it will find itself as the 4th independent Baltic country in the future. I hope you enjoyed learning about why Russia owns Kaliningrad, a former part of Germany and Poland. If you did, please subscribe to my channel and if you want to watch more of my videos, you can do so here. Thanks for watching, see you next time.
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