Latvia to revert to historic name when referring to Kaliningrad exclave

Kaliningrad city, in the Russian oblast of the same name.
Kaliningrad city, in the Russian oblast of the same name. Source: SCANPIX/dpa/picture-alliance/Ulf Mauder

Latvia is now to officially refer to the Russian Federation's Kaliningrad exclave as Königsberg, or variants thereof, following a ruling by that country's state language center, public broadcaster LSM reports.

Kaliningrad remained under Russian rule after the breakup of the Soviet Union, which had obtained the territory, formerly German East Prussia, after World War Two.

Sandwiched between two present-day EU and NATO states, Poland and Lithuania, the city and the surrounding oblast are named Kaliningrad by the Russians, after the Soviet Union's nominal head of state, Mikhail Kalinin (1875-1946).

The exclave is home to around a million people.

The Latvian State Language Center (VVC), which monitors official use of the Latvian language, recommended Monday that either the traditional Baltic appellation "Karaļauči", or the Latvianized version of Königsberg, namely "Kēnigsberga", be used in preference to "Kaļiņingrada", LSM reports on its English-language portal.

The decision mirrors similar rulings or proposals in neighboring states, including Poland and Lithuania, to move away from calling the region Kaliningrad.

The oblast is of key strategic importance to the Russian Federation, given its lack of ice-free ports – the latter felt need also demonstrated by the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Köningsberg itself is perhaps most famous for having been the birthplace and lifelong home of German philosopher Immanuel Kant (172-1804). The city was heavily bombed during World War Two, most notably by Britain's RAF Bomber Command, in the summer of 1944.

Russian military planes flying to and from the exclave are regularly intercepted and escorted by NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission jets based at Šiauliai, Lithuania and at Ämari, given the proximity to Baltic airspace the planes' flight paths often take them along.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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