Königsberg (until 1946 officially: Königsberg in Preußen) was a city in the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, the Duchy of Prussia, the Kingdom of Prussia and Germany until 1946. After being largely destroyed in World War II by Allied Forces and then annexed by the Soviet Union thereafter, the city was renamed Kaliningrad, and few traces of the former Königsberg remain today.
The literal meaning of Königsberg is 'King’s Barrow'. In the local Low German dialect, spoken by many of its German former inhabitants, the name was Königsbarg (pronounced [ˈkʰeˑnɪçsbɒɐç]). Further names included Russian: Кёнигсберг (Kyonigsberg), Old Prussian: Kunnegsgarbs, Knigsberg, Lithuanian: Karaliaučius and Polish: Królewiec.
Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement Twangste by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades, and was named in honour of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. A Baltic port, the city successively became the capital of their monastic state, the Duchy of Prussia (1525-1701) and East Prussia (until 1945). Königsberg remained the coronation city of the Prussian monarchy though the capital was moved to Berlin in 1701. It was the easternmost large city in Germany until it was captured by the Soviet Union on 9 April 1945, near the end of World War II.
A university city, home of the Albertina University (founded in 1544), Königsberg developed into an important German intellectual and cultural centre, being the residence of Simon Dach, Immanuel Kant, Käthe Kollwitz, E. T. A. Hoffmann, David Hilbert, Agnes Miegel, Hannah Arendt, Michael Wieck and others.
Between the thirteenth and the twentieth centuries, the inhabitants spoke predominantly German, but the multicultural city also had a profound influence on the Lithuanian and Polish cultures. The city was a publishing centre of Lutheran literature, including the first Polish translation of the New Testament, printed in the city in 1551, the first book in Lithuanian language and the first Lutheran catechism, both printed in Königsberg in 1547. Under Nazi rule, the Polish and Jewish minorities were classified as Untermensch and persecuted by the authorities. The city housed thousands of interned Jews who were forced to undertake tasks under the most deplorable conditions during the Second World War.
By the end of the war, Königsberg was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in 1944 and during its siege in 1945. The city was captured and occupied by the Soviet Union. Its German population was expelled, and the city was repopulated with Russians and others from the Soviet Union. Briefly Russified as Kyonigsberg (Кёнигсберг), it was renamed "Kaliningrad" in 1946 in honour of Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin. It is now the capital of Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave bordered in the north by Lithuania and in the south by Poland.
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