Königsberg in Prussia

The former capital of East Prussia is located at the mouth of the Pregel into the Vistula Lagoon. Even before the conquest by the Teutonic Order, a trading post of the Baltic Prussians was located here, who maintained intensive contacts in the entire Baltic Sea region.

After the Deutsche Orden had taken possession of East Prussia after 1226 with the blessing of the Roman-German Emperor and the Holy See, it created a dynamic state within a few years.

In 1255, a castle was built on a hill above the mouth of the River Pregel, which was named 'Königsberg' in honour of the crusader King Ottokar II of Bohemia. Around the castle, the independent urban settlements of Altstadt (1286), Löbenicht (1300) and Kneiphof (1327) were established, which were not united until 1724 by a royal decision to become the Royal Prussian capital and residence of Königsberg. On this occasion, King Friedrich Wilhelm I. donated the city arms, which united the three coats of arms of the formerly independent cities under the Prussian Aar.


From 1330 onwards, the Königsberg Cathedral, the spiritual centre and landmark of the East Prussian metropolis, was built on the Kneiphof in the town of Königsberg. After the Teutonic Order had lost its seat, the Marienburg, to Poland-Lithuania in 1457 during the Thirteen Years' War, the Knights of the Order moved their headquarters to Königsberg. When the Grand Master, Albrecht of Brandenburg, from the younger Hohenzollern-Ansbach line, who was born in Franconia, was elected Grand Master in 1511, the Teutonic Order was already at its political end. Albrecht was looking for new ways for his state, whereby he became increasingly enthusiastic about the teachings of the Reformation. Martin Luther himself advised him to transform the religious state into a secular duchy in 1525. Albrecht was finally the first hereditary duke in Prussia to take the oath of fealty to the Polish-Lithuanian crown, whose sovereignty he recognized.

Prussia was the first Protestant country in the world. From then on world history was written from Königsberg. Duke Albrecht founded the Lutheran Albertus University in 1544, which was the second foundation of a Protestant sovereign after Marburg. Its theological influence reached far beyond the borders of the country. At the same time Prussia remained a centre of tolerance. In the spirit of the Reformation, Duke Albrecht promoted not only German but also the other languages of his duchy: Lithuanian, Polish and "Prußisch". During this time the city gained great importance for science and literature. The early baroque Königsberg circle of poets played a major role in German literature and one member, poetics professor Simon Dach, created one of the most beautiful German love songs: "Ännchen von Tharau".


View on Königsberg

Finally, the Duchy of Prussia fell to the Brandenburg line of the Hohenzollern, whose Elector Friedrich III crowned himself King in Prussia in 1701 in the castle church of Königsberg. From then on Königsberg rose to become a Prussian coronation city and was considered equal to Berlin in its importance. From this core Prussia - later East Prussia - the Prussian state emerged and gave it the name Prussia. Königsberg's most famous son, the philosopher Immanuel Kant, was born in 1724. He made the city a centre of European enlightenment. The 18th century saw many celebrities such as Johann Georg Hamann, Johann Gottfried Herder and E.T.A. Hoffmann. Around 1800 Königsberg was one of the largest cities in the German-speaking world with 60,000 inhabitants. The East Prussian capital played a major role in the Napoleonic Wars, when General Yorck called for a war of liberation from here.



Königsberg counted as a large city for the first time in 1864 with 100,000 inhabitants. From 1860 the East Prussian capital was connected to Berlin via the Prussian East Railway. Industrialisation caused a massive migration to the western parts of the empire, which also led to a loss of importance of Königsberg. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, East Prussia was separated from the rest of Germany by the so-called "Corridor". Economically, East Prussia remained a crisis area, which was hardly able to free itself from its agricultural monostructure. On the eve of the Second World War, 372,000 inhabitants lived in Königsberg. Until 1945, Königsberg was the most eastern major city in Germany.

After 1933, Nazi terror became a reason of state, leading to the end of Jewish life with the deportation of the last Jewish inhabitants in June 1942. In the summer of 1944 large parts of the East Prussian capital were destroyed by the Royal Air Force. 200,000 Königsberger became homeless and 5,000 inhabitants lost their lives. After the Soviet offensive in mid-January 1945 Hitler declared Königsberg a fortress. In a loss-filled battle that lasted for months, the Wehrmacht under General Otto Lasch fought until the capitulation on April 9, 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Königsberger fell into Soviet hands, many died from violence as well as from disease and hunger. The surviving German civilians had to do forced labour and were resettled from northern East Prussia to Germany until 1948.

Synagogue at Lindenstrasse


Finally the city, which officially bore the Russian name Kaliningrad since 4 July 1946, was placed under Soviet administration together with the northern part of East Prussia.
Its namesake was the Soviet politician Michael Ivanovich Kalinin.

As Kaliningrad oblast, the region became part of the Russian Soviet Republic and after the Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 an exclave of the Russian Federation. 2010 Königsberg counted 431,000 inhabitants, what has developed into a dynamic economic metropolic, in the eastern Baltic Sea region.

The former landmark of Königsberg, its striking castle, sank into the rubble of the Second World War. The venerable cathedral shared the same fate. Thanks to a German-Russian initiative, however, it could be rebuilt. In its shadow is the tomb of Immanuel Kant.

Finally, Königsberg became famous for two culinary specialities: The famous "Königsberger Klopse" as well as the noble marzipan still tell of the former East Prussian metropolis at the Pregel river.

© Findeisen Uhren




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Picture sources: Martin Zettl


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