In 1945, the Russians grabbed it from Germany and after the war, the Germans living there made a hasty exit. The Soviets made it part of their union. It was an ice-free port with access the Baltic Sea. No wonder the Russians held on to it when other states were declaring independence.
But as the Soviet system fell apart, Kaliningrad lost the benefits of the Soviet military presence and their export business fell off causing real economic problems in the 1990s. In 1996, the Russians granted special economic status to Kaliningrad and things got better.
World economic troubles, in 2008, brought layoffs and trouble for Putin-appointed governor Georgi Boos as thousands rallied in 2010 against rising costs and taxes. The governor was replaced and some tax increases cancelled. But Kaliningrad people are still not happy with the awkward relationship to their surrounding EU neighbors.
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Do I Need a Visa?
Do I need a visa for Kaliningrad? Da! It’s Russia! The question is do I need a double-entry visa or a single. If you plan to go to other parts of Russia by land, a double-entry visa is required. But if you travel by air on domestic flights between Kaliningrad and Moscow or St. Petersburg can be done if you hold a single-entry visa.
Special Kaliningrad visa: If you are only visiting Kaliningrad (and not the rest of Russia), you may be able to obtain a special Kaliningrad visa if you fulfill all of the following conditions:
1. your stay in Kaliningrad is a maximum of 3 days
2. you are a citizen of a Schengen member state, the UK or Japan
3. you enter and exit Kaliningrad from the border check points of Bagrationovsk, Mamonovo and/or Khrabrovo Airport
Take along an umbrella, because the weather is a bit unpredictable and windy at times. And being so close to the Baltic sea adds to the humidity.
How do I get there?