Polish move to rename Kaliningrad angers Russia

Polish move to rename Kaliningrad angers Russia

Russia has condemned a Polish move to rename Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad as Królewiec.

A Polish government committee, the Commission on the Standardisation of Geographical Names Outside the Republic of Poland, said Królewiec was the region’s traditional title rather than an “imposed name”. It said the change was partly a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The invasion and Russia’s propaganda efforts prompted Warsaw to reevaluate “imposed names”, the committee announced.

Also rocket fragments found deep inside Polish territory have been identified as from a Kh-55 Russian cruise missile fired at Ukraine, worsening relations with Russia.

Josef Stalin named the region after Mikhail Kalinin, a Bolshevik leader of the 1905 and 1917 revolutions and chairman of the Soviet Central Executive Committee from 1924 to 1938.

Kalinin was one of the six Politburo members to sign execution orders for more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war in what became known as the Katyn massacre.

The Soviet Union blamed the Nazis for the deaths when German forces discovered the mass graves in 1943. Moscow covered up the massacre during the decades of occupation after the Second World War.

The relatives of the victims were unable to publicly discuss or research the Katyn massacre until the 1990s.

The Polish commission said the name Kaliningrad was “artificial” and offensive to Poles. “The fact that a large city located close to the borders of Poland was named after Kalinin, a criminal co-responsible for, among others, issuing a decision on the mass murder of Poles, has an emotional and negative character in Poland,” the parliamentary body reported. Poland’s foreign affairs ministry said it would endorse the name change.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the decision was “bordering on madness” and “a hostile act”.

“We know that throughout history, Poland has slipped from time to time into this madness of hatred towards Russians,” he said.

Founded in 1255, the Prussian city was known in German as Königsberg until 1946 with substantial Polish and Lithuanian communities. The city became part of Poland in 1454 and was renamed Krolewiec before being taken over by Prussia in 1657.

Królewiec is a Polish translation of Königsberg.

Kaliningrad is strategically important to Putin, housing the Russian Baltic Fleet at Baltiysk, one of Russia’s only ice-free European ports.

Little remains of historic Königsberg. Picture credit: WikiTravel 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.