Russian History



In the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union established a formidable, closed enclave in the former East Prussia, including a large naval port at Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg). When the Soviet Union collapsed, the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania deprived the new Russian state of major ports on the Baltic Sea, and 15,000-square-kilometer Kaliningrad Oblast between Poland and Lithuania was cut off from Russia. When Russia insisted on maintaining Kaliningrad as a heavily armed garrison, it aroused considerable international criticism, especially from Poland. Königsberg was awarded to the Soviet Union under the Potsdam Accord in 1945, but the Russian Federation holds no legal title to the enclave.

When Russia withdrew all its former Warsaw Pact forces from Poland and the Baltic states during 1992-94, some air, naval, and ground forces were relocated to Kaliningrad, ostensibly because of housing shortages elsewhere in Russia. In mid-1996 the official military garrison was estimated at 24,000 ground troops of the 11th Guards Combined Arms Army, including one tank division and three motorized rifle divisions, three artillery brigades, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, and attack helicopters. The Baltic Fleet, which has its headquarters at Kaliningrad, includes three cruisers, two destroyers, eighteen frigates, sixty-five patrol boats, and 195 combat aircraft, together with one brigade of naval infantry and two regiments of coastal defense artillery. Western experts estimate that the total Kaliningrad garrison includes as many as 200,000 military personnel, compared with the official Russian figure of 100,000.

In 1993 the population of the enclave was about 900,000, of whom about 700,000 were Russians. There is strong sentiment in favor of autonomy among the civilian population, and international pressure continues to advocate reducing the garrison to a level of "reasonable sufficiency," far below its current size. Many Russian military authorities agree with this idea because maintaining the Kaliningrad force is extremely expensive. However, a large-scale deemphasis of the military would be difficult because the entire oblast has been structured to meet the needs of the armed forces. In addition, Russian nationalists argue that Kaliningrad is a vital outpost at a time when Russia is menaced by possible Polish or even Lithuanian membership in NATO.