Feb 4 (Reuters) - Ten thousand people rallied in Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad last week in one of the largest opposition protests in Russia since Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president a decade ago. [ID:nLDE6112MW]
The following are some key facts about Kaliningrad:
GEOGRAPHY: Kaliningrad is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland on the coast of the Baltic Sea. It was cut off from Moscow when Lithuania became independent during the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and residents must transit EU territory to reach the the rest of Russia by land.
Duties and transit costs push prices for fuel and other goods higher than in other parts of Russia. At 15,000 square kilometres, the exclave is half the size of Belgium.
HISTORY: Kaliningrad was formerly the Prussian port of Koenigsberg, capital of East Prussia, but was captured by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union at the Potsdam conference. It was renamed in honour of senior Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin, who never actually visited the area.
POPULATION: Kaliningrad has a population of 940,000 people, down 500,000 since Soviet days. Most residents are ethnic Russians who replaced Germans expelled from the area after World War II. Unemployment has climbed to 10.5 percent in December 2009 from 3.4 percent in 2007, but remains close to the national average of 8.2 percent.
ECONOMY: Declared a special economic zone in 1996 to stave off deep economic crisis, Kaliningrad developed into a centre for the assembly and distribution of cars and consumer electronics for the Russian market. The region has small oil and fishing industries and is home to Russian agro-industrial firm Sodruzhestvo, the largest independent soybean crusher in Europe.
Kaliningrad is the world centre of production of amber-fossilised tree resin used for jewellery and decoration. Tens of thousands of German tourists visit the region every year, most of them with family roots there.
MILITARY: Kaliningrad is headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet, and was formerly a closed Soviet military zone. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last year warned that Moscow would station Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Washington went ahead with plans, now scrapped, to deploy part of a missile shield in Poland.
CULTURE: Most of the city of Koenigsberg was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt in the style of a typical Soviet city. Some German architecture remains, most prominently Koenigsberg Cathedral, which houses the tomb of philosopher Immanuel Kant. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s wife Lyudmila is a native of Kaliningrad. (Reporting by Conor Humphries)
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