The city has had other high-profile residents: Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, the former wife of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was born there.
In the immediate post-Soviet era, Moscow tried to reinvent Kaliningrad as its own duty-free Hong Kong. The region sprouted with factories producing cars, electronics and furniture. After the provincial government negotiated visa-less travel to Polish border areas, the Ikea outlet in nearby Gdansk, Poland, became a popular destination for Russians.
But Moscow historically has also sought to obfuscate Germany’s historical ties to the area. In the 1960s, the Soviet authorities blew up a still-standing portion of a Gothic castle to make way for the House of Soviets, a towering building meant to symbolize the Soviet Union’s control over former German territory. Instead, the building was marred by structural defects, was never fully occupied and became a monument of sorts to Soviet failure.
Recent flash points
The latest flare-up with Lithuania is not the first time Kaliningrad has been the locus of tensions.
In 2016, about 70 nautical miles off Kaliningrad, two Russian Su-24 planes buzzed the American guided missile destroyer Donald Cook, simulating an attack and drawing protests from Washington.
In another episode that same month, a Russian warplane intercepted an American reconnaissance plane at an unsafe distance over the Baltic Sea.