Known as Konigsberg prior to Soviet occupation, the city was founded in 1255 near the mouth of the Pregolya River. The philosopher Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg in 1724. The capital of German East Prussia, Konigsberg was the home to a grand Prussian Royal Castle, destroyed along with much of the city in World War II.
Konigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 after Mikhail Kalinin, formal "leader" of the Soviet Union from 1919 until 1946. At the time, Germans living in the oblast were forced out, to be replaced with Soviet citizens. While there were early proposals to change the name of Kaliningrad back to Konigsberg, none were successful.
The ice-free port of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea was home to the Soviet Baltic fleet; during the Cold War 200,000 to 500,000 soldiers were stationed in the region. Today only 25,000 soldiers occupy Kaliningrad, an indicator of the reduction of perceived threat from NATO countries.
The USSR attempted to build a 22-story House of Soviets, "the ugliest building on Russian soil," in Kaliningrad but the structure had been built on the property of the castle. Unfortunately, the castle contained many underground tunnels and the building began to slowly collapse though it still stands, unoccupied.
After the fall of the USSR, neighboring Lithuania and former Soviet republics gained their independence, cutting Kaliningrad off from Russia. Kaliningrad was supposed to develop in the post-Soviet era into a "Hong Kong of the Baltic" but corruption keeps most investment away. South Korean-based Kia Motors has a factory in Kaliningrad.
Railroads connect Kaliningrad to Russia though Lithuania and Belarus but importing food from Russia is not cost effective. However, Kaliningrad is surrounded by European Union-member states, so trade on the wider market is indeed possible.
Approximately 400,000 people live in metropolitan Kaliningrad and a total of nearly one million are in the oblast, which is approximately one-fifth forested.