Kaliningrad: Russia’s forgotten exclave

Kaliningrad: Russia’s forgotten exclave

A military history of Konigsberg and East Prussia

Battlefield

Kaliningrad: Russia’s forgotten exclave

A military history of Konigsberg and East Prussia

Battlefield

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Tour Introduction

Königsberg, the former capital of Prussia, home to the Teutonic Knights and the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, is today known by its Russian name, Kaliningrad and is now the capital of the isolated exclave of the same name. Due to its proximity to Russia, the former East Prussia has frequently been the scene of conflict between the two nations. During the Seven Years War, a smaller Prussian army was defeated at Gross Jagesdorf in 1757, whilst fifty years later the region played host to the armies of Napoleon and Tsar Alexander at the great battles of Eylau and Friedland followed by the treaty of Tilsit signed on a raft moored on the River Neiman which sealed the fate of Europe in 1807. At the outbreak of the First World War, against specific orders to the contrary, General Prittwitz took the fight to the Russians but was defeated at Gumbinnen in August 1914 and abandoned Prussia as far as the Vistula. Flattened by the RAF in 1944 and besieged for almost three months in 1945, when Königsberg’s defenders finally surrendered they found themselves some 500 kilometres behind the front line. Of great strategic importance, the region was ethnically cleansed of its German inhabitants after WW2.

Background

Today Kaliningrad, a city that is still recovering from the ravages and scars from 70 years ago, is gradually re-discovering its past with great efforts being made to restore and open up hitherto abandoned remains of its rich and varied history. Certainly its infrastructure will have benefitted from investments as a result of the World Cup to be held in June 2018. The region still has plenty of echoes of its Teutonic past that the former regime found it impossible to erase. The original German places names are no longer whispered, indeed many of the Russian population embrace that past as their own. Our centrally located hotel will be close to the banks of the River Pregel and within easy walking distance of Kneiphof Island, where Kant lays guardian to his seven bridges conundrum. Perhaps you will be the one to solve it?

Highlights

  • With expert guide Alan Rooney
  • Battles of Eylau, Friedland, Gumbinnen & Pillau
  • From Napoleon to Hitler
  • Based in capital of former East Prussia

"Prussia, with all the veils that hide the thing, is a military organisation led by a military corporation"

Ardant du Picq: Battle Studies

Itinerary

Day 1. Fly London Luton – Gdansk

Drive to Kaliningrad by coach crossing the Russian border at Manonowo. Check in to our hotel for five nights.

Day 2 – Eylau and Friedland 1807.

At Eylau Napoleon received the first real check of his career. We travel to the Polish border where to examine this winter battlefield from the French and Russian perspectives; we see where Augereau’s division was destroyed and Murat led his massed cavalry charge, visit the small museum, churchyard and battlefield monuments. Continue to the unspoilt battlefield of Friedland where from the top of the church tower we will gain great views of the surrounding countryside and understand the importance played by the River Alle and its tributary to one of Napoleon’s finest victories. Other than a couple of monuments there is very little evidence that a battle of such importance was ever fought here!

Day 3 – Koenigsberg 1945

We visit the command bunker where German General Lasch surrendered to the Russians, the Friedland Gate museum and the impressive model used by the Red Army to plan its assault on the city. It is surprising how much of the 19th century fortifications remain and we will visit many of the strong points which held out against great odds such as Fort Frederich-Wilhelm III and Fort Stein.

Day 4 – Kaliningrad and Pillau

We spend the morning exploring modern Kaliningrad including a visit to the outstanding and restored Dom Cathedral before following the route of many of the German evacuees to the Baltic seaport of Pillau, so bitterly fought over during the closing days of the war and where we visit its impressive Swedish citadel.

Day 5 – Gumbinnen 1914 and Tilsit 1807

This morning we visit the battlefield monument at Gross Jagersdorf en-route to Gusav to discuss the battle of Gumbinnen and visit the new memorial complex recently erected by the Russians to commemorate their part in the foiling of the Schliefen plan. Thence to Tilsit and the banks of the River Nieman where today stands the Queen Lousia Bridge and an EU funded museum.

Day 6 – Home

Return to Gdansk for our return flights to London Luton.

Recommended Reading List

Photo Gallery

  • The monument placed on the spot where the Tilsit peace treaty was signed
  • The Konigsberg diorama
  • The GS Technopolis WW1 memorial
  • Statue of Tsarina Elizabeth at westernmost point of Russia
  • Queen Louise Bridge over the River Nieman at Tilsit (Sovetsk).
  • Krown Prinz barracks
  • Kaliningrad - Royal Gate
  • Inside Lasch's bunker
  • Friedland Gate Museum
  • Baltiysk - German cemetery

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