Polish renaming of Russian city is ‘madness’ – Kremlin
Poland’s decision to call the Russian city of Kaliningrad ‘Krolewiec’, as it was known in the 15th century, “borders on madness,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said. Warsaw objects to the city’s current name because of its association with a Soviet statesman, whom Warsaw blames for the massacre of captured Polish officers under Joseph Stalin.
“Poland from time to time slides into this madness in its hatred of Russians,” Peskov stated on Wednesday when asked about the renaming. “This has been recurring for many centuries, since the 16th or 17th century, or even before that. It bodes nothing good for Poland or the Poles.”
From Tuesday, Polish officials are required to call Kaliningrad by one of its multiple historic names, Krolewiec. The change also applies to Kaliningrad Region, the Russian exclave which is now referred to in Poland as ‘obwod krolewiecki’, or Krolewiec Oblast.
The recommendation was issued last month by the Polish national body responsible for foreign toponyms, local media reported this week. The country's geographic standardization committee claimed the city’s current name is “artificial” and cited the conflict in Ukraine as contributing to its decision.
Kaliningrad traces its history to the mid-13th century, when a Prussian settlement named Twangste was based at the same site. The Teutonic Order captured the land and built a new fortress named Konigsberg.
The city defected to the Kingdom of Poland in the mid-15th century and was renamed Krolewiec, but the Teutonic state took it back less than a decade later. It later returned to Warsaw’s sovereignty as the capital of the Duchy of Prussia, which remained a Polish fief until the mid-17th century. However, the city kept its German name during that period.
Moscow took control of the region after World War II, when former German lands were added to Soviet Russia as part of reparations. In 1945, it was renamed after Mikhail Kalinin, which many people in modern Poland believe to be an affront.
Kalinin held several senior posts in the Bolshevik and Soviet governments and was a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party. The executive body gave the order in March 1940 to kill some 20,000 Polish prisoners. The mass execution, known as the Katyn massacre, was hushed up by the USSR, but Russia has recognized it as a historic crime.
Last year, conservative Polish politician Romuald Szeremietiew urged Moscow to rename and demilitarize Kaliningrad to address Warsaw’s grievances. The region’s governor dismissed the proposal, arguing that it needed protection in the face of NATO’s military buildup in Europe.