Goodbye Kaliningrad, welcome back Königsberg

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea has got a new name – or rather, it is returning to its old names, at least as far as Latvian-speakers are concerned.

A decision by the State Language Center (VVC), which monitors official use of the Latvian language, on May 15 said it recommended using the traditional Baltic name 'Karaļauči' or the German-derived 'Kēnigsberga' in Latvian instead of 'Kaļiņingrada' when referring to the territory.

The move follows similar decisions by Poland and Lithuania, both of which border the exclave, which formerly made up part of the German territory of East Prussia before being handed to the Soviet Union after World War Two and renamed after Soviet functionary Mikhail Kalinin. The main city during the German era was the famous Baltic port of Königsberg. 

Poland has decided to officially refer to the territory as 'Królewiec', the name used when it was a region of the Kingdom of Poland in the 15th and 16th centuries. Meanwhile a group in Lithuania's parliament is pushing for the historical name 'Karaliaučiaus' to be officially re-adopted.

Each announcement of a name reversion has sparked predictable apoplexy from Kremlin spokespeople and the Latvian ruling will no doubt do the same. 

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