Poland reverts to historic name for Russia's Kaliningrad

FILE - People gather to watch a festive parade marking the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost city, Friday, July 1, 2005. Poland's map authorities have advised the return to the historic name of Russia's neighbouring city and the administrative region of Kaliningrad, which is Krolewiec. The decision by a commission for geographic names abroad advising the reversal took effect this week, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File) (Sergey Ponomarev, AP2005)

WARSAW – Poland is reverting to using its historical name for Kaliningrad, the Russian city and administrative region that sits on its border.

From now on, it will be designated on Polish maps as Krolewiec, based on the recommendation of the government commission for geographic names abroad.

The Kremlin has reacted angrily: spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called it a “process bordering on insanity,” going beyond Russophobia.

The city, formerly known as Koenigsberg, was ceded from Germany to the Soviet Union after World War II. In 1946, it was renamed Kaliningrad, after Mikhail Kalinin, one of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Polish authorities point out that Kalinin was one of six Soviet officials who ordered the execution of more than 21,000 Polish prisoners of war at Katyn and elsewhere in 1940.

They said the current name was artificial, lacking any connection to the city or the region, but the centuries-old name of Krolewiec was part of Poland’s cultural heritage.

There has been some talk in Russia about changing the city’s name back, but there are no such plans currently.

The war in neighboring Ukraine has added to the long-standing tensions between Russia and Poland, an ally of Kyiv which has been supplying Ukraine’s military with weapons and pressing for more international backing for Ukraine.

Recently, Poland has been the target of incendiary statements by Russian politicians and some public figures.

Russia's ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, was summoned to Poland's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday over an incident last week in the Black Sea region in which a Russian fighter jet performed dangerous maneuvers near a Polish plane which was on patrol for the European border and coastal guard, FRONTEX.

On May 9, celebrated as Victory Day in Russia, Andreev was prevented by Ukrainian and Polish activists from laying a wreath at a monument in Warsaw to the Soviet soldiers killed fighting the Nazis.