As the king pin state of the USSR, Russia was a major pole during the Cold War. Its history post and prior to this period has been closely tied to its Western neighbours.
There are two sections which can be visited along EuroVelo 13 - the Leningrad Oblast which borders Finland and Estonia and includes the city of Saint Petersburg and the Kaliningrad Oblast between Lithuania and Poland - both of which played important roles in its neighbourly relations.
Saint Petersburg city is the second largest in Russia. Its city centre is awe-inspiring and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What is now the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, situated on the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland, was known as Königsberg until the end of World War II. The Teutonic Order built a fort there in 1255 in honour of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. From 1457 to 1525 the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order had his official seat here, then from 1525 to 1618 Königsberg became the residence of the Dukes of Prussia. Around the fort, three communities sprang up, which became members of the Hanseatic League and merged to form the city of Königsberg in 1724. The town grew into a major economic and industrial centre, linked by a canal to the seaport of Pillau on the Baltic. It also became an important university town, thanks largely to the fact that the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) spent most of his life working there, publishing among others his Critique of Pure Reason and his essay on ‘Perpetual Peace’.
With the establishment of the German Empire in 1870/71, the formerly Prussian Königsberg became part of the newly formed all-German state. During World War I it was the scene of bitter fighting between German and Russian troops but remained under German control in the end. It became the capital of the German province of East Prussia, which was now only linked with the German Empire by a corridor, as a result of the territory lost to Poland. During World War II, large parts of the town were destroyed and in 1945 the Red Army took it after a four-month siege. Upon decision of the Potsdam Conference, Königsberg became part of the Soviet Union under the new name of Kaliningrad.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Baltic States gained independence in 1991, Kaliningrad became a Russian exclave on the Baltic. Under the German-Soviet Partnership Agreement of 9 November 1990, the unified Germany formally recognised Kaliningrad as belonging to Russia. Following EU enlargement eastward in 2004, special travel regulations were agreed with Russia for Kaliningrad’s Russian citizens.