Prague, Czech Republic – Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories has been met with widespread condemnation around the world. In the Czech Republic, some are highlighting the absurdity of Russia’s territorial claims by giving Moscow a taste of its own medicine.
Czechs mockingly lay claim to city of Kaliningrad/Královec
Over the past several days, Czech social media users have been sharing humorous tweets, tweaked maps and mocking memes showing that the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is, in fact, historically Czech, and that a referendum should be held to decide the date of the problematic 220-square-kilometer region.
On Monday, Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský took to Twitter to share a map of Kaliningrad split down the middle into two zones occupied by Poland and the Czech Republic, ironically celebrating Czechs’ newfound access to the sea.
Another map featured the Russian exclave’s name replaced as Královecký kraj (Kaliningrad region), and cities changed to their Czech-language equivalent, including the main city of Kaliningrad (Královec).
The trolling quickly took off from there. On Tuesday morning, Czech search engine Seznam.cz took it one step further, adding Královecký kraj to its list of Czech regions people can search for houses and properties in.
Later that same day, a newly created Twitter account @KralovecCzechia announced the success of the initiative: “After a successful referendum, 97,9% of Kaliningrad residents decided to merge with the Czech Republic and rename Kaliningrad to Královec.”
At the time of writing, the Czech-language Wikipedia page of Kaliningrad was also shown as belonging to the Czech Republic.
“King’s Mountain” through history
The city formerly known as Königsberg (“King’s Mountain”) was founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1255 in honour of Bohemian King Přemysl Ottakar II.
Part of the Hanseatic League from the mid-14th-century, Königsberg later became the capital of the State of the Teutonic Order, the Duchy of Prussia, and East Prussia. It was briefly a Polish fief during the 15th century and fell, for about six years, under the control of the Russian Empire in the late 18th century. The first king of Prussia Frederick I crowned himself there in 1701, while philosopher Immanuel Kant was likely its most famous resident.
The easternmost larger city of Germany until the outbreak of World War II, Königsberg was captured by the Red Army in April 1945 after a brutal two-month siege that left the city destroyed.
Placed under Soviet control by the Potsdam Agreement, it was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 and remained a highly strategic point for Moscow throughout the Cold War.
Now bordering the two EU and NATO countries Poland and Lithuania, the Kaliningrad exclave has remained under the control of the Russian Federation since the collapse of the USSR. But Moscow’s recent illegal annexation of Ukrainian districts appears to have opened Pandora’s finicky territorial box.