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East Prussia (Kaliningrad), Seized From Germany in WW2, Opens to West With Simplified E-Visas

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Kaliningrad Oblast is a Russian-controlled enclave on the Baltic Sea, wedged between Lithuania and Poland. During WWII the Red Army invaded the territory and captured its main city, Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), in a bloody siege.

Königsberg was famous as the hometown of Immanuel Kant, and it was known for its beautiful architecture, virtually all of which was destroyed during the war.


Visiting Russia with an e-visa. Now, citizens of over 50 countries can enter Kaliningrad Oblast on simplified terms. What are the advantages of this visa regime? 

Tourists holding e-visas arrive at Khrabrovo Airport from Riga and Warsaw. Kristina Lamparter from Bavaria and her younger brother Kristian were surprised to find out how simple and convenient it is now to come to Russia where their relatives live. 

Kristina Lamparter: “Our grandfather fell ill. That's why we wanted to come. We looked it up on the internet to find the simplest way to get a visa. It took just two days.”

Citizens of 53 European states can enter Kaliningrad Oblast with e-visa. Russia's westernmost region became the second one after the Far East to adopt such a regime. The application can be sent to the MFA online, but it needs to be done beforehand— at least four days prior to the expected entry date. After the questionnaire is verified, the MFA will send you a notification that an e-visa has been granted via its website. The notification received by a foreign citizen contains an identification number, they will have to hand this notification at the checkpoint when crossing the border. 

In the first days, over 4,500 applications were received. Most of them came from Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Latvia, and Estonia.

Ilyas Dave, Frankfurt am Main resident: "It's a good idea. You don't have to spend time going to embassies. Everything is very quick." 

Oleg Zhurilo, the FSB Border Agency: "As of today, it's for touristic purposes. People are coming to see the places of interest in our region. They can spend eight days here." 

The Kaliningrad Oblast is expected to see the increase of tourist inflow. The simplified visa format was successfully tested during the FIFA World Cup that was hosted by Kaliningrad, among other cities. Then, the chance to come to Russia without a visa in their passport and see its unique cultural and historical memorials, nature reserves and resorts, as well as support their teams was used tens of thousands of foreigners. 

Alexander Tsyrul, the FSB Borderline Agency: "We're building upon our experience with the World Cup. The only difference being that we used Fan IDs during the World Cup and now having a notification is obligatory." 

Foreign holders of e-visas also enter the region through the waterway and auto-route checkpoints. They'll be able to benefit from the simplified regime again but no sooner than the current electronic document expires.

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