Czech Petition on Annexing Kaliningrad From Russia Signed by Thousands

In the aftermath of Russia's illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine's territory in the southwestern region of the country, politicians in the Czech Republic have been joking about dividing the Russian Kaliningrad region. Now, a satirical petition launched by Czechs to do just that has been signed by over 13,000 people.

Kaliningrad—known as Královec in Czech—sits 412 miles west of the rest of Russia, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. The city, originally founded in the 13th century by Teutonic knights and also known as Königsberg, or King's Rock, became over time the capital of Prussia, and later belonged to Poland, Germany, the Soviet Union, and now Russia.

During World War II, Kaliningrad, which had been part of Germany until then, and was one of its most important cities, was snatched by Joseph Stalin from Adolf Hitler. At the Potsdam Conference in 1945, the Allies agreed to give the region to the USSR.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kaliningrad became an exclave of the Russian Federation, becoming in time quite isolated in the region as the Baltic states joined the European Union in 2004.

Russian city of Kaliningrad
This undated photo shows the commercial port in the Russian enclave Kaliningrad, which was annexed long ago from the Czech Republic. People in the Czech Republic are joking about taking Kaliningrad back after Russia annexed parts of Ukraine. STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

The petition launched by the Czech jokesters claims it is time for Russia to return Kaliningrad to the Czech Republic, according to the same logic the Kremlin is using to annex Ukrainian territory.

"We believe that Russia has played with Kaliningrad for too long and it is time to send it one state back again, as has already become the custom in the less than 800 years of its existence. And since the city was founded in honor of the Czech king, it should pass into the hands of the rightful owner—the Czech Republic," the petition reads.

"As Russia showed us in Crimea and is now showing us in the east of Ukraine, it is perfectly fine to step onto the territory of a foreign state, announce a referendum there and then annex the territory. We thus had a unique opportunity to expand the Czech territory and finally gain access to the sea," it continued.

"We, therefore, demand the government of the Czech Republic to send Czech soldiers to Kaliningrad, announce a referendum that will end with a result of 98 percent in favor of joining the Czech Republic, and subsequently annex Kaliningrad and rename it Královec."

The petition has already collected over 13,000 signatures.

"According to Russian standards, Kaliningrad belongs only to us!" commented one of the signees.

"The Czech Republic deserves the sea and the residents of Kaliningrad want to belong to the Czech Republic!" another joked.

"I feel the need to protect the daughters and sons of the Kingdom of Bohemia in this city!" wrote another, mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin's proclaimed need to invade Ukraine in order to defend Russian citizens in the neighboring country.

The idea to annex Kaliningrad into the Czech Republic has also been ironically embraced by European Parliament member Tomáš Zdechovský. On Monday, Zdechovsky reposted a tweet from a Polish author, that said: "The time has come to divide Kaliningrad so that our Czech brothers finally have access to the sea."

The MEP said that if Moscow is willing to launch sham referendums in Ukraine and illegally annex the country's territory, then it should be ready to discuss the status of Kaliningrad.

In Russia, his comments were taken seriously by one website, which called his joke a "revanchist statement." Zdechovský dismissed Russia's concerns as too serious. Zdechovský told Newsweek that the joke was taken seriously in Russia because the Kremlin propaganda "has an agenda" of inciting nationalism.

But the Czech MEP also takes joking about annexing Kaliningrad quite seriously, in a way. A strong supporter of Ukraine in its defense against the Russian aggressor, Zdechovský said "social interaction" through jokes like the Kaliningrad one is as important to the Ukrainian cause as official political reactions and military reactions.

"I think that the debate is legitimate and that Russia should really consider its future international moves," he told iDnes, the online edition of the Czech newspaper Mladá fronta DNES. "I think the Russians take themselves too seriously, both in terms of politics and in terms of international relations.

"We need to hold a mirror to them more and show that we are not afraid of them and their threats and that we are ready to support Ukraine in its struggle for the return of all territories," he said.

On Twitter, a new account appeared under the name of "KralovecCzechia" on Tuesday, jokingly announcing that a referendum has been held in Kaliningrad and the region has now joined the Czech Republic.

"Welcome to the official profile of Královec. After a successful referendum, 97.9 percent of Kaliningrad residents decided to merge with the Czech Republic and rename Kaliningrad to Královec," one tweet reads.

"This is kind of a satire of the situation that is happening in Ukraine," one of the profile's creators told Newsweek.

"If Czech Republic were to annex the territory [Kaliningrad], the Russians would be probably very angry about that. But this is the same thing they're doing in Ukraine. So we're showing them a mirror of their behavior, what they are doing, that they wouldn't like us to do to them."

Other satirical posts shared by the account show a new Euro banknote for Kaliningrad, and Kaliningrad's citizens celebrating joining the Czech Republic by waving the Czech flag.

The profile already has over 35,000 followers.

"We had support from Poland, from Ukrainians, from Czech people too," the website co-creator said.

On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin officially signed laws annexing four Ukrainian regions into Russia, despite Moscow troops suffering setbacks on the battlefields in these same areas. The exact geographical borders of the territories annexed were not detailed by the Russian leader.

Newsweek reached out to the organizers of the petition for comment.

Update, 10/6/2022 4:30 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comments from Zdechovský and the team behind Královec.