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Królewiec, Königsberg, Kaliningrad…notes from a journey

Published on July 12, 2012 by: in: Society

Kaliningrad. An Orthodox Church was opened here not so long ago by Putin. Its dome doesn’t have a traditional round shape, instead it reminds of a medieval warrior’s helmet.

A guide asked why it is that way, answers without hesitation – that’s how Orthodox Churches are decorated on the fringes of the empire. It’s not only about the Orthodox Church. In Baltiysk, by the very shore, stands a monument of Peter the Great. A little further there is a gigantic and monumental statue of tsarina Elisabeth on a horse (why has she been chosen is hard to tell, it is however certain that it’s a horse as it has gigantic brass balls).

When it comes to the feeling of identity of people who live in this enclave, things seem to be more complex and not as clear-cut as in Transnistria. It might be sort of paradox because Transnistria doesn’t belong to the Russian Federation, whereas Kaliningrad undoubtedly does. It is however a region from which majority of population has already been to the West (where the West often means Poland). People leaving here for Moscow say “I’m going to Russia”. Those who want to be closer to Europe come here from the depths of Federation. This concerns Poles and Germans among others. And no one from outside claims any entitlement to this region. It’s obvious for a couple of reasons. First of all, nobody would be unreasonable enough to irritate Moscow.

picture: Vitaly Volkov

Even political fantasies, as long as they are coupled with at least minimum political reason, don’t allow for any speculations of annexation by anyone. Nobody wants this land. The Germans due to the past, Poles have abundance of post-German land, Lithuanians don’t want to be dominated in their little country by non- Lithuanian population.

The community of Oblast therefore has to think about its own future and one can only fantasise about independent new Baltic country in the future. There were however speculations, that Oblast could become a site of some kind of a modernisation experiment, a pilot study for whole Russia. With the current policy of Moscow it is however not very likely. It is also hard to imagine that income per capita could be allowed to be higher here than in the center of the Federation. Therefore a second Hong-Kong in Kaliningrad will remain only a dream.

On one hand, there are some visible signs that the community of Kaliningrad spontaneously strives towards creation of some kind of independence or a declaration of an actually existing independence. On the other hand, Moscow diligently monitors so that no politically significant separatism appears.

It is manifested in leaving the name Kaliningrad unchanged. Leningrad has been changed to St. Petersburg, just as the Soviet names of many other Russian cities. Kaliningrad has yet remained Kaliningrad, even though Kalinin himself has been a bolshevik of meagre importance.

Translation: Wiktor Czyżewski

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About Kazimierz Woycicki

Graduate of Philosophy faculty at the University of Lublin and of Political Science and History faculty in Germany as the Adenauer Foundation's scholar, PhD at the University of Wrocław. Between 1986 and 1987 journalist of BBC, between 1990 and 1993 editor-in-chief of Życie Warszawy, between 1996 and 1999 president of the Polish Institute in Dusseldorf and between 2000 and 2004 in Leipzig. Currently sernior fellow in the International Relations Centre in Warsaw and academic at the University of Warsaw.

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