Kaliningrad and Cultural Memory

Cold War and Post-Soviet Representations of a Resettled City

by Edward Saunders (Author)
Monographs VIII, 312 Pages

Table Of Content

Kaliningrad and
Cultural Memory

Cold War and Post-Soviet Representations
of a Resettled City

Edward Saunders


Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • New York • Wien

About the author

Edward Saunders teaches literature as a member of adjunct faculty at the Center for Liberal Arts, Webster Vienna Private University. He completed his PhD in German Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2013. He has published in the areas of comparative literature, cultural memory and life-writing, with a Central and East European focus.

About the book

In 1945, the Soviet Union annexed the East Prussian city of Königsberg, later renaming it Kaliningrad. Left in ruins by the war, the home of Immanuel Kant became a Russian city, a source of historical and cultural fascination for settlers, former inhabitants, visitors and observers alike. New settlers replaced the German population in the years that followed. This book looks at three aspects of Kaliningrad’s relationship to the memory of Königsberg through cultural and literary sources and visual representations. First, it addresses the symbolism of Königsberg as a memory site in German culture and nostalgia for the city after 1945. Second, it discusses imagined and satirical literary-cultural adaptations and deconstructions of the idea of ‘Kant and Königsberg’ during the Cold War and afterwards. Third, it explores and reflects on discourses of memory, history and nostalgia in representations of the city by poets, photographers and filmmakers visiting Kaliningrad from the 1960s onwards. The book provides an introduction to the memory debates relating to Königsberg-Kaliningrad, as well as new critical readings of literary texts, films and photographic works.

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This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.


Memory, Nostalgia and Place-Writing in Eastern Europe

As a representation of the most Western of Eastern European cities, the introduction to Aleksandr Pushkin’s poem ‘Mednyi vsadnik’ [‘The Bronze Horseman’] (1833) has legendary status in Russian literature. It describes Peter the Great standing on the desolate banks of the River Neva, watching a poor ‘Finn’ [chukhonets] paddle past in his canoe. Unphased by blackened huts, thick woods and mist, Peter decides to create a ‘window into Europe’ there, to build a grand capital, and invite the world to be his guest.1 St Petersburg’s founding myth in Pushkin’s poem, a blend of literary artifice and historical fact, helps illustrate the prejudices and stereotypes Westerners hold about Eastern Europe. A visionary man brings light to the darkness, culture to the wilderness, Europe to Asia. The image channels centuries of imperial and later colonial archetypes relating to the civilizing influence of Western culture. In Alexander Etkind’s more recent, historical take in terms of ‘internal colonization’, ‘the new Russian capital embodied the universalist imaginary of ancient Rome. The results […] erased not only the memory of the native semi-Christian, semi-shamanistic tribes of Ingria, but also the traditional culture of Russia’.2 The imperial-colonial moment thus changes not only the world of the colonized, but also that of the colonizer.

Highlighting imagined images of Eastern Europe such as a ‘jewel ill set’ and a ‘fine and fruitful land that was uncultivated and uninhabited’, the historian Larry Wolff has described how Western Europe constructed the East as its mysterious, economically exploitable and culturally barbaric←1 | 2→ counterpart, particularly during the Enlightenment.3 Works by prominent Eastern Europeans, such as Pushkin’s panegyric to St Petersburg, which reflects a moment of intellectual ‘internal colonization’ if you will, did nothing to alter such perceptions during the nineteenth century. However, Wolff also links such images of the East to the geopolitical situation during the Cold War. ‘Eastern Europe could only be surrendered’, Wolff argues, ‘because it had long ago been imagined, discovered, claimed, and set apart’.4 In his view, the ‘Iron Curtain’ from the Baltic to the Adriatic reinforced a pre-existing ‘work of intellectual artifice and cultural construction’.5

Perceptions of Eastern Europe have a special place in German culture too. Over centuries, Germans imagined Eastern Europe in terms of barbarism and oppression, contrasted with German ‘Kultur’.6 As Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius notes, Johann Gottfried Herder thought of German culture as a ‘“living wall” against the East’, while Kant and Hegel ‘both dismissed Eastern Europe in their writings’.7 He hints at the way the twin concepts of ‘Kulturlandschaft’ [cultural landscape] and ‘Lebensraum’ [living space], the well-intentioned inventions of a geographer named Friedrich Ratzel, encapsulate Germany’s awkward relationship to the East.8 Seeing Eastern Europe as a German-influenced ‘cultural landscape’ describes the tradition Germans have sought to hold on to, while ‘living space’ and its connotations with Nazi atrocities deflates the myth immediately. For Liulevicius, no latter-day revanchist laments about Kaliningrad can compete with the danger posed by older German myths of Eastern Europe, ‘the excitement produced by imagining alluring futures’.9

Reading Wolff’s account in particular, I puzzled over the place of the former East Prussian city of Königsberg, now Kaliningrad in the Russian←2 | 3→ Federation within Western visions of Eastern Europe. Two things struck me. First, Wolff’s use of the phrases ‘an open border to Eastern Europe’ to describe the Baltic coast in the eighteenth century, as well as ‘the eastern outpost of the German Enlightenment’ to describe Königsberg.10 Second, the recurrence of names connected with Königsberg – Kant and Herder, of course, but also Fichte, whom Wolff describes travelling through Poland on his way to visit Kant, reinforcing stereotypes as he went.11 Instead of seeing a porous border, or even an ‘enlightened’ (also prejudiced) outpost, today commentators perceive a once Western city on which the East has apparently encroached. In its pre-World Cup sports coverage of December 2017, the Sun newspaper described Kaliningrad as a ‘derelict Cold War outpost’, a ‘Cold War crucible’, ‘a bleak city of decaying brutalist tower blocks’ and an ‘isolated backwater’.12 In what follows, I seek to differentiate some of the clichés, by focusing on how the city’s history is imagined and remembered as part of the peripheries of both Western and Eastern Europe.

‘Königsberg in Prussia’, to give Kaliningrad its full, former name, is commonly associated with one man: Immanuel Kant. By chance, Kant’s grave was one of the very few structures of central Königsberg to survive the British-led air-raids of 1944 and the Soviet assault of 1945 intact. If ‘classical’ Weimar with its proximity to Buchenwald concentration camp came to be seen as representing the ‘worst and best’ of German history, something similar could be said of Königsberg-Kaliningrad.13 Having been rebuilt during the Weimar Republic, the memorial to the author of the essay ‘On Perpetual Peace’ (1795) stood amidst the rubble and ruins as an unintended emblem of Germany’s abandonment of its rational tradition in the twelve years of the Nazi dictatorship. The subsequent disappearance←3 | 4→ of Königsberg from Germany’s national map also meant the loss of part of the nation’s symbolic geography. Such constructions and contestations of the historical and spatial meanings of place is the domain of collective cultural memory.

‘Cultural memory is not the Other of history’, writes German memory theorist Astrid Erll. Instead, ‘historiography is one medium of cultural memory alongside other media, such as novels, architecture or rituals’.14 Following Maurice Halbwachs and others, Erll embraces and defends the ‘integrative power’ of a broad understanding of memory as an umbrella term but differentiates systematically between ‘collected’ and ‘collective’ forms of remembering. In her usage, ‘collected’ memory refers to individual memories that are culturally formed. In examining this form of ‘cultural’ memory, we look at ‘sociocultural contexts and their influence on individual memory’.15 ‘Collective’ memory, the main topic of this book, encompasses external shared ideas, media, practices or institutions. It indicates the collectively organized, archived or intertextual elements of remembering within cultures, in which ‘memory’ functions as a metaphor.16 Erll further identifies various facets of these forms of memory, whether ‘episodic’, ‘semantic’, ‘procedural’ or ‘autobiographical’, as well as between different functions of memory within cultural/collective forms of representation, such as art and literature.17

What is the significance of Kaliningrad as a site of cultural memory? How does it figure within literary, photographic or film history? Can we learn something from these mediations of history and place about the dynamics of nostalgia? This book seeks to answer these questions, matters to which cultural memory’s ‘dynamic interplay between text and context, the individual and the collective, the social and the medial’ are key.18

Against this background, one of the universal problems in talking about the city is knowing which name to choose for it. Is it called Königsberg or←4 | 5→ Kaliningrad, or both? Should we look for an alternative name, a hyphenated version, or settle for one or the other option? While this is part of a serious discussion about memory and spatial identity in its own right, for the purposes of clarity I use the name ‘Kaliningrad’ to refer to the city since it was renamed and as it is today, the name ‘Königsberg’ to refer to the city pre-1946, and the combined term ‘Königsberg-Kaliningrad’ when I want to evoke a sense of continuity between the two. At the same time, the name ‘Königsberg’ frequently also stands in for a non-Soviet image of the city in post-1945 contexts (although not necessarily a non-Russian one) – a kind of European urban other as it is invoked in particular texts and by particular practitioners. I follow this seemingly anachronistic usage where appropriate, but not elsewhere.

The first part of the book provides insight into the debates on history and memory in the city. Chapter 1 discusses different symbolisms of Königsberg as a site of memory in the post-war period, particularly in terms of its meaning for what Astrid Erll terms ‘collective autobiographies’ in the German context. Chapter 2 addresses renaming debates and different ways governments and communities use names to create a sense of a collective narrative relating to Königsberg-Kaliningrad. Chapter 3 considers the loss of ‘cultural intimacy’ inherent to the loss of Königsberg and its resettlement by Soviet citizens, from both German and Russian perspectives.19

The second part of the book focuses on ‘Kant and Königsberg’ as the most famous topos in the city’s imagination and a crucial part of its symbolism. Chapter 4 looks at Kant’s ‘biomyth’, that is, the mythical or legendary version of Kant’s life, which is more familiar to most (as the remembered version) than the specific history. Chapter 5 traces the anachronistic notion of ‘Kant in Kaliningrad’ through a play adaptation by Bertolt Brecht, which revisits the Marxist notion of ‘German misery’ in relation to Germany’s failed revolutions in the aftermath of the war and against the background of the GDR’s foundation. Chapter 6 examines Johannes Bobrowski’s evocations of Königsberg from Communist East Berlin, in particular by relating the tensions he imagines between Enlightenment rationality and Counter-Enlightenment mysticism to nostalgia for Königsberg-Kaliningrad.←5 | 6→

The third part of the book engages with Kaliningrad as a visitable site, where memories or imagined versions of the past contrast or merge with versions of the present or visions of the future. Chapter 7 looks at Joseph Brodsky’s poetic commentary on Kaliningrad as a ‘Cold War city’ – the latter being a frame which, as Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietala have suggested, may ‘help interrogate and problematize ossified Cold War logics and traditional historiography’.20 Chapter 8 addresses representations of Kaliningrad from the perestroika and post-Soviet period, comparing different depictions of visits to the city in poetry (Tomas Venclova) and film (Šarunas Bartas) from a Lithuanian perspective. Chapter 9 discusses photographic series by Joachim Koester and Norbert Wiesneth completed in Putin-era Russia, addressing their ‘off-modern’ ruin aesthetics in relation to nostalgia.

In this way, I am able to distinguish distinct ways the city has been imagined, especially in relation to its German past, across the sixty-five-year period. Working through different facets of cultural memory (collective-autobiographical memory, literary heritage and collective-semantic memory, and individual episodic memories in relation to these), the book shows that the imaginative adaptation of Königsberg’s cultural history after 1945 makes Königsberg not only the historical predecessor to Kaliningrad, but also coextensive with it as an imagined and remembered place. Attention to the ways former residents of Königsberg, readers of Kant, and visitors to Kaliningrad remember and/or imagine the city allows something like a history of the symbolism of Königsberg-Kaliningrad for Germany, Russia and Europe after 1945 to come into view. Compared with previous studies of the city, the book therefore helps extend what we know about Kaliningrad beyond the consideration of questions of (Soviet and post-Soviet-era) identity and governance towards an understanding of its commemoration and representation in literature and visual culture.

While I do not aim to create a taxonomy of literary nostalgia, the works discussed are not only responses to the paradoxical connection between←6 | 7→ persons and places, that is, topographicized mediations of biography and autobiography. They also interpolate between three fundamental understandings of the city, a triad or ‘trialectics’ of nostalgia (drawing on Edward Soja’s use of this term).21 The first way of looking at the city sees it as a ‘real’ or material site that influences the people who live in it or visit it. Such ‘deterministic’ understandings highlight the (lost) influence of Königsberg as a physical site, which as ‘Kaliningrad’ has disappeared ‘behind’ the Iron Curtain or has been displaced ‘by’ the Soviet Union/Russia, and which reflect the memory or absence of a particular local history. The second way of looking at the city sees it as an ‘imagined’ space. Here, competing nostalgic ‘projections’ attempt to substitute for the lost influence of the city of Königsberg through reconstruction or reverie, either from afar or in imagined form (also via the ‘Kant and Königsberg’ trope), perhaps also using this imagined influence for other representational ends. Finally, the third way of looking at the city sees it as a ‘real-and-imagined’ space, in which representations of Kaliningrad that evoke homelessness, homesickness or loss enact a ‘remembrance-rethinking-recovery’ of Königsberg, to borrow Soja terms. Such representations combine images of Königsberg and Kaliningrad, as well as other (abstract) urban fantasies, and relate to both general philosophical questions as well as local histories.

Nevertheless, even though the notion of a ‘trialectics’ of nostalgia promises a comprehensive account of the city’s imaginary, this study remains selective. It does not analyse individual autobiographical accounts of post-war trauma, such as those held in the German Federal Archives. Nor does the book offer a full historical or sociological account of Kaliningrad since 1945, even though such endeavours have inherent interest and relevance to the material and ideas discussed.

While researching the study, I took the decision to exclude certain representations that were, in Erll’s terms, not ‘directed […] towards the horizons of meaning that are produced by cultural memory’.22 However, I admit that this decision was also predicated on a disciplinary bias within←7 | 8→ literary studies towards ‘high’ culture – works of greater aesthetic, intellectual or philosophical merit and sophistication – as well as the history of emotions. Erll’s optimistic account of ‘collective texts’ as ‘vehicles for envisioning the past’ would certainly encompass more popular material.23 I discriminated (pessimistically) in favour of literary or visual representations of topographicized collective ‘memory’, which as Part I of this book demonstrates, are embedded in an emotional history and politics of nostalgia. In Parts II and III, I seek to show how a body of sometimes difficult or opaque material, parts of which have never previously been considered in relation to Königsberg-Kaliningrad’s memory discourses, draws on the memory ‘of’ culture, and in turn stages memory ‘in’ culture.24 While I will return to the simulations of local meaning in lieu of memory in the third chapter, as a whole this study privileges imagined ideas about the city that relate ‘intertextually’ to other literary or cultural narratives. As a form of cultural topography, the study focuses not simply on representations of what Andreas Huyssen terms ‘palimpsests of space’, that is, forms of representation relating to place that are ‘both historical and attuned to the erasures of the historical record’, but in particular on literary and photographic palimpsests that respond to such places, works which themselves depend on complex genealogies.25 Thus, the understanding of cultural memory here is underwritten by the assumption of what Erll terms ‘mnemonic authenticity’, the reuse of ‘(narrative) schemata, and […] existing images of the past’.26

Topography means the writing of place, just as biography is the writing of a life. By way of analogy to the frequently used term ‘life-writing’, here I will refer to topography at times as ‘place-writing’.27 The challenge in←8 | 9→ this work is seeing a place through the three lenses of ‘spatial determinism’, ‘projections into the empirical world’, and as concentration of ‘real-and-imagined spaces’ (Soja’s terms). To enable this task, this study consists of a reconstruction and exploration of a breadth of meanings associated with the city’s history and location, which are frequently refracted through later commemorative and nostalgic reusages. Harald Hendrix has suggested that even where writers’ houses do not survive to facilitate biographical tourism, as is the case of Kant’s house in Kaliningrad, the ‘existence of a cult tends to invent and construct places’.28 The persistence of particular spatial imaginaries are why, despite preserving widespread recognition of the city’s former name, the narrow, historical identification of Königsberg with Kant has served to distract attention away from other histories. Both the canonical and alternative histories are, in different ways, significant for the figurative mapping of Germany, Russia and Europe today – and perhaps in future, too.

On the one hand, this study is interested in what Erll has termed ‘the study of memory in the global age’, specifically the ‘logic’ of Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a contested nostalgic memory site in the post-war and Cold War contexts. As an artefact and multi-year project it is also a demonstration and performance of what Fuyuki Kurasawa has called ‘the cultivation of empathy against indifference’.29 On the other hand, this book is also a portrait of a place as a study in memory, nostalgia and the writing of place in the context of Königsberg-Kaliningrad. ‘Cultural topography’, the urban studies genre in which it is loosely situated, is a term I have borrowed from Andrew Webber, who uses it to describe the critical study and analysis of place-writing in literary culture or visual media, portraying a city and←9 | 10→ analysing its representation across time. There is a tension throughout this book between these two separate but interdependent tasks – like metafiction, executing the allotted work and subjecting it to critique.

What this study has in common with Webber’s is that both are forms of comparative analysis of place-writing across diverse media, focusing on a particular period, and seeking primarily to draw conclusions about representations of the place, rather than about individual artistic practitioners or writers, images, films or texts. Unlike Webber’s ‘cultural topography’ it does not seek to simply ‘test an operable relationship between the city and the psyche, a metapsyschology of city life’.30 Instead, it seeks to return to the complicated work begun by Svetlana Boym of understanding nostalgic ‘fantasies of the past’ as ways of exploring ‘visions of the future that became obsolete’, which in turn impact upon ‘realities of the future’.31 It seeks to differentiate further betweeen ‘reflective’ and ‘restorative’ nostalgias in Boym’s influential distinction, as well as Yulia Komska’s almost identical notion of ‘nostalgic bifocalism’.32

Within the academic literature, the case of Königsberg-Kaliningrad reveals different paradigms to those which have dominated studies of German cultural memory in recent years. Unlike Dresden, where Anne Fuchs has described the iconicity of its bombing and the ‘impact narrative’ that ensued, the downfall of Königsberg has been a story with little resonance or impact, marked by lack of recognition and avoidance, despite being full of profound human experiences for those involved.33 In the aftermath of the Second World War, we see not an ‘East European turn’, such as that identified in contemporary German writing by Brigid Haines, but instead a turning away from the East, an unwillingness to speak about it.34←10 | 11→ Notwithstanding the vagueness of this supposed ‘turn’, which conflates post-Communist literature with contemporary literature about Eastern Europe, superficial engagement with Germany’s visions of Eastern Europe ignores the longer history of the complicity of German academic study of the East, once called Ostforschung, with chauvinistic expansionism.35 For many in post-war Germany, turning away from this supposed East was an opportunity to reject that ideology. It is also not possible to speak of the ‘excess of the real’ in the mediation of Königsberg-Kaliningrad, as Fuchs has for Dresden.36 Instead, it seems that the cityscape or its notional history have provoked a proliferation of the surreal, as well as metaphysical speculation.

I believe it is imperative neither to fully separate nor to conflate these forms of melancholy and mourning. After all, not all contemporary visitors and inhabitants are critically reflective, nor are all current or former inhabitants obsessed with rebuilding the past. More often we find some combination of these impulses. Nostalgia as an emotion is something like the ‘spatial trialectics’ described by Soja (building on ideas from Henri Lefebvre), combining displacement, substitution and representation as forms of how a given space is (re-)lived, (re-)perceived and (re-)conceived.37 If nostalgia is thought of as a future-oriented, programmatic emotion, what then might the history of nostalgic imaginings of Königsberg-Kaliningrad mean for the future of Kaliningrad? Does anything in the combination of obsolete visions of the future with historical fantasies really relate to future realities? Can studying descriptions of nostalgia in the context of Kaliningrad lead us to a more coherent vocabulary to articulate the ‘impossibility of homecoming’, as Boym describes, or else a better understanding of the paradoxical impulse not only to visit an imaginary place (such as←11 | 12→ Kant’s home) in real life, but also to record that impossible journey through forms of topography?38

This project took several years to research and write, and several more to publish. I can date my interest in Königsberg-Kaliningrad back to 2004. It was the year of the historic accession of formerly Communist Eastern European states to the European Union as well as the bicentenary of Immanuel Kant’s death. This so-called ‘Osterweiterung’ (eastern expansion) symbolized the end of the division of Europe that ensued after 1945 and promised the kind of economic support and political and cultural recognition that might begin to compensate for the hard fate meted out to these countries when compared with their Western neighbours. Not only were they devastated by the Second World War, but the post-war decades had brought them dictatorship and stagnation. Membership of the EU offered the distant hope that at some point these countries would cease to be Western Europe’s poor cousins. Kaliningrad, newly surrounded by EU members, seemed like a geopolitical oddity, more a Transnistria on the Baltic than a Russian Hong Kong. Two hundred years after Kant’s death, it also seemed to me a shame that a place that had made such a significant contribution to the Western canon through the work of its most famous son should be cut off from the rest of the continent. ‘A shame’, ‘cut off’, ‘cultural recognition’, ‘canon’, ‘famous sons’: this vocabulary and worldview is steeped in a particular ‘Western’ vision of European history-as-progress, as well as a particular way of thinking about the spatiality of Eastern Europe and European unity as a whole.

Later, I re-encountered Kaliningrad in Svetlana Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia (2001) – a far-sighted work, which correctly picked up on the appetite for geopolitical restoration in the Russian political culture of the 1990s, later realized in the annexation of Crimea in 2014. This led to a doctoral project on Kaliningrad and cultural memory, begun in 2009, on which the current work is based. The project had two hallmarks – one was an understanding of nostalgia borrowed from Walter Benjamin, dealing←12 | 13→ with themes of historical salvage, allegory, and criticism of modernity.39 The project also implicitly distanced itself from the programmatic and otherwise dominant notion of a Königsberg or Kaliningrad ‘text’, that is, the (structuralist) assumption of a fixed poetological model of imagining the city, featuring set motifs and themes, and constructed and reinforced through repetition, citation and modification.40 Instead, I sought to see representations of Königsberg-Kaliningrad in a more open way in relation to Cold War and post-Soviet contexts and strategies of memory, nostalgia and urban representation more generally, neither limited by direct indexicality to the actual site, nor by language or ‘national philology’.

Since 2012, when the dissertation was completed, I have revised parts of the broader project for publication as articles. Both relate to the work of Johannes Bobrowski. The first was a discussion that found no place in my thesis (or indeed this book), but dealt with a body of work and a topic (Volker Koepp’s representation of rural childhoods in the Kaliningrad Region on film, inspired by Bobrowski) that related clearly to nostalgia.41 The second engaged directly with the topic of nostalgia, but negotiated←13 | 14→ complex cultural and literary terrain (Bobrowski’s writing on Königsberg).42 This book itself is a re-interpretation of a body of work that I originally discussed in a different way. Instead of searching out the ‘rhetoric and poetics of the city’, or seeking to articulate Königsberg’s ‘persistence’ in Kaliningrad, my original and later updated goals, this book provides an account of the changing significance of Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a cultural memory site. In doing so, it also aims to provide a critical portrait of a place through its representations in literature and visual culture, one conscious of the workings of topography or ‘place-writing’. It also leaves out some of the original examples (e.g. from the work of Yuri Buida) that do not directly relate to the city of Kaliningrad, which Uilleam Blacker has in any case subsequently discussed in similar terms.43 Svetlana Boym used nostalgia as a way of allowing her to push the boundaries of what literary and cultural criticism could do, to discuss literary place, the symbolism of Europe, as well as trying to make sense of the first post-Soviet decade. This book is about these things, too. Crucially, as in all discussions of nostalgia, it is about understanding the relationship of representations to sites of memory: questions of referentiality.←14 | 15→

1 Aleksandr Pushkin, Mednyi vsadnik / The Bronze Horseman (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2003), p. 3.

2 Alexander Etkind, Internal Colonization: Russia’s Imperial Experience (Cambridge: Polity, 2011), p. 99.

3 Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), p. 41; p. 121.

4 Wolff, p. 143.

5 Wolff, p. 370.

6 Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, The German Myth of the East: 1800 to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 5.

7 Liulevicius, p. 5; p. 57; p. 59.

8 Liulevicius, p. 123.

9 Liulevicius, p. 239.

10 Wolff, p. 305; p. 343.

11 Wolff, pp. 332–43.

12 Oliver Harvey, ‘Missiles on the pitch’, The Sun, 3 December 2017, <https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5059200/kaliningrad-the-cold-war-england-belgium-world-cup/> [16 January 2018].

13 Cf. Bodo Plachta, ‘Remembrance and Revision: Goethe’s Houses in Weimar and Frankfurt’, in Writers’ Houses and the Making of Memory, ed. Harald Hendrix (New York and London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 45–60 (p. 45).

14 Astrid Erll, Memory in Culture, trans. Sara B. Young (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p. 7; p. 45.

15 Erll, pp. 97–9.

16 Ibid.

17 Erll, pp. 66–82; pp. 105–8.

18 Erll, p. 171.

19 Erll, pp. 105–8.

20 Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietala, ‘Introduction: Cold War Cities: History, Culture and Memory’, in Cold War Cities: History Culture and Memory, eds Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietalla (Bern: Peter Lang, 2016), pp. 1–14 (p. 2).

21 Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Spaces (Malden, Oxford and Carlton: Blackwell, 1996), pp. 78–81.

22 Erll, p. 165.

23 Erll, p. 164.

24 Cf. Erll, p. 77.

25 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), pp. 7–10.

26 Erll, p. 165.

27 Topography is a term that has been traditionally used to describe the genre of descriptive writing on specific locales, related to the broader genre of ‘chorography’ and often found in library catalogues in the joint form of the ‘history and topography’ of a given place (confusion can arise when authors use the word ‘topography’ to describe the physical lie of the land, formerly described as the ‘physiognomy’ of a place, a meaning that is avoided here).

28 Harald Hendrix, ‘Writers’ Houses as Media of Expression and Remembrance: From Self-Fashioning to Cultural Memory’, in Writers’ Houses and the Making of Memory, ed. Harald Hendrix (New York and London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 1–11 (p. 4).

29 Cf. Erll, pp. 63–4. Fuyuki Kurasawa, ‘A Message in a Bottle. Bearing Witness as a Mode of Transnational Practice’, Theory, Culture & Society 26:1 (2009), 92–111 (p. 95).

30 Andrew J. Webber, Berlin in the Twentieth Century: A Cultural Topography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 5.

31 Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), p. xvi.

32 Boym, p. xviii; Yuliya Komska, The Icon Curtain. The Cold War’s Quiet Border (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), pp. 179–85.

33 Cf. Anne Fuchs, After the Dresden Bombing: Pathways of Memory, 1945 to the Present (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 9–13.

34 Cf. Brigid Haines, ‘Introduction: The Eastern European Turn in Contemporary German-Language Literature’, German Life and Letters 68.2 (2015), 145–53. This paradigm is problematic for its lack of differentiation between contemporary Austria, Germany and Switzerland and for not speaking about the history of Prussian and Austrian colonization of Eastern and East-Central Europe.

35 Liulevicius, p. 158.

36 Cf. Fuchs, pp. 12–13.

37 Soja, p. 70, p. 74.

38 Boym, p. xvii.

39 Cf. Fredric Jameson, Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, Press, 1971), especially ‘Walter Benjamin; Or, Nostalgia’, pp. 60–83.

40 Tomas Venclova, ‘“Kenigsbergskii tekst” russkoi literatury i kenigsbergskie stikhi Iosifa Brodskogo’ in Kak rabotaet stikhotvorenie Brodskogo: sbornik statei (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2002), pp. 43–63; Elena Pogorelaia, ‘Solnechnoe spletnenie: sovremennaia kaliningradskaia poeziia’, Znamia 8 (2006), <http://magazines.russ.ru/znamia/2006/8/po22.html> [8 July 2018]; L. M. Gavrilina, ‘“Kaliningradskii tekst” kak reprezentatsiia regional’noi identichnosti’, Labirint. Zhurnal sotsial’no-gumanitarnykh issledovanii 5 (2013), 88–99; Xénia Gaál, ‘The City of K. (Königsberg/Kaliningrad) as a Cultural Phenomenon: Cultural Memory, the Myth and Identity of the City’, in Postcolonial Europe? Essays on Postcommunist Literatures and Cultures, eds Dobrota Pucherová and Róbert Gáfrik (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill Rodopi, 2015), pp. 243–59; Uilleam Blacker, ‘Writing from the Ruins of Europe: Representing Kaliningrad in Russian Literature from Brodsky to Buida’, The Slavonic and East European Review 93.4 (2015), 601–25.

41 Edward Saunders, ‘Post-Soviet Childhood and East Prussian Memory in Volker Koepp’s Documentary Holunderblüte (2007)’, Oxford German Studies, 44.3 (2015), 237–53.

42 Edward Saunders, ‘Nostalgia for the “Nowhere City”: Kaliningrad, Expellee Memory, and Johannes Bobrowski’s Königsberg’, The Modern Language Review 111.4 (2016), 1049–67. Parts of this article are included in this book and are reproduced here in amended form by kind permission of the Modern Humanities Research Association.

43 Blacker, 618–24. In his article, Blacker references my original dissertation as a historical source, but not the directly related discussions of Brodsky and Buida contained within it.

Chapter 1

Königsberg as a Lapsed and Unfulfilled Site of Germany’s Collective-Autobiographical Memory

In The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym describes the ‘codependency between modern ideas of progress and newness and antimodern claims of recovery of national community and the stable past’.1 In this chapter, my aim is to identify junctures between Königsberg-Kaliningrad’s history and Germany’s collective memory, principally those elements of a once ‘stable’ past that require ‘recovery’ in the aftermaths of Nazism, Communism and the Cold War, which we can contrast with dominant progress narratives. The chapter primarily relates to German memory culture in the 1990s, following reunification, but draws connections with older histories as far back as Königsberg’s medieval foundation. It addresses a variety of issues relating to Königsberg-Kaliningrad’s place within the stories Germany tells about itself as a state or nation. These raise questions about links between Germany’s ‘civilizing mission’ in Eastern Europe and perceptions of ‘cultural demise’ after 1945 (deterministic understandings), the differences between the potential and de facto ways Königsberg-Kaliningrad fits into Germany’s cultural historical map (imagined projections of the city), as well as the difficulties for individuals in dealing with the city’s divided and divisive pasts (the ‘real-and-imagined’ dimension). In particular, I give emphasis to the idea that a knowledge gap arose over the course of the Cold War in relationship to Königsberg-Kaliningrad, within the divided Germany as well as in the city itself, creating a blindness to the city’s heritage, even in plain sight. At the same time, you could also describe this ‘gap’ as the←17 | 18→ potential space of Königsberg as a site of what Astrid Erll terms ‘collective-autobiographical memory’, the ‘collective remembering of a shared past’.2

The chapter’s first part reconstructs the broader symbolism of Königsberg within older German memory narratives (particularly those relating to the Hohenzollern monarchy), focusing on Königsberg’s meaning for various Prussian or German rulers, including Adolf Hitler. The second part addresses the city’s fate during the Allied bombing campaigns and the early years of Soviet occupation. The third part discusses Kaliningrad as a resettled city and as a physical site of Second World War memory after 1945, especially in the light of a 1959 description by the journalist Hans Schewe. The fourth part describes forms of memory for Königsberg as a ‘movable feast’, a cultural milieu divorced from place and time, and as a ‘lost limb’, not least within the context of the tapestry of severed parts of the German national body presented by Alexander Kluge in the film Die Patriotin. The final part looks briefly at links between the city and more familiar places of German memory, based on the biography of Käthe Kollwitz, whose work was used in one of Germany’s most famous memorials, the Pietà at the Neue Wache in Berlin. Overall, I aim to demonstrate why I believe Königsberg-Kaliningrad deserves greater recognition among the sites of German national or collective-autobiographical memory, how its story provides an alternative view on German memory culture, as well as to provide the reader with the necessary contextual information on the history of Königsberg to make sense of the rest of this study. If I disagree with anyone in this chapter, then it is with those who study Eastern Europe while ignoring what Boym terms ‘local cosmopolitanism’, which I understand not only as the ‘cross-cultural encounters’ in the city itself, or nostalgia for them, but also as the embeddedness of local heritage in (often competing) national, transcultural and global frameworks.3←18 | 19→

Eastern crowns for Western kings: Königsberg’s potential as a memory site

Today most people know Königsberg only as the home of Immanuel Kant, but the German city’s story began in the Middle Ages, when the Teutonic Knights conquered the Baltic society who lived in the Königsberg area before the Germans, the so-called ‘Old Prussians’, before later co-opting their name. The ‘Duchy of Prussia’, the political unit that succeeded the State of the Teutonic Order, made Königsberg its ancestral heart, a place of coronation and tradition, without fully acknowledging its borrowed titles. Changing geographies have rendered Königsberg’s story unfamiliar, but the city played a crucial role in Germany’s cultural and political development. A member of the Hanseatic League, the city played important roles during the Reformation, the Enlightenment, in 1848 and in 1933. From 1945 to 1991, however, many Westerners perceived it as a ‘forbidden’ city, ‘eine verbotene Stadt’ – particularly in German eyes. Renamed Kaliningrad in 1946, Russian authorities preserved the Soviet-era name after Russian ‘independence’ in 1991. Elsewhere, though, Russian city administrations changed toponyms associated with Bolshevik politicians, as in Leningrad (St Petersburg), Stalingrad (Volgograd) and another city named after Kalinin (Tver’).

The taglines of popular history and travel books about the former East Prussia such as James Charles Roy’s Vanished Kingdom: Travels through the History of Prussia and Max Egremont’s Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia demonstrate Königsberg-Kaliningrad’s place within Western histories, as an exotic and ‘uncanny’ region of Eastern Europe.4 Collective-autobiographical memories shape and influence how we perceive and narrate the material remnants of cultural history, which Erll calls ‘collective-semantic memory’ (in other words, material evidence or←19 | 20→ heritage, documents and archives).5 Two aspects of Königsberg’s semantic memory that deserve particular emphasis in relation to such collective autobiographies are its ‘colonial’ foundation (even if some historians reject such ‘anachronistic’ interpretations, the resettlement of Prussia by Crusaders is comparable to modern colonial experiences), as well as the shift in Prussia’s governance, a revolution by another name, that took place there during the Reformation.

Geographically speaking, Kaliningrad lies in the broad valley of the River Pregel (in Russian, Pregolia), characterized by broad, flat meadows and marshland. Before it reaches the city, the Pregel divides into two branches, leaving two islands. The German names for the islands, Lomse and Kneiphof, derive from words for swampland and fallow ground, giving a sense of their natural state.6 Russian Kaliningraders now call them Kant Island and October Island. Opposite the islands on the north bank, the ground rises steeply, forming a hill plateau fifteen metres higher than the river. Before the German colonization, oak woods covered the plateau and small streams had carved out gullies. The Old Prussians, who built defences there, called the hill ‘Tuwangste’, the earliest known name for the place.7

Tuwangste stood at a thirteenth-century crossroads, a local centre of sorts. On the south side of the Pregel, roads led towards the Vistula Lagoon (Frisches Haff), to the Vistula (Weichsel) river, and to the regions of Bartia and Natangia. On the north side, roads led to Sambia (Samland) and the amber coast, along the Pregel towards Lithuania, and to Courland (now Latvia) and the Curonian Spit (Kurische Nehrung). In 1255, the Teutonic Knights suppressed local tribes, built a fortress on the hill and named it ‘Königsberg’ (as will be seen in the following chapter, they chose the name to honour a Bohemian king, or, just possibly, a Palestinian castle). In the traditional version, at least, these warrior monks had a ‘pre-civilized’ starting point that conformed neatly to regional type: forests, marshland,←20 | 21→ heathens. Nowadays, a brutalist tower surveys the same scene, the empty House of Soviets, next to the exposed foundations of the medieval fortress.

To distinguish the place from other, similar sounding castles, what had been Tuwangste became ‘Königsberg in Preußen’ [Königsberg in Prussia].8 For centuries, this Königsberg consisted of three adjacent towns (with separate councils), which grew up around the castle: Altstadt, Löbenicht and Kneiphof. Several nearby Baltic Prussian villages, such as Tragheim and Sackheim, also later became districts of Königsberg. Economically, the Crusader colony found a foothold and within a century of its foundation, the city had joined the Hanseatic League. Militarily, the fortress remained under the Teutonic Order’s control through two fifteenth-century wars with Poland and Lithuania, eventually becoming the centre of the State of the Teutonic Order when the Order lost its base at Marienburg to Casimir IV Jagiellon, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. In 1457, just over 200 uneasy years after its foundation, the ‘outpost’ of Königsberg became a political centre for the first time.

Even if contemporary Germany is the successor of many, varied political entities, you can still trace a direct line from the change of headquarters from Marienburg to Königsberg, only two years after the printing of the Gutenberg Bible, to Berlin becoming capital of a unified Germany. For, within a century, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights had met Martin Luther, renounced his monastic vows, got married, and – crucially – created the Duchy of Prussia from the State of the Teutonic Order. In 1525, Albrecht von Hohenzollern, a descendant of Lithuanian and Polish royalty and the princely house of Brandenburg, made Königsberg the centre of Europe’s first Protestant state and himself the first Lutheran ruler. He did so by swearing allegiance to his uncle Zygmunt, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (and son of Casimir IV, who took the Marienburg). Under Duke Albrecht, Königsberg became the Residenzstadt [town of residence, i.e. of the duke] and, for around 135 years, acted as the Prussian capital.←21 | 22→

Prussia’s eastern promise did not last. Albrecht’s son became duke as a teenager and went mad as an adult, dying childless. Instead of a ducal house tied to the Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellonians via Albrecht’s mother, the Margraves of Brandenburg inherited the duchy, ruling Prussia from 1618 onwards as part of the combined state of Brandenburg-Prussia. From 1660, they lived in Berlin and the state’s centre of power shifted from East to West. Many people today comment about Berlin’s location within Germany, seemingly so eastern, so far from the country’s centre, yet few think of Prussia as a state once ruled from Berlin in the West, with a hinterland located between present-day Poland and Lithuania – or, for that matter, as a sixteenth-century political experiment in East-West peacemaking gone awry.

Like the Austrian ruler Maria Theresa, crowned in Hungary, the Brandenburg Hohenzollerns had to travel east in order to augment their growing status. The Holy Roman Emperor could not turn Brandenburg into a kingdom, due to its status within the Holy Roman Empire. Instead, in return for military support, Emperor Leopold I supported Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg in crowning himself as ‘King in Prussia’ (monarchy being, in theory, a god-given right). Prussia, unlike Brandenburg, lay outside the Empire meaning that the ‘king’s mountain’ had a royal name, but no real king. The coronation took place at a ceremony in Königsberg on 18 January 1701. Later, the Hohenzollerns upgraded the title. In 1772, King Friederich II (better known as Frederick the Great) made a symbolic adjustment from ‘King in Prussia’ to ‘King of Prussia’. It seems the first two kings disliked Königsberg. Friedrich I declared Berlin as his ‘capital and city of residence’ in 1709.9 Friedrich II, channeling prevailing views of Eastern Europe, wrote in 1772 that Königsberg was ‘better suited for raising bears than as a place of scholarship’.10←22 | 23→

Despite Berlin’s rise, the Hohenzollerns recognized Königsberg’s ancestral significance for the supposedly ‘Prussian’ monarchy. As the place of coronation, Königsberg remained their second official residence until 1918.11 Ever conscious of status and power, the Hohenzollerns became German Emperors in 1871. Wilhelm I used his coronation at Königsberg to make claims about the divine right of kings in order to sideline parliament.12 His son, Wilhelm II, did something similar in a speech there in 1910, defending the absolute rights of the monarch, irrespective of ‘parliaments, people’s assemblies, people’s resolutions’.13 On two occasions, the Kaiser spoke of Königsberg’s importance, describing the city as the ‘cradle of the monarchy’ and speaking of the ‘very special inner bonds’ connecting the city and province to the House of Hohenzollern.14 Both emperors drew strategically on the symbolism of the place where Duke Albrecht had turned a military and religious colony, essentially a membership organization, into a family affair.

Hitler made the final German pilgrimage to Königsberg in pursuit of power and symbolism. On the eve of Weimar Germany’s last multiparty (and disputed) election in March 1933, only weeks before he became a dictator, the would-be Führer addressed the nation from Königsberg.15 En route, he made a press statement explaining his visit, saying, ‘Just as the fire of German freedom was always lit from the German East, so too←23 | 24→ the National-Socialist freedom movement addresses its last appeal to the nation before March 5th from there’.16 He added, ‘We greet East Prussia! We stand with East Prussia. We will fight for East Prussia until the last’.17 Hitler’s allusion to freedom evoked memories of the Prussian general, Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg, who in a decisive call to arms at Königsberg in 1813 appealed to the East Prussian Junkers to support a war of liberation against Napoleon. Hitler used Königsberg’s location in East Prussia, an exclave since the Versailles treaty, to evoke resistance to Germany’s loss of power and status, but the East Prussian location also allowed him to reference Crusader history. The next day, dubbed the ‘day of national awakening’, Hitler cast his vote at a school in Königsberg’s Schönstraße.18

Königsberg in the Second World War

Intended in part to secure the Weimar-era exclave of East Prussia, Nazi Germany’s eastward expansion put Königsberg in a dangerous position during the Second World War. The invasion of Poland in September 1939 restored the territorial link between East Prussia and the rest of Germany. Meanwhile, from August 1940, the Soviet Union took control of the neighbouring Baltic States. As such, East Prussia bordered the Soviet Union at the point of invasion in 1941. In the Second World War, Königsberg’s port supplied the Eastern Front, supporting the invasion of Soviet Russia. Due to Germany’s initial military success, the effects of war came late to Königsberg. Although an early target for Soviet aviation in 1941, widespread←24 | 25→ destruction hardly affected Königsberg until British planes mined the docks on 9 April 1944. A year to the day, devastated and in ruins, Soviet troops occupied the city.

A bombing campaign led from the West had sealed the city’s fate. In August 1944, the RAF bombed Königsberg twice more. On the first night, 26–27 August, 174 Lancasters of the RAF’s 5-Group flew 1,530 kilometres from their base in Grantham, Lincolnshire, to Königsberg. On the second night, 189 Lancasters led by Wing Commander J. Woodroffe carried out ‘one of the most successful 5-Group attacks of the war on this target at extreme range’, despite a twenty minute delay caused by low cloud.19 Bomber Command estimated that the actions destroyed 41 per cent of housing and 21 per cent of all industry in Königsberg. German sources state that British bombing destroyed 90 per cent of building stock.20 Attacks focused on the city’s historic core – the areas of Altstadt, Löbenicht and Kneiphof, as well as Lastadie, a picturesque warehouse quarter on the Pregel. German sources estimated that roughly 5,000 people lost their lives and around 200,000 lost their homes.21 Low cloud, shooting from German fighter planes, and searchlights made the attack difficult. Pilot Geoff King described it as a ‘harassing time’ and recalled the ‘vast damage done in Königsberg’.22

The third wave of destruction came from the East in late March and early April 1945. The Soviet assault on East Prussia began on 12 January 1945, earlier than planned, taking both the German military and civilian population by surprise.23 By 26 January, Soviet troops had reached Königsberg’s outer defences. The need to deal with the German Fourth Army, cut off in Heiligenbeil, gave the city a little extra time.←25 | 26→ Even so, the fighting forced many inhabitants to flee across the frozen waters of the Vistula Lagoon (Frisches Haff) and then escape along the Vistula Spit (Frische Nehrung) towards Danzig. The Red Army had surrounded Königsberg by 29 January. Its population swollen by thousands of extra refugees, the Soviets besieged the city for ten weeks. At that point, the German army retook the Samland peninsula and the route to Pillau, allowing some of the civilian population to escape. In March, preparations for the final attack against the heavily fortified city began, ‘expected to be one of the largest and most difficult urban assaults ever undertaken by the Soviet Army’.24 The artillery bombardment started in April, the final assault on 6 April. The military commander in Königsberg, General Otto Lasch, surrendered at 9.30 pm on 9 April. At the time, the city held more than 35,000 Wehrmacht soldiers, 15,000 ‘foreign workers’ and 100,000 German civilians.25 Only the suburban areas of Maraunenhof, Amalienau and Juditten, as well as the central streets Auf den Hufen, Hansaplatz and Hansaring remained undamaged. The German army defended the port at Pillau almost until the last, surrendering only on 26 April 1945, when the Red Army had already reached more westerly Berlin.

As one of its earliest Second World War memorials, the Red Army unveiled an obelisk dedicated to ‘the 1200 Guardsmen’ (1200 gvardeitsev) in Königsberg on 30 September 1945. Marshal Bagramian called the monument ‘a stone book’.26 The swift construction of the monument indicates the importance of commemorating the hard fought battle for East Prussia and especially for Königsberg, a part of Second World War history that Westerners generally know comparatively little about. In what follows, I summarize the final years of ‘Königsberg’ and the early years of ‘Kaliningrad’: a story of suffering, confusion and resettlement.←26 | 27→

Königsberg as an unfulfilled site of memory

German Königsberg’s new Soviet life began almost from day one, in early April 1945. No historian can fully reconstruct what the population of Königsberg endured in the months that followed. Soviet troops certainly plundered the city and subjected civilians to inhumane retributory practices, including mass rape.27 As in other German regions east of the Oder, Königsberg suffered devastating health and hygiene problems in 1945–7, with a severe typhus epidemic. Serious food shortages left people resorting to digging up animal carcasses and, in the most extreme instances, cannibalism.28 The suicide of the local Party head Petr Ivanov in 1947 bears witness to the circumstances in the city.29

Historians have struggled to create reliable accounts of the demographic and legislative changes, particularly concerning the actual application of Soviet regulations. According to Glinski and Wörster, relying on expellee accounts, Germans could not leave the city or region without special permission from the Soviet occupation onwards, although many managed to escape eastwards to Lithuania.30 According to Kostiashov, 300,000 Germans left East Prussia in the months March and April 1945, and by 1950 1.3 million refugees from East Prussia had arrived in West←27 | 28→ Germany.31 Brodersen states that Soviet authorities only introduced a full registration system of city residents in 1946 and gives different population figures – Königsberg had a population of 68,000 by September 1945, while only 10 per cent of East Prussia’s pre-war population of 1,250,000 inhabitants remained.32 Even if these figures do not quite tally, what seems clear is that in the years 1945–6, the number of Soviet settlers living in Königsberg at some point exceeded the number of German inhabitants remaining in the city and a stringent system of registration was introduced in the same period.33

Western leaders Churchill and Truman confirmed the transfer of sovereignty to the Soviet Union at the Potsdam Conference in 1945, although the subsequent agreement (signed by Churchill’s successor, Attlee) made no provision for the German population.34 Settlers from across the Soviet Union, mostly ethnic Russians, began coming to Königsberg before the Potsdam Agreement. Later, Soviet authorities forcibly resettled 12,000 families from the Russian and Belarusian Soviet Republics in Kaliningrad between August and October 1946.35 They gave settlers a free ticket and the promise of a flat or house with a plot of land. By the autumn of 1946, 108,500 Soviet settlers had arrived.36 By 1951, half a million settlers had made their way to the Kaliningrad region.37 Many left again soon afterwards. The population even decreased slightly in the early 1950s,38 ←28 | 29→but today the city has 431,902 inhabitants, just over half the population of the entire region.39

Stalin did not immediately deport Germans from the Kaliningrad region, indeed recent research by Morag McIvor indicates that the Soviet government’s lack of clear policy to the region corresponds with a general uncertainty on Germany’s future shape, as well as the fact that Stalin personally seems to have considered giving Kaliningrad to both Poland and Lithuania.40 Whatever the intended outcome, the Soviet annexation had the primary goal of expanding the Soviet sphere of influence and decreasing Germany’s territorial reach. The first plans for deportation of German citizens emerged in 1947 and the Soviet authorities worried that they might be too hasty.41 Subsequently, 29,000 Germans left the city between 1947 and 1951.42 Between 1955 and 1960, some 15,050 Germans moved from the Soviet Union to West Germany, 44 per cent of them from East Prussia. Even in the mid-1960s, the newspaper Kaliningradskaia pravda pubished articles reacting to the emigration of Germans.43 Some Germans stayed in the city until the 1970s, and only then moved West. Others grew up in children’s homes and never moved away, like Eduard Korbach, who in 1980 managed the amber workshop at Palmnicken-Iantarnyi. In the 1960s and 1970s, authorities brought ethnic Germans from Kazakhstan to Kaliningrad, some of whom hoped to be able to emigrate faster to Germany.44

The Red Army’s occupation of northern East Prussia from 1945 caused vast movements of population westwards, as Germans first fled or were later deported. Soviet Russians replaced them, many involuntarily, moving into←29 | 30→ a devastated city. German Königsberg can be seen as a conquered city of the enemy for Soviet citizens, and as a nostalgic utopia for Germans, while the Soviet administration planned a model Soviet or Russian Kaliningrad, which Western visitors subsequently perceived as a dystopian city after 1991.45 Yet these competing narrations of Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a lieu de mémoire that articulates the intention to remember hide the concurrent sense of the abandoned potential of Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a memorial or ‘museum’ city: Kaliningrad, the Russian city of the post-war and post-Soviet periods, as a lieu de mémoire manqué.46

The image of Kaliningrad as a dystopia was particularly clear in the early years of the ‘independent’ post-Soviet Russia, causing Amos Elon to dub it the ‘nowhere city’.47 If the fall of the Berlin Wall became a symbol of hope for a reunited continent in 1989, Kaliningrad in 1991 was a picture of despair. Home to the naval base at Baltiisk (Pillau), Kaliningrad had enjoyed some strategic importance as the westernmost part of the Soviet Union. In Mark Galeotti’s description, it was ‘one of the most heavily militarised regions of the world’, but Soviet disintegration turned it into a ‘fortress without a state’, its ‘military bases and forces’ having been ‘stranded by economic collapse’.48 Kaliningrad was cut off from the rest of Russia by the newly independent Lithuania and was rife with social and economic problems, most notably a lack of future vision. Visitors from the West and from the former Communist states of Central Europe could visit the region freely, but, except for the ‘Heimwehtouristen’ in search of lost homes, ‘Königsberg’ had lost its symbolic place on the European map. In the discourse of restorative nostalgia (both German and Soviet Russian), Königsberg’s story had ended in 1945 and, according←30 | 31→ to this narrative, the Soviets had built Kaliningrad where Königsberg had once stood.

Faced with a city in ruins, the new inhabitants quite pragmatically occupied the buildings that were still intact around the former Hansaplatz, now renamed Ploshchad’ pobedy [Victory Square], as well as in the garden suburbs. For a time, city authorities planned to turn the ruined centre into a vast memorial complex. In the first years after victory, it was suggested that a wall could be built around the bombed out buildings and the place preserved as a real-life diorama documenting the horrors of war. It would have been a ‘museum city’, where excursions would be made for the benefit of ‘those aspiring to world domination’, a similar project to that realized at Oradour-sur-Glane in France, a village left in ruins in June 1944 by the Nazi Waffen-SS and later turned into a permanent memorial.49 In the end, Soviet authorities cleared the rubble and ruins away, planting the former centre with trees, leaving the ruins of the cathedral with Immanuel Kant’s grave as the only intact structure in a kind of park on the city’s central island. The old Royal Castle of the Hohenzollerns survived and stood for many years as a ruin, before the city authorities destroyed that, too, despite some local opposition.50

At least four West German journalists visited Kaliningrad before 1991, as did the East German writer Elisabeth Schulz-Semrau.51 The first was Hans Schewe, writing for Die Welt, who in July 1959 became the only←31 | 32→ German correspondent to visit Kaliningrad in the first twenty years after the war. Schewe thought he had little hope of realizing his goal. In an article titled ‘Königsberg heißt heute Kaliningrad’ [‘Today Königsberg is called Kaliningrad’], he described the aspiration as ‘a hopeless endeavour’.52 In theory, the Soviet government allowed no Western journalists into the city (in Schewe’s words, it was veiled in ‘the very highest level of secrecy’),53 yet Per Brodersen has shown that following the removal of ‘border zone’ status in 1955, Kaliningrad became accessible to other foreigners (from states on friendly terms with the Soviet Union), including Egyptian students.54 With persistence, Schewe was given permission to travel to the city. What he witnessed was a testament to the ruination of war: ‘One of the most upsetting memorials of its kind’.55

Schewe began his description of Kaliningrad in 1959 at Immanuel Kant’s grave. He witnessed a Russian student placing a bunch of ox-eye daisies on the grave. A wooden notice informed visitors that the grave was an officially protected monument, but a corner of the tomb’s marble slab had split away. With strong summer sun, the grave lay in the shadow of the ruined cathedral. On the former Domstraße (‘Cathedral Street’, now covered by the park, but apparently still present in 1959), Schewe saw women in headscarves filling in potholes with rubble. In the body of the cathedral, seven goats grazed on the grass and nettles growing among heaps of rubble. Even a small birch tree had taken root. The sun shone through the window openings and on one wall someone had written ‘I love you Zhenia’ in chalk, in Russian. Schewe saw two seven-year-old boys practising climbing amidst the rubble. He wrote, ‘All around there is only rubble, wilderness, debris and dust. Here the traces of war are still untouched. They are supposed to be preserved as a memorial […] Kaliningrad’s ruined heart is supposed to fulfil a final task, even if it beats no more’.56←32 | 33→

As a memorial environment, however, it was far from peaceful – Schewe described the Soviet jet fighters repeatedly flying low overhead and the constant stream of lorries on the former Lindenstraße nearby, transporting rubble away from the city centre and bringing new building materials. Schewe was able to witness the hardship of being a settler in Kaliningrad and how multivalent it was as a memorial to war: ‘The people that live here – 220,000 Soviet citizens at present – are pioneers. No one should envy them their task. It is hard and full of sacrifices. And some of them must certainly think about the people who lived here before them’.57 Königsberg-Kaliningrad in 1959 still reminded visitors of the horrors of war, but also of the suffering that resulted from it, for both Soviet and German citizens. Unlike later journalists, who would focus on Kaliningrad’s architectural shortcomings, Schewe shows understanding for the difficulties of post-war life.

Concern for materiality in relation to history and nostalgia has a long history of its own and through its association with Romanticism can also be seen as a response to the forgetfulness of modernity. Peter Fritzsche states how for Friedrich Schlegel and others, preserving material heritage ‘made it possible to think about distinct, half-hidden pasts of which Europeans were the potential legatees and guardians’.58 Furthermore, European nationalisms depend on such material ruins, for they help visualize narratives of ‘national survival’.59 The ruins of Königsberg in 1959 said more than a history book because they presented parts of the historical narrative that are excluded from official and collective narratives. Schewe’s images – lovelorn graffiti, goats grazing, plants growing amid rubble, the slog of reconstruction, the military aircraft noise – show how the city as←33 | 34→ memorial contains elements of hope. It is a melancholy but empathetic perspective on the city.

Kaliningrad never fully took on its function as a memorial to the destructive power of war – indeed, even in 2010 a plaque on the ‘Kneiphof’ or ‘Kant island’ only promised the construction of a monument to peace.60 Just visible beneath its Russian words were the scrubbed-out letters of a different inscription, a telling illustration of the way pasts get re-used. Even so, it would be wrong to think of Kaliningrad as a city without any official commemoration of National Socialism and its consequences. Away from the former centre, the ‘Memorial to the 1200 Guardsmen’, dating back to September 1945, remembers the Red Army’s extensive losses, while a small Holocaust memorial was erected on the site of the former synagogue (destroyed in 1938) in the post-Soviet period. Nevertheless, in Nora’s sense, Kaliningrad is a city where the ‘intention to remember’ the full human cost of war and dictatorship, particularly in relation to its former German population, has been given up, or left unfulfilled. In his terms, this might cast doubt on its status as a place of German memory of Nazism, let alone of flight and expulsion – at least as far as the physical site is concerned.61

Königsberg as a ‘movable feast’ and a lost limb: Remembering and forgetting

For researchers coming to Königsberg’s history after-the-fact, the challenge of retrieving any usable cultural historical narrative overwhelms the other imperative of describing its history in terms that do not simply repeat patriarchal, nationalist, heroizing discourses. You could, for example, describe←34 | 35→ Königsberg as a ‘home and haunt’ for many of the most significant (male) names in German culture. The patronage of the Hohenzollerns from the sixteenth century on, you might explain, together with the city’s bourgeois mercantile culture, created a lively intellectual climate by the late eighteenth century, which endured into the twentieth. Expecting to impress your audience, you might mention that, apart from Kant, Königsberg also influenced the lives of Simon Dach, Johann Christoph Gottsched, Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz, Johann Gottfried Herder, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Bessel, and later David Hilbert, among others.

I suspect some German readers might feel justifiably proud of this list of local greats. The average English-speaking reader has probably not heard of half of them. I find that the problem of dealing with the knowledge gap and going beyond it affects many focused cultural studies of Eastern Europe. On the one hand, Cold War politics meant new governments in the East ignored the history of their predecessors in resettled cities and regions, while in the West disinterest and inaccessibility exacerbated such forgetting. On the other hand, German expellees took ‘their’ cultural heritage with them – as Moeller puts it in another context, ‘Heimat was clearly depicted as a movable feast. Traditions and values were rooted in Germans, not in specific locations in Germany’.62

Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietala describe ‘Cold War cities’ as ‘cities rising and falling, thriving, transitioning and in ruination as a result of Cold War dynamics’.63 Other resettled ‘Cold War cities’ in Eastern Europe, such as Lviv, also suffer from a disconnect between autobiographical and semantic forms of collective memory, although Thomas Serrier has argued that the rupture of 1945 had more profound consequences in Königsberg-Kaliningrad than in other Baltic cities.64 You might add←35 | 36→ to this how collective-semantic memories lived on in diaspora in the Cold War, for local networks proved resilient – at least for a generation. Former members of the University of Königsberg continued to publish a Königsberg University journal (Jahrbuch) into the 1980s, while publicly funded institutions such as the ‘Bibliothek des Deutschen Ostens’ [Library of the German East] in Herne, or the Herder-Institut in Marburg focused on preserving the historical legacy of the lost territories. German expellees set up an exhibition on Königsberg’s urban history in Duisburg, initially in the form of the ‘Haus Königsberg’ (Königsberg House) and later as part of Duisburg museum (Figure 1). Publications such as the Königsberger Bürgerbrief [Königsberg Citizens’ Post] and rituals such as the commemoration of the tenth, twenty-fifth and fiftieth anniversaries of Duisburg’s adoptive status towards Königsberg show how individuals and groups were able sustain the city’s memory in diaspora. If in the 1960s commemorative publications emphasized historical topics, by the 1970s adverts for East Prussian care homes for the elderly, memorabilia and authentic Königsberg marzipan were also included. By the 2000s, greater emphasis was placed on Russian-German relations, and the history of the commemorative efforts themselves.65 Such examples show the movable feast of Königsberg’s archival memory, dependent on the generation of expellees and their shifting nostalgic concerns, existed as a counterpart and reaction to Kaliningrad’s Cold War-era collective-semantic forgetting.←36 | 37→


Figure 1: Exhibition of ‘Haus Königsberg’. Reproduced by permission of the Stadtgemeinschaft Königsberg.

After 1945, German expellees from former Prussian and Austrian regions of Eastern Europe engaged in different forms of West-East cultural construction. Former inhabitants of the Sudetenland in Bohemia, as Komska perceptively observes, saw the ‘demise’ of their former homes on the other side of the Iron Curtain after 1945 ‘first and foremost’ as ‘cultural’.66 Oblivious, perhaps, to Germany’s part in destroying its own culture, remembering and documenting the collective-semantic memory of the region known problematically as the ‘German East’ (as in Hitler’s speech) became an important concern. Hans Rothfels, one of the originators of the German discipline of ‘contemporary history’←37 | 38→ (Zeitgeschichte), believed strongly in the importance of ‘establish[ing] the significance of German cultural contributions in eastern Europe’.67 In West Germany, researchers at dedicated institutes studied ‘the social, political, and cultural contributions of the German-speaking communities’ in Eastern Europe, unfortunately also often turning a blind eye to Jewish contributions.68

If future historians write a critical history of Königsberg, its Jewish heritage might be a good place to start. Königsberg’s famous Jewish residents include Leah Rabin, widow of the Israeli prime minister, and the political theorist Hannah Arendt. Attending the same school as the artist Käthe Kollwitz had previously, Arendt lived in Königsberg from 1909 to 1924, when she left to study at Marburg. Her Königsberg childhood shaped her later career, even long after her emigration to the United States to escape Nazism. Arendt treated Königsberg as a metonym for an intellectual tradition (she left unfinished work related to Kant’s concept of judgement at the time of her death). In conversation with Joachim Fest in 1964, Arendt said, ‘In my way of thinking and judging, I still come from Königsberg. Sometimes I hide it from myself. But that’s how it is’.69 Emphasizing the city’s loss of its freethinking heritage, Arendt also told Uwe Johnson, ‘We were the last ones in Königsberg to speak with our hands’.70 For Arendt, too, Königsberg became a movable feast.

While several German-speaking cities now have a ‘Hannah Arendt Street’ or ‘Hannah Arendt Square’, Königsberg, predictably, commemorated a litany of monarchs, generals, famous sons and visitors, worthy Prussians, and notable academics. Expellee historians documented these statues, memorial plaques, busts, and commemorative street names of Königsberg – a semantic memory store for a future local history society. For example, the city put up a statue of Immanuel Kant, but also two of←38 | 39→ King Friedrich I, one of King Ottokar of Bohemia, and no less than four statues of Duke Albrecht.71 Commemoration of these individuals and others, some of whose names may still be found plentifully in places such as Berlin (despite criticism from Andreas Huyssen and others, see next chapter), might be considered as examples of Königsberg’s continuing scattered collective-semantic memory.

Due to these similarities and differences with other more studied places, Kaliningrad deserves greater recognition among the representative topoi of German historical memory, the nation’s lieux de mémoire in the narrow sense of Pierre Nora’s phrase, as specific national configurations ‘of the past within the present: history of the second degree’.72 Others have thought the same (although, admittedly, a fictionalized example follows). The 1979 West German production Die Patriotin [‘The Patriotic Woman’] (1979), directed by Alexander Kluge, maps a series of pre-war Germany’s displaced parts, like Kaliningrad. The film shares much of its material another film, Deutschland im Herbst [‘Germany in Autumn’] (1978). Narrated by a knee joint, a device borrowed from Christian Morgenstern’s poem ‘Das Knie’, it interweaves archival footage of cultural and geographical topoi of German culture with a narrative about historiography. The film’s fictional main character, the patriotic Gabi Teichert, teaches history. In Die Patriotin, archaeology symbolizes an investigative approach towards Germany’s past. Gabi wants to change the subject she teaches. She finds the school history curriculum too negative, because German history is itself too negative, and so she sets out to change it.

Much of Die Patriotin deals with legacies of the Second World War, responding to the ways in which German collective-autobiographical narratives repressed memories of recent trauma, privileging the story of←39 | 40→ reconstruction and hard work.73 As a body part lost at Stalingrad, the knee joint claims that the dead do not die, but rather search through history. The film’s tableaux of historic sites include Kaliningrad. The city’s brief appearance alongside locations such as the Reichstag building, Cologne Cathedral, Frankfurt’s financial district, Stalingrad, and Silesia, marks it out as an orientation point on Germany’s post-war cultural map. In Kluge’s film, history and the German experience of it undergo various forms of mirroring, citation and displacement, and the Kaliningrad fragment forms part of this patchwork. Sandwiched between footage of several German ‘terrorists’ being summarily executed in Spring 1945 and footage of Willy Brandt at a conference, presumably sometime around 1970, the Kaliningrad clip lasts around a minute.74 Shot in black and white, it shows branches moving softly in the breeze, partly obscuring a church building, behind the tower of which the sun is starting to sink (the building shown is not the historic Königsberg cathedral, and probably not even genuine footage from Kaliningrad). The shot shows the building in silhouette. Clouds fill the sky and poplars can be seen on the horizon. Later, the camera shows the church again without the bush. The narrator (the knee lost at Stalingrad) says, ‘This bush stands near Kaliningrad, in the Soviet Union, 45 km from the Polish border’. He continues, ‘This area used to be called Königsberg. That doesn’t concern the bush’.75

Kluge highlights the idea of Königsberg being cut off, a lost part of the German national body like the knee-joint. Essentially, his work corresponds to what Marianne Hirsch describes as ‘postmemorial’ (i.e. second-generation, not first-hand) ‘archival practices […] of assembling, arranging, and display’.76 The film asks what the divided Germany had become by←40 | 41→ showing what it used to be, but can only do so in kaleidoscopic fashion. An intertitle, also found in Deutschland im Herbst, backs up this interpretation: ‘The closer you look at a word, the more distantly it looks back at you. Germany’.77 The film collects Germany’s fragments into an album, in order to again estrange the country as a concept. Kluge finds evidence of the country’s disfigurement in individual narratives and fragments, but not in the collective narrative. One piece in a larger puzzle, the brief, remote presence of Königsberg-Kaliningrad links the city to debates about the country’s then still divided condition.

By 1991, most town and cities had rebuilt their centres, clearing the ruins of the world war. Two European cities, though, had large empty spaces right at their heart. Like Berlin, Kaliningrad was a former official residence of the Prussian monarchy. As in Berlin, Cold War history left a void at its centre, ruinous pre-war buildings elsewhere, and a sense of incoherent planning. The similarities end there. If the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized hopes for a reunited continent in 1989, Kaliningrad in 1991 represented something closer to the opposite. Home to the naval base at Baltiisk (Pillau), Kaliningrad had enjoyed some strategic importance as the westernmost part of the Soviet Union. Now rife with social and economic problems, Lithuanian independence had cut Kaliningrad off territorially from the rest of Russia – an exclave, just as West Berlin had been.

For most Western commentators, Königsberg’s story ended in 1945 and, according to this narrative, there was ‘nothing left’ of Königsberg in Kaliningrad. In reality, Soviet authorities might have liked to erase the remains of Königsberg, but economic and practical concerns prevented them. As already described, unlike in Breslau-Wrocław, where the new Polish inhabitants reconstructed the Cathedral Island, Kaliningrad authorities levelled Königsberg’s ruined centre and planted it with trees. Medieval Königsberg’s three original districts became an open green space, the ground level raised by buried rubble, with a ruined cathedral and Immanuel Kant’s grave left standing. Later still, planners added modern tower blocks at the edges, wider roads, and a bridge across the park. Instead of rebuilding←41 | 42→ Königsberg or even building Kaliningrad over it, the Soviets lived in the newer parts of ‘Königsberg’, and after deliberating on potential uses, decided against reconstructing the void that had been its old centre as well as the ‘museum city’ idea. No ‘tabula rasa’ fantasy followed annexation, rather a pragmatic pattern of inhabitation, reuse and absent-minded neglect of the German heritage.

Bridges to Königsberg

Despite the failure of Königsberg as a site of memory, both ‘on site’ in Kaliningrad and within German collective autobiography, plenty of material signs and symbols exists to link Königsberg to contemporary Germany. In the heart of Berlin, the street Unter den Linden leads eastwards from the Brandenburg Gate towards the Humboldtforum, the ‘City Palace’ of the Hohenzollern kings and Kaisers currently under reconstruction. Nearby stands the Neue Wache, a neo-classical royal guardhouse built in 1816. Since 1993, the building has housed a sculpture of a mother and child, the Pietà by Käthe Kollwitz. Four times larger than the 1937/8 original version, the German government chose to remodel the sculpture after the country’s reunification to commemorate victims of persecution and state violence. The memorial owes its existence and its meaning to Germany’s sense of ‘collective-autobiographical memory’.78

Kollwitz’s Pietà shows a dying man cowering between a woman’s legs, his head tilted back and his hands held loosely together in front of his chest in a posture of weak defence. The woman’s left arm reaches around him protectively. Grieving, she holds the back of her right hand to her mouth and looks downwards. She wears a simple hooded cloak, suggesting poverty and humility. A shaft of daylight falls into the dark, silent space from above. A portrait of suffering, it captures the misery caused by extreme ideologies,←42 | 43→ especially Nazism. The statue commemorates the raw emotions of personal loss for fallen conscripts shared by thousands of German families, east and west. At the same time, its universal human motif leaves room for visitors to remember their own losses, their own countries’ sufferings. Repurposed, the statue asks visitors to reflect on dictatorships’ human cost.

Commonly associated with Berlin, the city where she studied and worked, documenting everyday suffering during the inter-war years, Kollwitz was born and brought up in Königsberg in the late nineteenth century. Before her death in 1945, Kollwitz wrote a memoir in which she described her Königsberg youth:

First we bought cherries, or whatever was on offer, and then we set off on what we called our stroll. And that is really how it was. We strolled through the whole city and out through the gates, we sat down above the Pregel and crept around the port […] This seemingly unplanned strolling certainly helped my artistic development. If, for a long time, I based my later work on the working classes, then the reason lies in that roaming around the cramped trading city, full of workers.79

Beyond Königsberg’s determinist influence on Kollwitz, the artist’s origins in present-day Russia serve as a reminder that the Allies did not simply divide Germany into two in the aftermath of the Second World War, but into four. Poland and the Soviet Union both gained East Prussian territories in 1945 originally colonized by German crusaders in the Middle Ages. The guardhouse in Berlin protected descendants of those warrior-colonizers, for the Hohenzollern family came to power in Prussia via Königsberg.

No memorial in Kaliningrad commemorates the hundreds of thousands of civilians who lost their homes, but the city has places for reflection nevertheless, among them one related directly to Kollwitz. She came from←43 | 44→ an influential family in Königsberg and her memorial to her uncle, Julius Rupp, has been reinstituted outside the restored cathedral. Its inscription transforms it from a simple memorial to a public monument. It reads, ‘Wer nach der Wahrheit, die er bekennt, nicht lebt, ist der gefährlichste Feind der Wahrheit selbst’ [He who does not live by the truth he professes is truth’s most dangerous enemy].

For Reinhart Koselleck, the Neue Wache Pietà has an uneasy symbolism. He sees the memorial as excluding certain narratives, for example that women formed the majority of the 2 million people who died fleeing from east to west, or that women formed the majority of the victims of bombing, or that as many German soldiers died in the war as European Jews under Hitler. The Pietà, for Koselleck, marks off Christians from Jews. He writes, ‘It is obviously difficult to find a monument that will withstand the truth without failing as a consequence’.80 However, if you were to transpose Julius Rupp’s words (‘He who does not live by the truth he professes’) from Kaliningrad to Berlin, the interplay of sculpture and caption could create a different reading. The woman raises her hand not just in grief, but in guilt at not having done more. The dying man, who may be victim or perpetrator, symbolizes the tragedy of misplaced values and the failure to prevent Nazism’s wrongs.

Germany’s misplaced values meant losing Königsberg, like all the German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line, and the material legacy of centuries of history. However, this history brings uncomfortable associations with it, for Germany’s eastwards expansion under Hitler and historical-cultural construction of its own superiority to the East tarnished the histories and fates of places like Königsberg. In my reading, at least, Berlin’s Neue Wache condenses the stories of the displaced, the persecuted and the expelled of those lost regions into a memorial that recognizes the injustices perpetrated on German society and Eastern Europe more generally by their fellow citizens←44 | 45→ during Nazism. In its primary symbolism, the Kollwitz sculpture has little to do with Königsberg. Looking closer, numerous threads connect them.

Two cities of the Cold War

Memorials for tragic events resemble gravestones, markers that people build as public symbols of loss in the hope of staving off the process of forgetting. Many hope to be commemorate such losses in perpetuity, others simply for a generation. Unlike memorials, the significance of ‘lost’ places like Königsberg can also disappear with the states and rulers who valued them, as competing imagined projections of the city replace one another. The meaning of Königsberg for the Prussian monarchy naturally has only limited relevance to most German citizens today. Yet coronation constitutes the central rite of most monarchical systems, with Königsberg having served an enabling role at various points in Prussia’s rise in power and influence. Hitler’s words on East Prussia and his visit there to vote in March 1933 demonstrate that this symbolism was more familiar eighty or ninety years ago than now, to the extent that Königsberg could still function as a site of political pilgrimage. The first part of the chapter therefore described Königsberg’s former role as a site of German nationalist memory, now a lapsed one. While the second part summarized the history of war and its aftermath (a material history), the third part described Kaliningrad as a site that both Soviet planners and visitors imagined in terms of a war memorial, a plan the city administration never put into practice. Instead of creating an open-air museum of ruins, they cleared away the remains of Königsberg’s central districts. Although Russians continue to identify Kaliningrad as a site of Soviet military victory, the cityscape no longer testifies to war’s less heroic or traumatic aspects. In this sense, I see Kaliningrad as an ‘unfulfilled’ memory site, at least as far as national and international commemoration of the Second World War is concerned.

You can make a strong case for Königsberg’s ‘imagined’ place within German cultural history. As I describe it here, communicating this history to those less well informed about German literature, philosophy and culture←45 | 46→ poses a trickier task, perhaps one reason why Kaliningrad does not exploit its cultural history to a greater degree (e.g. through commemoration or commercialization) and combine these ‘real-and-imagined’ visions. You might also argue that Königsberg-Kaliningrad did not become a single ‘Cold War city’, but rather two, as ‘Königberg’ lived on as a ‘movable feast’ via a series of commemorative strategies in West Germany, while (at least officially) Kaliningrad chose to ignore or forget its German heritage. Whether diasporic in nature, or a ‘lost limb’, as Alexander Kluge’s film Die Patriotin suggests, my final aim in the chapter was to reiterate the potential of (and argue for the recognition of) Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a European, if not solely German, lieu de mémoire.

This chapter ended by drawing some connections between a prominent German national memorial, the Kollwitz Pietà at Berlin’s ‘Neue Wache’, and the story of the downfall of Königsberg-Kaliningrad, as an increasingly invisible part of the national narrative of contemporary Germany. It described the biographical and thematic links between Kollwitz, her work, and Königsberg, as well as giving a summary of the city’s experience during the Second World War and its aftermath. I made the suggestion that even an apparently unrelated memorial such as the Pietà has numerous links to Königsberg-Kaliningrad.

Looking at the multiple meanings of the word ‘Germany’, or remembering the former Königsbergers who lived in Kaliningrad certainly promotes ‘empathy against indifference’ (Kurasawa, see Introduction). However, in general the history of Königsberg-Kaliningrad through memory indicates how Cold War dynamics served to exacerbate pre-existing prejudices about Eastern Europe as a wilderness, contrasted with German ‘Kultur’. As a latent, lapsed, unfulfilled and potential site of memory, the example of Königsberg-Kaliningrad shows changing fortunes of memory sites, dependent on national and political cultures to prolong their existence. At the same time, the city’s story also shows some of the impacts of Europe’s Cold War division on the development of normative approaches to collective memory. ‘Appropriate’ or ‘expected’ memorialization of the war and Holocaust from a German perspective, particularly in comparison with the two Germanies, did not take place in Kaliningrad. Instead, the Soviet authorities broke the commemorative threads that bound the city and territory to its former owners by privileging different narratives – ones on which the following chapters will shed more light.←46 | 47→

1 Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), p. 19.

2 Astrid Erll, Memory in Culture, trans. Sara B. Young (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p. 105.

3 Cf. Boym, p. 76.

4 James Charles Roy, Vanished Kingdom: Travels through the History of Prussia (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999); Max Egremont, Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia (London: Picador, 2011).

5 Erll, pp. 106–7.

6 Fritz Gause, Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preußen, 3 vols (Cologne: Böhlau, 1965), i, p. 4.

7 Gause, Geschichte, pp. 4–5.

8 Fritz Gause, Königsberg, so wie es war (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1972), p. 5.

9 Felix Escher, ‘Die brandenburgische-preußische Residenz und Hauptstadt Berlin im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert’, in Geschichte Berlins. Von der Frühgeschichte bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Wilhelm Ribbe, 2 vols (Munich: Beck, 1988), i, pp. 343–403 (p. 370). ‘Haupt- und Residenzstadt’. All translations my own unless stated otherwise.

10 Cited in Bernd Dörflinger, James Jakob Fehr and Rudolf Malter (eds), Königsberg 17241804: Materialien zum politischen, sozialen und geistesgeschichtlichen Hintergrund von Leben und Werk Immanuel Kants (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2009), p. 21. ‘Es kann besser Bären aufziehen, als zu einem Schauplatz der Wissenschaft dienen’.

11 Gause, Königsberg, so wie es war, pp. 5–6.

12 On Wilhelm I’s coronation see Reinhard Elze, Die zweite Königskronung: (Königsberg 18. Oktober 1861); vorgetragen in der Sitzung vom 6. Februar 1998 (Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2001).

13 Kaiser Wilhelm II, ‘Überarbeitung der Rede beim Festmahl für die Provinz Ostpreußen, Königsberg, 25 August 1910’, in Die politischen Reden Kaiser Wilhelms II, ed. Michael A. Obst (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2011), pp. 314–17 (p. 314). ‘Parlamenten, Volksversammlungen, Volksbeschlüssen’.

14 Kaiser Wilhelm II, p. 46, ‘die Wiege des Königtums’; p. 314, ‘ganz besonders innige Bande’.

15 Jürgen Manthey, Königsberg: Geschichte einer Weltbürgerrepublik (Munich: Hanser, 2005), p. 71.

16 Adolf Hitler, ‘Funkspruch des Reichkanzlers vom Flugzeug aus!’, Völkischer Beobachter, 5–6 March 1933, p. 1. ‘So wie immer vom Deutschen Osten aus die Feuer der deutschen Freiheit entzündet wurden, richtet auch heute die nationalsozialistische Freiheitsbewegung ihren letzten Appell vor dem 5. März aus an die Nation’.

17 ‘Wir grüßen Ostpreußen! Wir stehen zu Ostpreußen. Wir werden für Ostpreußen kämpfen bis zum letzten’.

18 ‘Tag der erwachenden Nation’.

19 Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt, The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 1939–45 (Hinckley: Midland, 1985), p. 575.

20 Gerhard Glinski and Peter Wörster, Königsberg: Die ostpreußische Hauptstadt in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Berlin and Bonn: Westkreuz, 1990), p. 115.

21 Glinski and Wörster, p. 119.

22 Geoff King, Interview from 2006, record no. 28657, Reel 11, Imperial War Museum, London.

23 Cf. Isabel Denny, The Fall of Hitler’s Fortress City: The Battle for Königsberg, 1945 (London: Greenhill Books, 2007), pp. 185–208.

24 Denny, p. 218.

25 On the city’s final days, see Denny, pp. 207–40.

26 Nelli Petrova, ‘Iurii Chernov: “Gde chernila i krov’ popalam …”’, Literaturnaia gazeta, 31 March 2010, p. 3.

27 See Erna Ewert, Marga Pollmann and Hannelore Müller, Frauen in Königsberg 1945–8 (Bonn: Kulturstiftung der Deutschen Vertriebenen, 1991); Denny, 2007.

28 Wilhelm Starlinger, Grenzen der Sowjetmacht im Spiegel einer West-Ost Begegnung von 1945–54 (Kitzingen-Main: Holzner, 1954), p. 25. See also Anneliese Kreutz, Das große Sterben in Königsberg, 1945–7 (Kiel: Arndt, 2001).

29 Per Brodersen, Die Stadt im Westen: Wie Kaliningrad Königsberg wurde (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), p. 33. See also: Vlad Rzhevskii, Kaliningradskaia Prussia: shtrikhi k portretu (Kaliningrad: Kaliningradskaia pravda, 2006), pp. 18–19; On the period 1945–7, Margarete Siegmund, ‘Bericht über meine Zeit von Juni 1945 bis Oktober 1947 in Königsberg/Pr.’ (unpublished typescript) (Museum Stadt Königsberg, Duisburg, 1983), 32pp; Hans Lehndorff, Ostpreussisches Tagebuch: Aufzeichnungen eines Arztes aus den Jahren 1945–7 (Munich: Biederstein, 1961).

30 Glinski and Wörster, p. 128.

31 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia Kaliningradskoi oblasti. Ocherki 1945–56 gg. (Kaliningrad: Terra Baltika, 2009), pp. 158–9.

32 Brodersen, p. 46.

33 Cf. Brodersen, p. 46; Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, pp. 165–6.

34 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 161.

35 Brodersen, p. 47; Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 76.

36 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 72.

37 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 89.

38 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 104. See also Iurii Kostiashov, Vostochnaia Prussiia glazami sovetskikh pereselentsev: pervye gody Kaliningradskoi oblasti v vospominaniiakh i dokumentakh (Saint Petersburg: Bel’veder, 2002); Aleksandr V. Filatov and V. N. Pazerina, Naselenie sevorno-vostochnoi Prussii posle II Mirovoi voiny : pravovoi analiz (Kaliningrad, 2001).

39 Russian census data 2010, Russian Federal Statistics Agency (Rosstat), ‘Chislennost’ naseleniia Rossii, federalnykh okrugov, sub’ektov rossiiskoi federatsii, gorodskikh okrugov, munitsipal’nykh raionov, gorodskikh i sel’skikh poselenii’, p. 11, <http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/new_site/perepis2010/croc/Documents/Vol1/pub-01-11.pdf> [21 June 2018].

40 See Morag McIvor, ‘Soviet policy towards the new territories of the RFSR, circa 1939 to 1953’. PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2012, pp. 7–9; pp. 31–5.

41 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 169.

42 Kostiashov, Sekretnaia istoriia, p. 172.

43 Brodersen, p. 88.

44 Glinski and Wörster, p. 129.

45 Markus Podehl, Architektura Kaliningrada: Wie aus Königsberg Kaliningrad wurde (Marburg: Herder-Institut, 2012), pp. 11–23.

46 Cf. Pierre Nora, ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, trans. Marc Roudebush, Representations 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory (1989), 7–24 (pp. 18–19).

47 Amos Elon, ‘The Nowhere City’, New York Review of Books, 13 May 1993, pp. 28–33.

48 Mark Galeotti, ‘Kaliningrad: A Fortress Without a State’, IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin 1993, 56–9 (p. 58).

49 Anon., ‘Na Zapade net bol’she Vostochnoi Prussii’, in Kaliningrad: Literaturno-khudozhestvennyi i obshchestvenno-politicheskii sbornik (Kaliningrad: Kaliningradskaia Pravda, 1951), pp. 3–14 (p. 14). On Oradour, see: Sarah Farmer, Martyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1999).

50 Podehl, Architektura Kaliningrada: pp. 247–53.

51 Hans Schewe, Meine liebsten Reportagen (Hamburg: Christians, 1973); Dieter Steiner, ‘Kaliningrad ist nicht Königsberg’, Stern, 29 (1969), pp. 26–36; Elisabeth Schulz-Semrau, Drei Kastanien aus Königsberg: Tagebuch einer Reise in das heutige Kaliningrad (Leer: Rautenberg; Leipzig: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 1990); Irmgard Mühlen, Als Gast in Königsberg: Bilder und Begegnungen aus dem heutigen Kaliningrad (Leer: Rautenberg, 1988); Marion Dönhoff, ‘Reise ins verschlossene Land. Oder: eine Fahrt für und mit Kant’, Die Zeit, 36, 1 September 1989, p. 3.

52 ‘Eine aussichtslose Sache’.

53 ‘Allerhöchste Geheimstufe’ [E].

54 Brodersen, pp. 26–32.

55 Schewe, Reportagen, p. 107. ‘Eines der erschütterndsten Mahnzeichen dieser Art’.

56 Schewe, p. 108. ‘Ringsumher nur Trümmer, Wüste, Schutt und Staub. Hier sind die Spuren des Krieges noch unberührt. Sie sollen als Denkmal erhalten bleiben […] Das verwüstete Herz von Kaliningrad soll noch eine Aufgabe erfüllen, auch wenn es nicht mehr schlägt’.

57 Schewe, p. 114. ‘Die Menschen die hier leben – im Augenblick 220 000 Sowjetbürger –, sind Pioniere. Um ihre Aufgabe sollte sie niemand beneiden. Sie ist schwer und entbehrungsreich. Und sicher ist manchem von ihnen der Gedanke nicht fremd an jene Menschen, die vor ihm hier gelebt haben’.

58 Peter Fritzsche, ‘Specters of History: On Nostalgia, Exile, and Modernity’, The American Historical Review, 106 (2001), 1587–618 (p. 1613).

59 Fritzsche, p. 1614.

60 The inscription read: ‘Na etom meste budet ustanovlen monument Mir vsem’ [On this spot the monument ‘Peace to All’ will be erected].

61 Nora, ‘Between Memory and History’, p. 19.

62 Robert G. Moeller, War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001), p. 168.

63 Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietala, ‘Introduction. Cold War Cities: History, Cultural and Memory’, Cold War Cities, eds Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietala (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2016), pp. 1–14 (p. 5).

64 John Czaplicka, ‘Lviv, Lemberg, Leopolis, Lwów, Lvov: A City in the Crosscurrents of European Culture’, in Lviv: A City in the Crosscurrents of Culture, ed. John Czaplicka (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Institute, 2005), pp. 13–45 (p. 34); Thomas Serrier, ‘Nier ou intégrer l’héritage allemand? À propos de l’appropriation culturelle de Danzig, Königsberg et Reval á Gdańsk, Kaliningrad et Tallinn’, Revue Germanique Internationale 11 (2010), 223–34 (p. 229).

65 10 Jahre Patenschaft Duisburg-Königsberg. Königsberger Treffen 1962 (Duisburg: Stadt Duisburg, 1962); 25 Jahre Patenschaft der Stadt Duisburg für Königsberg. 17. und 18. September 1977 (Duisburg: Stadtgemeinschaft Königsberg, 1977); Festschrift 50 Jahre Patenschaft Duisburg-Königsberg (Pr), Pfingsten, 18./19. Mai 2002, Mercatorhalle Duisburg (Leer: Rautenberg, 2002).

66 Yuliya Komska, The Icon Curtain. The Cold War’s Quiet Border (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), p. 23.

67 Moeller, p. 57.

68 Moeller, p. 181.

69 Manthey, p. 629. ‘In meiner Art zu denken und zu urteilen komme ich immer noch aus Königsberg. Manchmal verheimliche ich mir das. Aber es ist so’.

70 Manthey, p. 612. ‘Wir waren die letzten in Keenichsbarch [Königsberg], die mit den Händen sprachen’.

71 Herbert Mühlpfordt, ‘Welche Mitbürger hat Königsberg öffentlich geehrt?’, Jahrbuch der Albertus-Universität zu Königsberg/Pr. 14 (Würzburg: Holzner, 1964), pp. 66–198 (pp. 80–8).

72 Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, 3 vols (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), i, Conflicts and Divisions, p. xxiv.

73 Cf. Winfried G. Sebald, Luftkrieg und Literatur. Mit einem Essay zu Alfred Andersch (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1999), pp. 15–19.

74 The fragment can be found at 1h 12 m in the film Die Patriotin, dir. Alexander Kluge (West Germany, 1979). The sourcebook for Die Patriotin does not include the Kaliningrad fragment. See Alexander Kluge, Die Patriotin. Texte. Bilder 1–6 (Frankfurt am Main: Zweitausendeins, 1979), pp. 131–5.

75 ‘Dieser Busch steht bei Kaliningrad, in der Sowjetunion, 45 km von der polnischen Grenze. Früher hieß diese Gegend Königsberg. Den Busch trifft das nicht’.

76 Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), p. 228.

77 ‘Je näher man ein Wort ansieht, desto ferner sieht es zurück. Deutschland’.

78 Erll, p. 105.

79 Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebuchblätter und Briefe, ed. Hans Kollwitz (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1948), p. 28. ‘Erst kauften wir Kirschen oder was es gab, und dann ging das los, was wir Bummeln nannten. Und was auch wirklich so war. Wir bummelten durch die ganze Stadt und zu den Toren heraus, ließen uns über den Pregel setzen und strichen am Hafen herum […] Dieses scheinbar planlose Bummeln war der künstlerischen Entwicklung sicher förderlich. Wenn meine späteren Arbeiten durch eine ganze Periode nur aus der Arbeiterwelt schöpften, so liegt der Grund dazu in jenen Streifereien durch die enge, arbeiterreiche Handelsstadt’.

80 Reinhart Koselleck, ‘Zur politischen Ikonologie des gewaltsamen Todes: Ein deutsch-französischer Vergleich’ [‘On the political iconology of violent death: A German-French comparison’] in Gedenken im Zwiespalt: Konfliktlinien europäischen Erinnerns, eds Alexandre Escudier, Brigitte Sauzay and Rudolf von Thadden (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2001) pp. 33–76 (p. 72). ‘Es ist offensichtlich schwer, ein Mahnmal zu finden, das die Wahrheit aushält, ohne daran zu scheitern’.

Chapter 2

Renaming Debates and Local Strategies of Collective-Autobiographical Memory in Kaliningrad

Like personal names, place names express cultural origins, local histories and belonging. In this chapter, I explore Königsberg-Kaliningrad’s politics of historical memory in relation to the city’s names as a specific form of commemoration. No study of the cultural memory of Königsberg-Kaliningrad could ignore this issue, which encapsulates several of the memory discourses connected with the city. The debate concerns both the original medieval name of the city, the decision to rename Königsberg as Kaliningrad in 1946, as well as the post-Communist wave of renaming (that did not reach Kaliningrad) in the 1990s. The city’s name provides insights into its ‘imagined’ significations as a ‘collective-semantic’ memory site within local (rather than national) understandings of ‘collective autobiography’, as well as into Soviet and Russian attempts to shape the symbolism and meaning of ‘Kaliningrad’. The most important questions I address here concern the ways names affect or define people’s relationship to the ‘real-and-imagined’ site as a pre-condition for any form of place-writing or urban cultural memory. The renaming of Königsberg as Kaliningrad shows the Soviet Union re-writing and re-conceiving an urban space to exclude a ‘Western’ European, German past. The chapter focuses on the detail of these debates, including historical and contemporary perspectives, and drawing connections between the case of Kaliningrad and other post-Communist renamings.

The chapter divides into three parts, adopting a series of different comparative angles on the renaming debates. The first introduces Andreas Huyssen’s idea of renaming as ‘wilful forgetting’, and explores competing understandings of Königsberg and Kaliningrad based on their respective names. It not only explores the names when contrasted with one another, as well as in isolation, but also seeks to contextualize the practice of renaming within Soviet-style←47 | 48→ patriotism and ‘internal colonization’ to escape a simplified ‘Kaliningrad as Communist propaganda’ line of argument. The second part shows how Soviet propaganda made the case for Kaliningrad in the later 1940s and 1950s, declaring the ‘death’ of Königsberg against the backdrop of keenly felt insecurity about the city’s future. Finally, I describe the ongoing cultural and political ambivalence to the restoration of the name Königsberg in the post-Communist period, as well as some of the less-than-convincing suggestions made to replace the names Königsberg and Kaliningrad completely.

Wilful forgetting?

With the phrase ‘politics of wilful forgetting’, Andreas Huyssen passes verdict on the removal of Communist connotations from place and streetnames, such as the ‘imposed and often petty renaming of streets in East Berlin’. He accuses the city government of having engaged in a ‘strategy of power and humiliation, a final burst of Cold War ideology’.1 In the early 1990s, not only Berlin engaged in such wilful forgetting. City governments across Eastern Europe brought pre-Communist names back, expunging ostentatious or problematic toponyms connected to a different ideological perception of ‘collective-autobiographical memory’, perhaps most prominently in the case of Leningrad-St Petersburg. As Anaïs Marin argues, post-Communist politicians believed old-new names would ‘discursively demarcate borders between a selected past and a desired future, thereby producing – or destroying – meaningful referentials for self-identification in the present’.2 Due to their apparent ability to transport people between eras, Marin compares such name changes to time machines.←48 | 49→

In choosing to name or rename, politicians do not simply indulge in a free play of associations. They also consider what people associate with these names. Seen from afar, ‘Königsberg vs Kaliningrad’ might boil down to ‘Kant and German heritage’ vs ‘Soviet war sacrifices’. On site, the names have different and more subtle associations. Just as some visitors to Kaliningrad claim no traces of Königsberg survive, while others find plenty, the debate on the city’s name splits into various camps based on the version of the past any given commentator seeks out.

For some, Königsberg functions not just as the old name, or possible alternative name, for Kaliningrad, but reflects a distinct but parallel zone within the city. Dieter Roelstraete claims that Königsberg and Kaliningrad constitute ‘entirely different places’ and that ‘the inhabitants of Kaliningrad will photograph (the remains of) Königsberg as if it belonged to some remote and forbidden city in a different country on a different continent’.3 Similarly, the sociologist Olga Sezneva writes, ‘the mental life of people from Kaliningrad happens […] at the roadside of Soviet modernism – that is in the old German quarters, […] This is where people from Kaliningrad live their true lives’.4 Others prefer to think of the city as a unified space. In the 1960s, Joseph Brodsky imagined hearing Königsberg in the city’s birdsong, an aural continuity.5 Today, a virtual tour of old Königsberg through photographs at Kaliningrad’s Friedland Gates Museum creates a visual illusion of continuity by projecting the image of a street continuing beyond the gates’ bricked-up arches.

Others equate Königsberg with the site of the three original medieval towns, now parkland, and see Königsberg as wholly destroyed, with Kaliningrad built around it. Perhaps unfairly, such commentators rarely←49 | 50→ see Kaliningrad’s large central park as a green resource, instead focusing on what is missing. Anders Kreuger describes Kaliningrad as ‘a city turned inside out, a void closing in on its peripheries, a fatal wound left deliberately undressed’.6 Kreuger’s metaphors of ‘wounds’ and ‘voids’ seek to shock, drawing attention to a supposedly unacknowledged past, which (so this view goes) deserves recognition. He laments the absence of collective-autobiographical memory in Kaliningrad – at least concerning the German past.

Seeing Kaliningrad as flawed by its lopsided approach to collective-autobiographical memory heightens the symbolism of the city’s icon, the failed House of Soviets project. A concrete castle for the Soviet age, local authorities never finished constructing their intended power symbol, held back first by budget restrictions connected to the Moscow Olympics, then by the demise of the Soviet state.7 Persistent rumours, apparently untrue, allege that the old Royal Castle’s unstable foundations cause subsidence. The symbolic iconography of the ersatz castle and its uninviting forecourt, named ‘Central Square’, relate more to pre-war Königsberg than to the way Kaliningraders use their spaces. In this reading, the failed House of Soviets project shows how Soviet authorities gave backhanded recognition to Königsberg’s apparently unacknowledged past by attempting to replace it.

The name ‘Königsberg’ could also prove an uncomfortable time machine. Few readers of Kant may remember the colonial connotations of ‘Königsberg’, but the crusading Teutonic Knights named the city in honour of Ottokar II, King of Bohemia, as they colonized territories inhabited by the Old Prussians. An alternative theory suggests they chose the name Königsberg to commemorate the abandoned crusader castle Castellum Regis (Mi’ilya) in Palestine.8 In both versions, the Crusaders aimed to create←50 | 51→ collective-autobiographical memory in naming Königsberg. Rewriting local symbols helped the fierce association of warrior-priests establish control over the territory of the Old Prussians.

A regional stronghold of National Socialism, Königsberg also has its share of grim associations from the 1930s. In the decisive March 1933 election, more than 50 per cent of East Prussians voted for Hitler’s NSDAP. As in all their territories, the Nazi government repressed and murdered Königsberg’s Jewish population. In the same days the Red Army liberated Auschwitz in late January 1945, German officials massacred thousands of Jewish women at Palmnicken, a coastal village near Königsberg.9 I underline these details to provide balance to uncritical readings of Königsberg as a site of German intellectual history. After all, as James Young writes, ‘When Himmler cynically designated Goethe’s oak as the center of the camp [in Buchenwald] he would begin in July 1937, he hoped to neutralize the memory of Goethe even as he invoked the philosopher’s cultural authority’.10

Officially, Königsberg became Kaliningrad on 4 July 1946. You could translate its combination of surname and an archaic suffix into English as something like ‘Kalininburg’, a Russian equivalent to a colonial town such as Williamsburg, Virginia (named for King William III). After all, Kalinin acted as the Soviet Union’s nominal head of state from 1919 until his death. The authorities chose the name almost by chance. Soviet Russia had a ‘Königsberg region’ (‘Kenigsbergskaia oblast’) for a year from summer 1945 to 1946. To replace it, Party committees planned a simple, geographically←51 | 52→ inspired name such as Baltiisk (a name they later gave to the nearby seaport of Pillau), but Kalinin’s death that year pre-empted the decision.11

By contrast, the stubborn persistence of Kaliningrad’s Communist name reveals, in Claudia Sinnig’s words, a city ‘frozen in myths’.12 Reverting to ‘Königsberg’ would risk importing a non-Russian vision of the past, and thus of the future. Yet it seems impossible to echo Huyssen, that renaming Kaliningrad something else would indulge the ‘wilful forgetting’ he perceived in East Berlin. Mikhail Kalinin helped Stalin execute the Terror in the 1930s, that is, the murder of over 600,000 people and the imprisonment of more. Alexander Etkind has written of the Terror as an event whose ‘agents and targets seem blurred, agency dispersed, purpose uncertain, causality cyclical, and renunciation incomplete’.13 Yet as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1919–46, that is, titular head of state, Kalinin signed off Stalin’s decrees during the darkest times. As far as is known, he did little to halt Stalin’s Terror and sent his own wife to the Gulag. Kalinin also signed the document authorizing the Katyn massacre. Given such complicity, the name’s survival demonstrates the real power of wilful forgetting in Kaliningrad, as in Russia as a whole.

The Party’s choice of a Bolshevik for the city’s namesake marked an apparent return to ideology after playing up Russianness during the war, but the ideology may only be skin deep. Now historians naturally interpret the name ‘Kaliningrad’ as part of a process of Sovietization. During the war, however, the Leniningrad administration did the opposite, initiating a wave of patriotic de-Sovietization of place names. Anaïs Marin points out that Bolshevik revolutionaries had renamed Leniningrad’s central avenue Nevskii prospekt, originally named for the scourge of the Teutonic Knights, as ‘October 25th Avenue’ more than two decades before.14 Similarly, Kaliningrad’s ‘revolutionary’ renaming had little to do with Marxism. In←52 | 53→ the late Stalinist era, the Party chose Kalinin’s name as a marker of patriotic identification with the Soviet Russian state.

After the annexation, officials tasked with renaming also set to work on the towns and villages across the Kaliningrad region. Similar processes took place in all the resettled cities and towns across the broader Central and Eastern European region – Vilnius, Wrocław, Gdańsk, Lviv, Vyborg, etc. Unlike in Wrocław, where Polish settlers ‘re-Slavicized’ or directly translated the German names of place or districts, new Kaliningraders based their names either on ideology or topography. As a result, some oddities emerged. In three village districts of Tilsit-Sovetsk, sixty-seven of the seventy new place names began with the same letter as the old one, a fact indicative of the arbitrary way the authorities allocated them.15 Andrzej Mencwel sees ‘Kaliningrad’ as similarly lacking in inspiration, an empty name encapsulating the city’s unfulfilled potential. He writes, ‘In a certain sense, he [Kalinin] was a nobody, and there is a historical truth in the fact that this city, that still does not exist, but is still only planned, that does not actually know its name yet, should be granted the name of a nobody’.16 In terms of collective-autobiographical memory, does the name ‘Kaliningrad’ only commemorate the hollowness of Soviet-style ‘patriotism’?

In West Germany and abroad, the Soviet name meant something else. The veteran Tennessee Congressman, B. Carroll Reece, told the US House of Representatives in 1957, ‘That Königsberg, the city where Immanuel Kant was born, lived and died, where he wrote his Critique of Pure Reason and his essay On Eternal Peace, should be called by the Communists and their fellow travellers, Kaliningrad, constitutes a blasphemy on civilization. The free world cannot and should not reconcile itself to such disgrace’.17 He suggested that←53 | 54→ the Soviet Union had bought Poland out and contrasted Stalin’s early ideas on national self-determination with the radical geopolitical solution the Allies had agreed to. Reece’s sharp criticism of the territorial settlement after 1945 struck a nerve far from Washington. A Polish reply to Reece rejected his ideas in drastic terms, taking the long-lens view of Königsberg as a medieval colony, rather than ‘Kant’s home’: ‘One thing is obvious: there can be no question of a return of Prussia and Königsberg to Germany. Any such union of the German colony with its far-away motherland would again be, as already several times in the past, only an encouragement and a stepping stone on the way of a new German Drang-nach-Osten, aiming at the total destruction of Poland’.18 In his speech, Reece had not explicitly advocated such a restitution. He argued that America should recognize the expellees’ suffering, their experiences of flight, disease and famine. At the same time, he saw Königsberg (perhaps nostalgically) as a centre of German cultural heritage, referring to Immanuel Kant at several points.

The death of ‘Königsberg’ in Soviet propaganda

Less interested in localism, Soviet apparatchiks saw ‘Königsberg’ only as an enemy city conquered in bitterly fought battle at huge human cost. As a key military centre, the Prussian and later Nazi military constructed a system of forts and large barracks in Königsberg. Like the Poles in Lwów (now Lviv), the Germans imagined Königsberg as a bulwark against the East.19 Consequently, Nazi commanders did their best to defend their←54 | 55→ positions, holding out against the Red Army at Königsberg after more westerly Danzig had fallen. Due to the difficult conditions and the long struggle, the Soviets believed they had paid for Königsberg in blood. Later, the Red Army awarded special medals for the assault on Königsberg, the only urban military campaign outside the capital cities of which that is true.20

The name ‘Kaliningrad’ and the names of other villages, towns and streets in the Kaliningrad region still evidence the spirit of triumphalism in which the Soviets re-founded the city and expunged German Königsberg. In the early years, at least, they had good reason and, by and large, they were successful. Many West Germans hoped some day to return, but despite occasional murmurings from elements within the German far right, the fall of the Berlin wall ended irredentism as a topic in German politics. Although many expellee organizations in West Germany publicized the issue of the so-called ‘German East’ in the late 1940s and 1950s, the changes of the 1960s saw interest wane as the charge of revanchism grew.21 In East Germany, as in the Soviet Union, official culture made talking about Königsberg taboo, meaning irredentism had no public platform. Passport officers changed the name ‘Königsberg’ to Kaliningrad in GDR passports and the regional meatball dish ‘Königsberger Klopse’ disappeared from East German menus.22 The new Kaliningraders erased the old names from the map. In the Eastern bloc, officials deleted the name ‘Königsberg’, while in West Germany, expellees kept the flame alive for a while, before gradually giving up hope. On both sides of the wall, Germans slowly downgraded their collective-autobiographical memory of Königsberg to what Erll calls ‘collected’ memories – individual memories in a sociocultural context.23←55 | 56→

To counteract German revanchists, or maybe just the imaginary threat they posed, the newspaper Kaliningradskaia pravda published Königsberg’s obituary in a special volume in 1951. The first article in the collection bears the following title in capital letters: ‘НА ЗАПАДЕ – НЕТ БОЛЬШЕ ВОСТОЧНОЙ ПРУССИИ!’ [‘In the west – East Prussia no longer exists!’].24 The article conveys propaganda messages about the complete destruction of the German past, the rightful claim of the Slavic peoples to the territory, and the achievements of the Communist Party, the Soviet people, and Stalin in particular.

The paper does not bother whitewashing the city’s situation. Within a few paragraphs the article states how ‘Here, like nowhere else, the traces [of war] have been preserved’.25 It also gives German history an unforgiving rewrite, describing the ‘block-headed and grasping Junkers’ and the ‘dog-knights’ of the Teutonic Order.26 The anonymous author redeems some elements of the city’s history, emphasizing the fact that Kant swore an oath to the Russian Empress Elizabeth after the annexation of 1758. In a letter to her, Kant he signed himself her ‘most loyal servant’.27 The article presents Kant as a good role model: ‘A Kaliningrader is someone who honestly and selflessly serves the homeland, warranting its trust through their labour and in their whole life’.28 Despite Kant’s excellent Soviet credentials, the author cannot resist some side-swipes about his origins. The propagandists describe Königsberg as ‘the vipers’ nest of Prussian imperialists’ and the ‘centre of Prussian militarism’, while casting Soviet Kaliningrad as a ‘fore-post of peace and security on the Western shores of our mighty homeland’.29 The article hammers home a sense of Kaliningrad as ‘tabula rasa’, a blank slate←56 | 57→ on which the Communist Party will build a new city: ‘Everything has to be begun from scratch, to be built over again, to be created’.30 This familiar myth belongs to a narrative of transition from the dead Königsberg to a blooming Kaliningrad that contains at least some element of truth:

How one longed back then to step from the warm apartment onto a brightly lit avenue, to see the tram filled with people, the illuminated windows of shops, the colourful posters announcing concerts, films, lectures. But none of that existed. At night people walked in the dark streets of the dead town, past ruins, empty, windowless and roofless houses, past heaps of broken brick. They walked along roads alongside which the earth lay still, ruined by shells and bombs, cut up by trenches and overgrown weeds.31

The article deliberately contrasts the image of a thriving metropolitan centre with the scene in postwar ‘Königsberg’, guiding readers through a ruined, overgrown landscape. It wants to neutralize feelings of nostalgia for a German past. The article ends by describing the scene as the Moscow train rolls into Kaliningrad, with the ‘unforgettable panorama of overthrown Königsberg and of Soviet Kaliningrad under construction’.32 It places Königsberg firmly in the past tense:

That’s how it is, this city! The tram takes you along the humpbacked and narrow streets of the former city. Former because Königsberg really is a former city. It doesn’t exist. Over several kilometres is spread an unforgettable picture of ruins. The smashed, empty houses stand closely pressed up to one other, without roofs or coverings. They are overgrown with weeds and ivy. Inside every box-like house trees are forcing their←57 | 58→ way through. To one side, in ruins, lies the castle of three kings – a citadel, its massive walls turned green by time and rain.33

The curious use of the phrase the ‘castle of three kings’ displays an openness to aesthetic pleasures drawn from the mutability of things. Did the article’s authors succumb to the nostalgic tendencies they wanted to pre-empt in readers?

The 1951 article reinforced the earliest Soviet propaganda on Königsberg. A pamphlet from 1945 about the assault on the city describes it as a ‘Prussian Carthage’, labelling Königsberg as ‘a history of Germany’s crimes’.34 Even this earliest material anticipates the narrative of Königsberg’s death, with the final battle as ‘the agony of Königsberg’.35 Party propagandists reiterated these messages across the decades. In 1967, several articles appeared in the German press discussing the fate of the Kaliningrad region. Acknowledging that potential dissent within Soviet Russia posed the real threat to Kaliningrad’s narrative, the paper Literaturnaia gazeta printed a polemical response titled ‘A reply to the slanderers from the FRG’. In it, N. Konovalov, a Kaliningrad representative in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, defends the Soviet position using bold, breathless statements: ‘There is no Königsberg, just as there is no East Prussia! There is and for centuries there will be a peaceful, Soviet city Kaliningrad and a Kaliningrad region!’36←58 | 59→

Konovalov disputes the allegation in German papers that ‘everything is dead’ in the city. He quotes Nadezhda Bagrovskaia, a builder from the region and a Hero of Socialist Labour, who reacts to the original article from the Ostpreußenblatt newspaper as follows: ‘They can’t even tell lies clearly. They could learn something from their fellow countryman Baron Münchhausen!’37 Writing for an expellee audience, the German journalist had compared pre-war Königsberg and post-war Kaliningrad, clearly a sensitive topic for the Soviet establishment. In reply, Konovalov emphasizes Soviet economic achievements and attempts prove the level of the city’s cultural life, although he expresses pride that the city has no functioning churches. Instead, he cites the total number of television sets and complements this with a list of educational and cultural institutions (no irony intended?): ‘These men are trying to portray us as little short of barbarians, the destroyers of cultural values!’38 Konovalov finishes by reminding the West Germans of the war and the bloodshed it took to take Königsberg and defeat Hitler.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to say that Soviet officialdom showed no interest in the German past. Mark Barinov, a naval officer stationed in Baltiisk, wrote a spy novella titled Villa Edith (‘Вилла Эдит’, 1952), one of very few semi-canonical pieces of original Kaliningrad writing.39 The text is the likely origin of the urban myth about the tunnels under Königsberg, or at least a major popularizing influence. The story quickly became popular in Kaliningrad. The local theatre even created a stage version, showing the play for ten consecutive seasons from May 1957, celebrating its 150th performance on 24 October 1959.40 In Villa Edith, crack Soviet agents try to retrieve plans of underground Königsberg. The←59 | 60→ story centres on the Soviet agent calling herself Edith Heimnitz and a house named after her by her Nazi husband, which provides the entrance to a network of secret tunnels. Some years after the war, former Nazis return to retrieve hidden treasure, leading to a showdown between them and the Soviet agents. Edith herself provides the description of Königsberg’s underground:

You are somewhat acquainted with Königsberg as a fortress, but you don’t know the other Königsberg, the subterranean one. Here, underneath Königsberg, there are huge underground spaces, built over centuries. Underground communication tunnels criss-cross the city in all directions. You’ll understand the danger this poses for our forces as they attack! There’s also another side to the issue. Many of the treasures of the Royal Prussian museum, valuables taken from ordinary people – all this is hidden underground.41

While Barinov’s tale hardly provides a different view of Königsberg’s symbolism in relation to Soviet Kaliningrad, the existence and popularity of the story demonstrate that the city’s German and Nazi heritage fascinated the new inhabitants. Above all, the story shows semi-official forms of recognition for aspects of the past, providing a more humorous and informal version of Kaliningrad’s new Soviet narrative than that of official propaganda. Villa Edith shows ‘real-and-imagined’ versions of the city proving more popular and effective than official denials of Königsberg’s omnipresent architectural and historical legacy.←60 | 61→

An unresolved dilemma

Sixty years later, the problem of Kaliningrad’s name has not gone away. Options include modifying Kaliningrad’s current name to something more neutral, creating a new name, or returning to the name Königsberg. Proponents of the portmanteau ‘Kantgrad’ (why not ‘Immanuelburg’, after all?), like the British author, Max Egremont, herald Kant as ‘a forerunner of globalization’, rather than the way he exudes, in Brodersen’s words, a ‘dissident, oppositional, stubborn aura’.42 The local commentator Evgeny Vinokurov dismisses another option, that Kaliningrad could be abbreviated to ‘Kalina’ (gelder rose), as ‘a joke’ that would ‘jeer at the millions of victims of the repressions’.43 Vinkurov also sees a wholly new name as a ‘denial of the history of the region’. Kaliningraders, he argues, are proud of ‘Königsberg’, noting that some people call the city ‘König’. He gives several arguments in favour of renaming, including the potential economic benefits.44 Rhetorically, most arguments oscillate around impossible historical equations. Should the city’s collective-autobiographical memory privilege Königsberg as Kant’s home or Soviet wartime sacrifices? Does honouring Kalinin normalize his crimes?

Writing on the effects of mass migration on ethnonationalist understandings of identity, Arjun Appadurai has voiced his hope that ‘elements of a postnational imaginary’ could emerge from them, even if the collective experiences of political violence or other catastrophes that precede migration often cement identities.45 In Eastern Europe, Appadurai argues, politicians have made nationalism seem like ‘a politics of primordia’, suggesting that ‘the←61 | 62→ real question is how it has been made to appear that way’.46 In recent years, Kremlin representatives in Kaliningrad have focused on patriotic arguments, although top-down opposition to ‘postnational’ tendencies is less aggressive than in the Soviet era. Responding to a question from German MEP Werner Schulz, as to why in the year 2011 Kaliningrad still bore the name of a ‘Stalinist criminal’, Kaliningrad’s Kremlin-appointed governor (now former governor) Nikolai Tskukanov declared that the city faced more pressing issues and that the question could only be resolved by referendum. He did not exclude the possibility, but voiced his own opposition to a change.47

Today, Kaliningrad’s name reveals the contestation of postnational versus national imaginaries, rather than a contestation of territory or its symbolic ownership. A Kaliningrad news site ran an article reporting Tskukanov’s comments.48 A number of comments on the article supported the idea of a referendum, implicitly encouraging a postnational approach to ‘Königsberg vs Kaliningrad’. Nikita Nikitin wrote, ‘In my opinion it’s obvious: a referendum definitely needs to be held. Let people decide for themselves. I think young people will definitely turn out. Personally I’d go and vote yes!’49 Some comments on the article used satire: Leonid Zaitsev wrote ‘Judging by the number of banners with portraits of Tsukanov hung all around town, the city should be renamed Tsukanovgrad’,50 while PHARAO776 replied, ‘More likely Tsukerberg …’,51 a conflation of the names Tsukanov and Königsberg to←62 | 63→ echo that of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. On the other hand, many felt obliged to defend Kaliningrad in patriotic terms. Some repeated standard elements of the city’s mythography: Viktor Maiachnikov wrote, ‘I consider Königsberg to have died in 1945’.52 Others reacted more bitterly to the suggestion of renaming. The user ‘Sosed po palate’ wrote, ‘Königsberg died on 3 July 1946. The name Königsberg is not simply a name. It is the culture of a people, the German people, a form of interrelation between people, of the relationship of people to their values, but in no way is it unquestionably tied to a piece of land’.53 He continued, ‘The name Kaliningrad is above all one of the symbols of the victory of the Soviet, Russian people in the Second World War, the most terrible known in history of mankind’.54 He concluded, ‘No city called Königsberg exists. None’.55

‘Seeing Königsberg-Kaliningrad through the prism of national history (a paradox, according to which there should only ever be a forward slash dividing the two city names, never a hyphen), distorts the continuity perspective so much it becomes unrecognizable’. With these words, Per Brodersen argues passionately for ‘Königsberg-Kaliningrad’ over ‘Königsberg/Kaliningrad’. He sees Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a double city, a ‘Doppelstadt’.56 I mentioned important differences between the pre- and post-war city above, such as the location of the city centre, the uses of buildings and areas, and transport←63 | 64→ patterns. Brodersen’s idea of the ‘double city’ places greater emphasis on the continuities, for example in building use or (sporadically) street names, while acknowledging some differences. The new authorities changed the names of places, streets and neighbourhoods, but Kaliningrad remains roughly coextensive with the former Königsberg. The characters of certain neighbourhoods have survived and, yes, others changed irrevocably. As Brodersen has shown, railway timetables still used German names until 1948, while locals used them informally until around 1955.57 More recently, Kaliningraders have developed a series of abbreviations and informal names for parts of the city. They call the unwieldy ‘Poselok Aleksandra Kosmodem’ianskogo’ [Aleksandr Kosmodem’ianskii Settlement] simply ‘Kosma’. They speak about a district built by a Lithuanian construction firm as ‘Sel’ma’. They also use nicknames such as ‘Dvorianskoe gnezdo’ (‘Home of the Gentry’, a cluster of large German public buildings on Prospekt mira), ‘Zelenaia Amerika’ [Green America], and ‘Pentagon’.58 Others, inspired by the moniker ‘Piter’ for St Petersburg, dub their hometown ‘König’. Unofficially, people push the boundaries of official naming policies, creating their own versions of collective-autobiographical memory, which come closer to the improvised ‘double city’ than they do to patriotic pride. In doing so, they move from wilful forgetting to self-conscious self-fashioning.

Of particular interest against this divided background is Dmitrii Vyshemirskii’s photographic album Kënigsberg, prosti [‘Atonement for Königsberg’] (2007), a collection of images by a local art photographer (and the volume in which Brodersen’s essay, cited above, appears). Shot exclusively in black and white, the images focus on German architectures and some parts of the natural environment in the Kaliningrad region. Recurring images include the waves crashing ashore at Baltiisk, ruined churches in rural villages and people inhabiting run-down old German houses. The book’s programmatic title implies an injustice perpetrated against the city’s built heritage, but the book provides a more gentle portrait of the city, through←64 | 65→ motifs such as that of the city’s Brandenburg gate (see Figure 2).59 This image shows light streaming through the gate’s arch, a tram line curves away into the street ahead, and a cyclist passing by. The damaged brick surfaces of the gate, with blocked windows and traces of paint, betray a chequered history. The cobblestones of the road are in part smooth and even, in other places sunken and damaged. Beyond the gate stand cheap prefabricated blocks with their DIY-glazed balconies and occasional satellite dishes: the characteristic texture of daily life in post-Soviet Russia. In images like these, Vyshermirskii combines the sense of time stood still with images that mark temporal distance. His project aims at reconciliation, by recording physical remnants of Königsberg being put to everyday, human use. His work is less a ‘defence of a hyphen’, the subject of Brodersen’s commentary, than a humanistic, reflective form of nostalgia, respecting and raising awareness of the legacies of others.


Figure 2: Dmitrii Vyshemirskii, Brandenburg Gates in Kaliningrad (2007). Reproduced by permission of the artist.←65 | 66

Ambivalent pasts, ambivalent future

Place names may work like time machines, but as in many a story in film or fiction, going back in time may have unpredictable consequences. Indisputably, Kaliningrad’s name demonstrates how the ‘renunciation’ of the Stalinist Terror in contemporary Russia remains ‘incomplete’ (cf. Etkind), as well as, in my view, the ‘wilful forgetting’ of this past (cf. Huyssen). In this light, keeping Kaliningrad’s Communist name does no service to the positive legacies of that ideology, as Huyssen seems to maintain. At the same time, we cannot project a Western academic view onto the feelings and emotions of Kaliningrad’s inhabitants, many of whom feel relatively content with their city’s name and its associations. In this, alternative view of Kaliningrad, the city’s neo-colonial name evokes patriotic Russianness, victory, and continuity with the Soviet past.

In any case, on closer analysis, the names ‘Königsberg’ and ‘Kaliningrad’ refer not just to different imagined versions of the city’s history, but also to different places in the ‘real’ city. Königsberg, too, carries negative associations. From its Crusader origins to its Nazi-era self-destruction, those who oppose the name Königsberg do not need to look far for ammunition. We should not try to create an artificial simplicity in the discussion of the city’s name. The question means dealing with a complex, layered, and confusing array of associations, meanings and connections that does not boil down to a simple economy of stakeholders. From the ‘Prussian Carthage’ of Russian propaganda to the ‘Kantgrad’ of a historian’s daydreams, the city’s name split opinions consistently through the Cold War period and continues to do so today. Indeed, we may be able to measure Russia’s refusal to deal with its past in Western ‘progressive’, rights-based terms against the length of time the name ‘Kaliningrad’ survives into the twenty-first century.

Both sides of the debate associate the respective names with ideas of home and conceive of the other name as somehow foreign, strange or lacking in human empathy. However, to conclude that the choice between ‘Königsberg’ and ‘Kaliningrad’ comes down to two equally valid perspectives seems to miss the point, merely perpetuating the ‘ossified’ logic of←66 | 67→ Königsberg-Kaliningrad as a ‘Cold War city’ as well as promoting the existence of historical equations. Early Soviet propaganda exploited such arguments effectively, if somewhat crudely, but we have no need to perpetuate them now. Despite its deeply unsettling namesake, Kaliningrad means more than a ‘vision of the future that became obsolete’, in Boym’s phrase. It promises a vision of the future that guarantees continuity with the present, maintaining links with the past of living memory. For this reason, it continues – for now.

On the other hand, despite overtures to the charms of German architecture or Kant’s legacy to mankind, we will always see the name ‘Königsberg’ in terms of the discourse of Cold War ‘cultural demise’. Changing the name back would mean subjecting the city to a permanent comparison with its former self, forcing Kaliningrad to reconstruct Königsberg, just as many East German towns have seen replicas and reconstructions erected since reunification. Keeping the name Kaliningrad makes sense for the city’s collective autobiographical memory as it stands, as an exclave of Putin’s Russia which quashes empathy for Stalin’s victims, but this does not preclude a future alteration or innovation based on changes in the way tomorrow’s Kaliningraders relate to their values, their history, and to each other. In this scenario, a completely new name could replace the discredited older ones, perhaps something as simple as ‘Baltiisk’, the original suggestion of the Stalinist regime, or something quite different. Königsberg has become Kaliningrad, but we should not expect anyone to activate the toponymic time machine – not one travelling backwards, at least.←67 | 68→ ←68 | 69→

1 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), pp. 53–4.

2 Anaïs Marin, ‘Bordering Time in the Cityscape: Toponymic Changes as Temporal Boundary-Making: Street Renaming in Leningrad/St. Petersburg’, Geopolitics 17 (2012), 192–216 (p. 192).

3 Dieter Roelstraete, ‘The Königsberg Conjecture’, A Prior Magazine 14 (2007), 178–91 (p. 183).

4 Olga Sezneva, ‘Concrete elements of Kaliningrad’, in Art Guide. Königsberg/Kaliningrad Now, ed. Elena Tsvetaeva (Kaliningrad: Kaliningrad Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts, 2005), pp. 144–5 (p. 144). Translation adapted.

5 Joseph Brodsky [Iosif Brodskii], Chast’ rechi: izbrannye stikhi 1962–89 (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literature, 1990), p. 47.

6 Roelstraete, p. 213.

7 Markus Podehl, Architektura Kaliningrada: Wie aus Königsberg Kaliningrad wurde (Marburg: Herder-Institut, 2012), pp. 296–8.

8 Walther Hubatsch, ‘Gründung und Entwicklung von Königsberg im Rahmen der Ostseegeschichte’ in Stadt und Landschaft im deutschen Osten und in Ostmitteleuropa, eds Friedrich Berthold Kaiser and Bernhard Stasiewski (Cologne: Böhlau, 1982), pp. 23–44 (pp. 29–31).

9 Michael Wines, ‘Yantarny Journal; Russians Awaken to a Forgotten SS Atrocity’, The New York Times, 31 January 2000, <http://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/31/world/yantarny-journal-russians-awaken-to-a-forgotten-ss-atrocity.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm> [1 October 2011]; Martin Bergau, Todesmarsch zur Bernsteinküste: das Massaker an Juden im ostpreußischen Palmnicken in Januar 1945. Zeitzeugen erinnern sich (Heidelberg: Winter, 2006); David Greene, ‘Russian village haunted by a hidden Holocaust past’, NPR, 9 March 2010, <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124466615> [1 October 2011].

10 James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 74.

11 Per Brodersen, Die Stadt im Westen: Wie Kaliningrad Königsberg wurde (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), p. 62.

12 Claudia Sinnig, ‘Melting Thoughts Frozen in Words’, A Prior Magazine 14 (2007), 230–45 (p. 244).

13 Alexander Etkind, Warped Mourning: Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 36.

14 Marin, p. 200.

15 Brodersen, Die Stadt, p. 64; Gregor Thum, Uprooted: How Breslau Became Wrocław During the Century of Expulsions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), p. 252.

16 Andrzej Mencwel, Kaliningrad, mon amour, trans. Olaf Kühl (Potsdam: Deutsches Kulturforum östliches Europa, 2008), p. 74. ‘Im gewissem Sinne war er [Kalinin] ein Nichts, und es liegt eine historische Wahrheit darin, dass dieser Stadt, die noch nicht ist, sondern erst sein soll, die ihren Namen also eigentlich noch nicht kennt, der Name eines Nichts verliehen wurde’.

17 Brazilla Carroll Reece, ‘On German Provinces East of Oder-Neisse Line, and Economic, Historical, Legal and Political Aspects Involved’, Speech of Hon. B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee in the House of Representatives; Thursday, 16 May 1957 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1957), pp. 18–19.

18 Jędrzej Giertych, Poland and Germany: a reply to Congressman B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee (London, 1958), p. 39.

19 Cf. John Czaplicka, ‘Lviv, Lemberg, Leopolis, Lwów, Lvov: A City in the Crosscurrents of European Culture’, in Lviv: A City in the Crosscurrents of Culture, ed. John Czaplicka (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Institute, 2005), pp. 13–45 (p. 25).

20 Viktor V. Golubev and Osman D. Chidzhavadze, Shturm Kënigsberga (Kaliningrad, 2005), p. 4.

21 Stefan Berger, ‘Kaliningrader Identitäten nach dem Ende des Kalten Krieges’, in Kaliningrad in Europa: Nachbarschaftliche Perspektiven nach dem Ende des Kalten Krieges, ed. Stefan Berger (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 2010), pp. 9–34 (p. 26).

22 Berger, p. 27.

23 Astrid Erll, Memory in Culture, trans. Sara B. Young (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p. 105.

24 ‘Na Zapade Net Bol’she Vostochnoi Prussii’, in Kaliningrad: Literaturno-khudozhestvennyi i obshchestvenno-politicheskii sbornik, ed. Anon. (Kaliningrad: Kaliningradskaia pravda, 1951) pp. 3–14.

25 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 3. ‘Здесь, как нигде, сохранились еще ее следы’.

26 Ibid. ‘тупоголовые и алчные юнкеры’; ‘псы-рыцари’.

27 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 4. ‘В. и в. наивернейший раб Эммануил Кант’.

28 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 8. ‘Калининградец тот, кто честно и беззаветно служит Родине, трудом и всей своей жизнью оправдывает ее доверие’.

29 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 5. ‘[З]меиное гнездо прусских империалистов; ‘центр[а] прусской военщины; ‘форпост мира и безопасности на западных рубежах нашей могучей родины.

30 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 6. ‘Все пришлось начинать сначала, заново строить, создавать’.

31 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 6. ‘Как хотелось тогда вечером выйти из теплой квартиры на сияющий огнями проспект, видеть наполненные народом трамваи, освещенные витрины магазинов, красочные афиши, возвещающие о концертах, кинофильмах, лекциях. Но ничего этого не было. Люди шли в темноту ночи по безлюдным улицам мертвого города, мимо развалин, пустых, без окон и крыш, домов, мимо груд битого кирпича, шли по дорогам, вокруг которых лежала исковерканная снарядами и бомбами, изрезанная траншеями и заросшая бурьяном, притихшая земля’.

32 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 14. ‘[Н]езабываемая панорама поверженного Кенигсберга и строящегося советского Калининграда’.

33 ‘Na Zapade’, p. 14. ‘Вот он какой, этот город! Трамвай везет вас по горбатым и узким улицам бывшего города. Бывшего потому, что Кенигсберг действительно бывший город. Его не существует. Намного километров отркывается незабываемая картина развалин. Стоят, тесно прижавшись друг к другу, разбитые пустые дома, без крыш и перекрытий. Они заросли бурьяном и плющом. Внутри каждого дома-коробки пробивается лес. В стороне, в руинах, лежит замок трех королей – цитадель, массивные стены его позеленели от времени и дождей’.

34 V. Velichko, Padenie Kenigsberga (Moscow: Pravda, 1945), p. 5, p. 20. ‘[П]русский Карфаген; ‘Кенигсберг – это история преступлений Германии’.

35 Velichko, p. 38. ‘[А]гония Кенигсберга’.

36 N. Konovalov, ‘Otvet klevetnikam iz FRG’, Literaturnaia gazeta 19 (4097), 9 May 1967, p. 13. ‘Нет больше Кëнигсберга, как нет и Восточной Пруссии! Есть и будут навеки мирный город Калининград и Калининградская область!’

37 Даже сорвать не умеют толком. Поучились бы у своего соотечественника барона Мюнхгаузена’.


VIII, 312
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2019 (March)
literature and history urban representation nostalgia Cold War and Post-Soviet Representations of a Resettled City Kaliningrad and Cultural Memory
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2019. VIII, 312 pp., 9 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Edward Saunders (Author)

Edward Saunders teaches literature as a member of adjunct faculty at the Center for Liberal Arts, Webster Vienna Private University. He completed his PhD in German Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2013. He has published in the areas of comparative literature, cultural memory and life-writing, with a Central and East European focus.


Title: Kaliningrad and Cultural Memory