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Kaliningrad and Its German Past

Kaliningrad and Its German Past

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Published by Hakan Kariman

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Published by: Hakan Kariman on Jul 28, 2012
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This article was downloaded by: [Orta Dogu Teknik Universitesi]On: 03 April 2012, At: 11:40Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Geopolitics
Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/fgeo20
How to be Russian with a Difference?Kaliningrad and its German Past
Stefan Berger
aa
School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University ofManchester, UKAvailable online: 13 May 2010
To cite this article:
Stefan Berger (2010): How to be Russian with a Difference? Kaliningrad and itsGerman Past , Geopolitics, 15:2, 345-366
To link to this article:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14650040903486967
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use:http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
 
Geopolitics 
, 15:345–366, 2010Copyright
©
Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 1465-0045 print/1557-3028 onlineDOI: 10.1080/14650040903486967
How to be Russian with a Difference?Kaliningrad and its German Past 
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STEFAN BERGER 
School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University of Manchester, UK 
Kaliningrad’s history started with the expulsion of the remaining ethnicGermans after the Red Army had conquered the city and surrounding ter-ritory and after the Soviet Union had decided to re-settle the area withethnic Russians and to rebuild the old German city of Königsberg as amodel city of the new Soviet man (and woman). What we witnessed sub-sequently was a radical attempt to replace one constitutive narrative of socio-territorial identity, that of Königsberg, with a counter-narrative, thatof Kaliningrad. The existing literature on Kaliningrad, which we will briefly review below, is by and large in agreement that this attempt was a failure.The German Königsberg always had its defenders in the Russian Kaliningradand by the late 1980s Kenig was the name that many young Russians calledtheir city, indicating high levels of emotional identification with the oldnigsberg. With the independence of the Baltic republics in 1992 andtheir accession to the EU in 2003, Kaliningrad became a Russian exclaveand an enclave surrounded by the EU member states Poland and Lithuania.Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, there were lively debates about the futureof Kaliningrad. Journalists, politicians and academics speculated about whatmight become of this land, which was one of the last remaining war bootiesof the old Soviet Union. And what about its people, the overwhelmingmajority of which were ethnic Russians – how would their identities as aborderland people develop over time? These are debates which have lostnothing of their topicality, and indeed, the commemorations of ‘750 yearsof Kaliningrad’ in 2005 and of ‘60 years of the region of Kaliningrad’ in2006 have highlighted the importance of narrative constructions of collectiveidentity in the city and its surroundings What is at stake then is to see how the Soviet
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Russian national(ist)discourse in and on Kaliningrad has impacted on the constructions of a
 Address correspondence to Stefan Berger, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures,University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. E-mail: stefan.berger@manchester.ac.uk345
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   O  r   t  a   D  o  g  u   T  e   k  n   i   k   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  e  s   i   ]  a   t   1   1  :   4   0   0   3   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   2
 
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Stefan Berger 
German national past for Kaliningrad. We wish to examine how the mean-ings of Kaliningrad’s boundaries have been discursively constructed and askthe question if and how they were remade through the anniversaries of 2005and 2006.
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Social memory had a particularly important role to play in thoseanniversaries, which rested on diverse and often conflicting constructions of an identitarian past for Kaliningrad
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Königsberg. Social memory is strongly connected to narrativity: mnemonic practices seek to establish workable nar-ratives giving continuity and meaning. The evocation of Kaliningrad’s past was to give meaning to the present. Traditions are remembered throughcommemorative practices and the repetition of these practices heightensthe awareness of objects and places endowed with identitarian meaning.However, in cases of traumatic memory, such continuity and meaning is farmore difficult to achieve. And in the case of Kaliningrad, the memory of the past, for Russians and Germans alike, is certainly very traumatic, divisiveand discontinuous. The question in this case is whether mnemonic bridgescan be built between the pre- and post-traumatic worlds to come to a work-able memory of territorial space. How can one avoid the Russian symbolicappropriation of Königsberg becoming a thorn in the side of German coun-termemories? Is social memory not suited to identity construction, as it is toocontested, conflict-ridden and endowed with unequal power relationships? What we are dealing with when we analyse commemorations, like the onesin Kaliningrad in 2005 and 2006, are not unified memories, but a set of mnemonic practices which operate in a given mnemonic field, where nar-ratives are in an ongoing dialogue with other narratives.
3
Commemorationslike the one that we examine here can be understood as ‘constitutive nar-ratives’, which are crucial to the functioning of social memory. As Geoffrey Cubitt has argued: ‘commemorative occasions and ceremonies do indeedcontribute distinctively, and in many social settings vitally, to making the pastan active rather than a merely passive element in people’s social awareness. . . they are instrumental in constituting the past that is to be remembered,and the collectivity that is expected to do the remembering. . . . They offeroccasions for communities to take stock of, to debate, and perhaps to adjustthe meanings they find in their own history and the shapes they give to theircollective identity . . .’
4
Commemorative occasions in the oblast of Kaliningrad underwent a variety of permutations since the late 1980s, and this article will shed lighton most attempts to reconstruct a usable past that are associated with thedouble anniversary that the city celebrated in 2005 and 2006. The work of Olga Sezneva has reminded us that since the second half of the 1980s many Kaliningraders have rediscovered the German past of their city as an appeal-ing alternative to the grey drabness of Soviet Communism.
5
Ever since theend of the Cold War and the independence of the three Baltic republics,the enclave status of Kaliningrad has led to wild discussion, sometimes
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   O  r   t  a   D  o  g  u   T  e   k  n   i   k   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  e  s   i   ]  a   t   1   1  :   4   0   0   3   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   2

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