What Moscow did to Koenigsberg, it will do to Crimea

Kaliningrad, Russia

Kaliningrad, Russia 

2016/04/23 • Analysis & Opinion, Crimea, History, Russia

Moscow’s destructive approach to its exclave of Kaliningrad [former East Prussian city of Koenigsberg – Ed.] over the last 70 years suggests what the Russian state will try to do to Crimea in the future: expelling the indigenous population, replacing it with Russians, militarizing the territory, and despoiling and degrading the economy and culture of the region.

The IPVNews portal this week publishes 29 pictures which better than any commentary show that Russian occupation of Kaliningrad has meant and why Ukraine’s Crimea, if it remains under Russian occupation, almost certainly will suffer a similar and equally disastrous fate.

The Königsberg Castle (pre-WW2 photo)

The Königsberg Castle (pre-WW2 photo)

That is because, the portal suggests, the two exclaves have so many things in common, including but not limited to a hated indigenous population Moscow is prepared to replace with ethnic Russians, a location that makes them ideal as military bases, and economies that Russia is prepared to drive into the ground.

House of the Soviets, Kalinigrad oblast, Russia

Current day Kaliningrad, The House of the Soviets

“Today, 70 years after the transfer of East Prussia, it is obvious,” the portal says, “that the experiment” Moscow talked about – using Kaliningrad as a bridge to Europe – has completely failed. Instead, “the beautiful German houses have become communal apartments, the rural estates transformed into decaying farms, and the infrastructure degraded to African levels.”

One local historian says that “Kaliningrad oblast is a strange absurd construct, something like the incarnation of the ideas of Pelevin. All the cities were given new artificial names which completely reworked their history. For example, remarkable Tilsit, where the peace was signed, became Sovetsk and Koenigsberg received the name of Soviet executioner Mikhail Kalinin.”

Pre-WW2 photo of Koenigsberg

Pre-WW2 photo of Koenigsberg (before)

And with these changes in names came a change in landscape, with the beautiful German buildings replaced by already decaying Soviet ones and German churches handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church which were then allowed to decay. As bad as the situation in the capital is, the situation in rural areas is worse, typical of the most backward part of Russia.

Current day Kalinigrad oblast, Russia

Current-day Kaliningrad, Russia (after)

“Small groups of activists are trying to save even a few buildings, but under conditions of general chaos and constantly changing relations and agreements inside the power structures of Kaliningrad, they have achieved little,” and have not even been able to save what were the city’s remarkable streetcars.

What makes the IPVNews article so valuable is that it provides “before and after” pictures that highlight exactly what Russia has done to Koenigsberg and represents a clear warning to what Moscow will almost certainly do in Crimea if it is allowed to retain its Anschluss of that Ukrainian territory.

And despite Moscow’s claims that many of the exclave’s problems reflect its geographic position, the article shows that the problems Koenigsberg faces today emanate from Russian rule. That is because East Prussia was not simply taken by the USSR but divided up between the Soviets and the Poles. Today, the Polish section is flourishing.

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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Quartermaster

    Whatever Ivan touches, turns to crap.I once was acquainted with a Professor from Pennsylvania State University who was originally from Koenigsberg. He had just come back from a visit to his old home and the future appeared to bright at the time. Russia was inviting Germans back. That was 2002.

    Germans didn’t trust Russia, and now they can see that attitude was a very good idea. It isn’t likely that returning Germans would be well treated now.

    • Joni Pelkonen

      They did receive massive amounts of monetary help from European countries, which they used to renovate a few old buildings, rest probably disappeared to corruption.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Why help Dwarfstan in the first place? The country has enough money of its own, it doesn’t need financial aid, nor does it deserve any.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      That doesn’t surprise me. I met an old German gentleman shortly after Kaliningrad had been opened to foreigners. He had lived in Königsberg as a child, and had just returned from a visit to his birthplace. He wasn’t impressed- his exact words to me were “Glauben Sie mir, es ist eine große Schweinerei!”- “Believe you me, it’s a big pigsty!”

  • AutonomousMan

    ¨70 days after the transfer of East Russia” should be: “East Prussia”

  • Brent

    It’s sad what a plague of “Russian locusts” descending onto an area leaves behind. But when you look at how they treat their own country and environment, it’s not a surprise.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      One need only compare Danzig or Breslau as rebuilt by Poland after WW2 to what the Russians have done with Königsberg. Environmental problems? They did not exist in the USSR according to Moscow’s propaganda. They obviously “forgot” Mayak and other disasters, culminating in the biggest one, Chernobyl. But hey, the Ukraine and Belarus bear the brunt of the damage, so who cares? Certainly not Dwarfstan.