Wilson Center Experts

Per Brodersen

Short-term Scholar, Kennan Institute
Kennan Institute

Expertise:
Russia and Eurasia
Affiliation:
Ph.D. candidate, Institute for History and Culture of Germans in Eastern Europe, Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf, Germany
Wilson Center Project(s):
The Soviet Far West: Regional Consciousness in Kaliningrad, 1945-70
Term:
Jun 01, 2003
-
Jul 01, 2003

Project Summary

With the demise of the Soviet Union and the opening of Kaliningrad Oblast? for Western visitors at the beginning of the 1990s, this area on the shores of the Baltic Sea ceased to be a terra incognita and returned to Europe. It became possible to study historical issues in this region that had been embodying the Iron Curtain. After all, during almost half a century this area had been a military garrison closed even for most of Soviet citizens. After WWII settlers were brought here, mainly from Central Russia, to repopulate this part of East Prussia that came to be named after the late Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin. Since then, the process of appropriating this westernmost outpost of the Soviet empire has been influenced by historical, political and cultural factors which remain to be identified. The goal of the dissertation project is to describe and analyze these factors and dimensions of the settlers? life-world in this key region of the USSR. Beyond clarifying historical problems, this work may contribute to a better understanding of an area whose status constitutes a problem for the European Union. A series of historical, cultural and economic factors defined Kaliningrad Oblast’ in its quality of a region of the USSR. The alien past of this territory was an unwelcome heritage forSoviet power as well as of crucial importance. The political-administrative separation of this part of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic from the neighboring Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic transformed Kaliningrad in an exclave and weighed heavily on the process of appropriating it. Kaliningrad’s specific status as an outgard on the Western border of the USSR was a significant element in the formation of a regional consciousness.It is all the more promising to explore regional consciousness in Kaliningrad Oblast’ since the region?s conditions were conducive to develop mentalities completely cut off from the territory’s historical references. This type of work allows to reach conclusions on typically Soviet norms and values, both as they were imposed on citizens and as they were functioning in the latter’s daily life.The region?s alien past pose several important questions. How much did history influence the plans of the political center to turn this area in a genuine Soviet territory? To what extend did this process influence relationships between decision-making bodies and administrations in Kaliningrad and Moscow? How much did the region’s particular conditions favor the emergence of Moscow-centered patterns, to what extend they contributed to develop a standardized Soviet culture in Kaliningrad Oblast whose German past and traditions could not be relied upon?