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Moscow Finally Focusing On Real Threat From ‘Soft’ Germanization Of Kaliningrad – OpEd

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Commentators like himself who have been pointing to the “soft” Germanization of Kaliningrad over the past few years have been routinely denounced as fools or fantasts or worse, Andrey Vypolzov says. And the former governor of the region has just said that there is no Germanization going on there (kaliningrad.kp.ru/daily/26621/3639284/).

A week ago in a Regnum commentary, Vypolzov warned that “’a German order’” was on the march in the former East Prussia and that people should be asking whether “tomorrow there will be an occupation” (regnum.ru/news/polit/2218090.html). For that he writes today, he has been dismissed as an alarmist (regnum.ru/news/polit/2219919.html).

Such criticism doesn’t bother him, he says; but what does is this: the Kaliningrad intelligentsia “with unconcealed delight” accepted his two main theses that the return of that region to the German “cultural code” is now “close to the point of no return” and that “the self-identification of a significant part of Kaliningrad young people” has moved in that direction.

Many of these young people, Vypolzov argues, have hidden behind the official slogan of “Kaliningrad as Russian Europe,” an idea that resembles the notion of Ukraine as part of Europe and that thus constitutes an attempt at a Euromaidan within the borders of the Russian Federation.

For almost 30 years, Russian officials have failed to take much notice of “the soft autonomization of Kaliningrad oblast (and ‘Germanization’ is very much a part of this process” or of the appearance of what he dismisses as “a so-called Kaliningrad identity,” separate and apart from the Russian.

According to Vypolzov, Moscow took notice of this danger following Vladimir Putin’s decree of January 31, 2016, which dropped the Russian government’s 1992 commitment to restore a German territorial autonomy, and moved to close a variety of German institutions in Kaliningrad.

Given protests in the 1990s against restoring a German autonomy in the Middle Volga, there was never a chance that Moscow would take that step, as much as many Germans had hoped. Instead, many Germans had placed their hopes in Kaliningrad, which as Koenigsberg until 1945 had been German anyway.

Now, Putin has ended their hopes in this regard, but instead of coming to terms with that, some German activists in Kaliningrad and elsewhere have stepped up their activities, viewing that territory as their only hope for a German territory within Russia or alternatively an independent German republic.

Kaliningrad is not very German, Vypolzov says. There were only about 7500 ethnic Germans in that region at the time of the 2010 census, less than one percent of the oblast’s population and a tiny fraction of the nearly 400,000 ethnic Germans who live in the Russian Federation.

But there is another way to look at it, and supporters of the Germanization of Kaliningrad do just that. On the one hand, they note that the number of ethnic Germans in the exclave has increased 600 percent. And on the other, they point out that there is no titular nationality in Kaliningrad that might get in the way of their aspirations.

Those who think in this way have even dreamed up a name for what the Russian commentator describes as “a new Frankenstein monster.” Their land, they have decided, should be called the Baltic Slavic-German Republic. But unless there is a new crisis which Berlin seeks to exploit and Moscow fails to oppose, that isn’t going to happen, Vypolzov says.

Those who dismiss what is happening now, however, may discover that the risks of something going wrong in the future will only increase, the commentator continues – and such dismissals all too often as in the case with current and present officials in the exclave who are too willing to say “’the swastika was an ancient Slavic symbol.’”


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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

7 thoughts on “Moscow Finally Focusing On Real Threat From ‘Soft’ Germanization Of Kaliningrad – OpEd

  • December 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm
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    Kaliningrad will remain Russian because Germany lost WWII which they started. Same for the 4 kurile islands that now belong to Russia because Japan started and lost WWII in the Pacific. Stop dreaming Paul.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2016 at 3:04 am
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    I really don’t think Germany would even want the region anymore; considering how destroyed it was, particularly the landmark Konigsberg Castle. As East Prussia, it was already separated from the whole of Germany with the Polish corridor to the Baltic from the former West Prussian territory lost in WW1. This only created problems bridging between the German regions. Ideally from a Geological perspective, Poland would be better to take Kaliningrad since it already has the other (southern) half of East Prussia and Germany be ceded an equivalent amount of Pomerania and/or Silesia. After all, Russia took eastern Poland by force and never returned it after WW2.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2017 at 6:56 pm
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    This article is the same old propaganda pipe dream that German and Russian elites have been cramming in their pipes for a very long time. Try citing a valid historical text. The region that envelops what is today Kaliningrad is historically part of Poland. Królewiec is the original and FOUNDING name for this misled city. Germany and Russia have no rights to this land. Prussia is an illusion created by the Teutonic Knights.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2017 at 7:40 am
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    Alex, you may want to educate yourself on this issue. The Kaliningrad region was never Polish, nor was it ever a historical part of Poland. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information but of all the former eastern German territories, the Kaliningrad region was the least Polish influenced. It was originally inhabited by non-Slavic Prussian tribes, Vikings and eastern Germanic tribes. Then we had 700 years of German influence and settlement in the region. This is well understood and of the cultures dominant in that region, Poland has the least claim to any of Kaliningrad’s history. It’s interesting how modern Poles often have an incorrect and revisionist history of the region. It’s plainly obvious to everyone else in the civilized world. You’re letting your disdain for the Teutonic Order get in the way of historical truths

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    • January 19, 2017 at 6:06 am
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      Bryan, I would say that it is YOU that needs to do some serious sit down time to study on this disputed land. In fact, if we want to look at the historical facts, the region that is today Kaliningrad was originally occupied by the Polabian Slavic tribes (since the Bronze Age) that today most closely associate with Lithuanians and Poles. In the early 12th century the king of Poland, Bolesław III Wrymouth, was expanding his kingdom’s territory north onto the Baltic coastline with the goal of converting the pagan Polabians to Christianity. Foolishly, the Polish sought the aid of German knights like the Teutonic Order in their crusade of this region which became known as the “Wendish Crusade” of 1147. I say foolish here because the Germans had no intentions of leaving once the pagan Slavic tribes were conquered, and instead sought to occupy this land instead of the Kingdom of Poland. However, in due time, your beloved “Prussia” became a fiefdom of later Polish kings, though the Germans continued to practice their favorite acts: violence/ pillaging, raping, etc. It was not until the battle of Grunwald on July 15th, 1410 that the Teutonic Order was decisively crushed by a much smaller Polish army. Modern day Anglo-Saxon/Germanic historians gleefully tend to overlook and glide over valid facts that include any defeat of their beloved civilization. Cheers from the US of A!

      Reply
  • January 19, 2017 at 10:17 pm
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    The Skalvians were also some of the original inhabitants of what is today Kaliningrad. All of the original tribes of this region are Balto-Slavic, not German!!! Finnish influences were prevalent as well in the Baltic region. The arrival of Germans here is more correctly called colonization/Germanization.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2017 at 1:27 am
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    All of you arguing about whether Kaliningrad/Königsberg was German or Slavic, it was neither. Kaliningrad was not Polish or Slavic, and it was not German. It was Baltic. Kaliningrad was once Prussian, but not German Prussian, rather it was Baltic Prussian (Old Prussian). The original Prussians (Sambians) were a west Baltic people. There were also some Prussian Lithuanians in the area (also Baltic). Then the Germans came, took over, and began calling themselves Prussians, because they would live and settle in Prussia. German Prussia grew over time outside of the historical Baltic region. Also, it seems that there is some confusion on whether Lithuanians are Slavic or not. The Lithuanians are an east Baltic group like the Latvians, while the west Baltic groups like the Old Prussians/Sambians were wiped out. The original name of Kaliningrad was in Old Prussian, a western Baltic language that has been extinct for a long time.

    Reply

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