From the editors
CULTURE IN A "FOREIGN" SPACE: AN INTRODUCTION
TO GENIUS LOCI KALININGRAD AND KOENIGSBERG
KALININGRAD IN THE YEAR 2020 - A NOT QUITE FICTITIOUS CONVERSATION
DESTINATION - KALININGRAD
FROM KALININGRAD DICTIONARY
MAP OF THE CITY
FORMA URBIS. SYMBOLIC PARALLELS
IN OR OUT
THE RAILWAY STATION AND ENTRANCE TO THE CITY OF KALININGRAD
BINARY STATES OF "K" CITY
Eugeny Umansky, Karpenko-Karpenko
IN THE CENTER
Andrei Monastyrsky, Sabina Haensgen
EMPTY CENTER K.
FOLLOWING SILENT WORDS
FA+ (Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre)
THE MYTHICAL FOUNDATION OF KALININGRAD
PRETERITION: KNEIPHOF ISLAND
THE BRIDGES AND "THE PREGEL'S ODOR"
John Craig Freeman, Greg Ulmer
IMAGING KALININGRAD: THE SEVEN BRIGES OF KOENIGSBERG
FORGOTTEN KANT AND THE KANT-BRAND IN KOENIGSBERG
KANT'S BRIDES: A READYMADE PHOTOGRAPHIC CHRONOTOPE
THE CATHEDRAL AND KANT FOR EVERYONE, OR IS GOD FEARSOME WITHOUT MORAL
THE CASTLE OF SOVIETS
THE ROYAL CASTLE
A WHITE SEAGULL ABOVE THE CITY: THE SYMBOLS OF THE OLD NEW CITY
WRITING OF DREAMS
LIGHT UP DOM SOVETOV
THE HOUSE OF SOVIETS
THE MOST PROFOUND SECRET OF ONE KOENIGSBERG LAWYER: HOFFMANN
A LEGEND ABOUT FIVE LITTLE ULRICHEN AND FERRYMAN ANDRE
KOENIGSBERG-KALININGRAD. THE TASTE OF MARZIPAN
THE COUNTRY OF PENSIONERS - OR THE GERMANS
CONCRETE ELEMENTS OF KALININGRAD
THE UNDREAMED OF CITY
TOWN PLANNING MATHEMATICS
MOSKOVSKII PROSPECT & THE SHADOWS AROUND ALTSTADT
OUR TOWER Ivan Chechot
THE TOWER-REDAN "KRONPRINZ"
THE KRONPRINZ TOWER. Projects for the National Centre for Contemporary Arts by Students of the Institute for Theory and Design in Architecture (Braunschweig, Germany)
THE AMBER ROOM
BASTIONS IN DIAMONDS AND EMERALDS
THE HOUSE OF MACHINERY: THE RECONSTRACTION AND EXPLOITATION OF THE POPULATION
V.I.P. (Very Interesting Person)
PLACE OF EXECUTION
TRACES OF A VIRTUAL HISTORY IN A VERY REAL CITY
CHRIST THE SAVIOR CATHEDRAL
LIFE AND EGGS (A sketch about trams)
A STROLL THROUGH THE CENTER
IN THE FLOW: FOUNTAIN SEASON
WILD WEST OF RUSSIA
ANIMALS IN KALININGRAD AND A MOSAIC
KOENIGSBERG'S SPIRITUAL HERITAGE IN TONS, ITEMS AND SACKS. From the history of lost and found cultural heritage
WE ALL ARE GOING TO BE THERE
MONUMENT TO 1200 GUARDSMEN IN KALININGRAD
MATTER AND SPIRIT
FRAGMENT OF A SYMPHONY FOR SLOW READING: IVANOV AND HIS SURROUNDINGS
ATTIC OF RECOGNITION
MAN AND WOMAN
THE SMALL SCULPTURE "GIRL"
ON THE STREET
Igor Isaev, Dmitrii Demidenko
THE FIRE HYDRANT
Kalle Brolin, Kristina Muntzing
THE WATERFALL HERACLES' BOLT
V.I.P. (Very Interesting Person)
NATASHA POTERYASHINA. Inteview
TO BE IN THE MOOD FOR PACKING
Dmitrii Bulatov, Pavel Savel'ev
ACEPHALUS: OPTICAL MODELS
LIGHT THE CRYSTALS OF KALININGRAD!
THE BRIDGE THAT THE "RUSSIANS COULDN'T PULL DOWN"
THE ROAD TO BERLIN: FROM EPIC TO BANAL. Interview with Valerii Bugrov
HOAR-STONES AND BOUNDARY SYMBOLS
MUSCOVITES ARE HANGING
BEFORE THE CITY
TO GENIUS LOCI KALININGRAD AND KOENIGSBERG
Ivan Chechot / St. Petersburg, Russia
When the jubilee celebration is over and the wind tosses up trash, ordinary life will go on, and the grim reality of a provincial life will be back. This is the provincial town called Kaliningrad: a mass of problems, bad roads, unemployment, terrific pollution, the desperate struggle of the old order with the new. Talks about the prospect of the Russian enclave's capital, separated from the mainland, will renew: nervous or desperate talk about the future and when the future is going to begin. Questions will arise again: Along which path should culture go? What amount of the global and the local should it contain? What amount of the Russian and the European? This is what everybody is thinking if not arguing about - not only the inhabitants but all who love this town and even those who are just curious about it, guests visiting the town. In summer they will come again for a seaside vacation: solitary tourists or groups, mostly German.
My first visit in Kaliningrad, which took place in the late 1970es, was exactly that of a tourist. Since that time, I have frequently visited Kaliningrad, where I have good friends and am inevitably overwhelmed by thoughts about my homeland, about Europe, and about Germany (to which I am connected both professionally and spiritually). As an art historian, a specialist in German culture, a keen lover of classic music and literature, and a reader of philosophy books, I could not but crave visits to Kaliningrad. I believe that a Russian intellectual in general, especially a Western-oriented one (as I was at that time), cannot help but be interested in the town via which Peter the Great and Karamzin discovered Europe, the town at whose borders Gumilev and other notorious persons fought. Such a person cannot feel bored in Kaliningrad, though… Not just any person, however, because almost nothing is left of the former town. It lacks the obvious popularity of the German Middle Ages and the coziness of other towns, like Riga or Tallinn. And the German remnants seem improper: they are special, deformed, barbarously reconstructed without any Romanticism. One may say that there is nothing for a tourist to do. But for a pathfinder, for an explorer…
Who can be interested in Kaliningrad/Koenigsberg in its present time and state? Not a tourist. By definition, tourists hurry in pursuit of all that is bright, big, pretty and special. In contrast, Kaliningrad, just to be seen, requires much time and the skill of gazing thoroughly, a micro-vision, an interest in details. Without that micro-vision, without a sense of the whole which follows from a consideration of the main theme or question of one's visit, without the larger context of history and present times, nothing will be clear or interesting in Kaliningrad. This requires vast and various knowledge, imagination, a capacity of feeling the presence of the absent and love or desire for thinking. For those who possess all this, Kaliningrad is a very interesting town that launches one's memory and intuition towards both the future and the past. The main question that bothers an observer in Kaliningrad is whether Koenigsberg remains. What embodies it and why? What saved it from total disappearance? These questions give rise to conjecture about what Koenigsberg has to say to Kaliningrad and the world in general, what direction it points at. There is also the question about how Kaliningrad and Koenigsberg are united at the same place and in present time, and a question of the town's future which rises from its history as a whole.
Not only the external observer but also the native feels it difficult to combine the town, Kaliningrad/ Koenigsberg, into a single whole. Nowadays, it splits into fragments or parts lacking any obvious visible connection. Here a lonely old tooth-house, there a small block seemingly untouched by time, with pieces from a past Soviet-era life protruding all around, living houses already a little dusted with time; scarce remains of the Stalin era town, once bright with fountains, columns, statues, neighboring upon newer investment in real estate, hastily constructed centers of contemporary civilization - and dumps, garbage-heaps, garages, barns, flea-pits, tumbledown and desolate military settlements all around, to the horizon.
The town center is empty. A boring long bridge crosses the place where the old town was once located and leads to the place where the Royal Castle once stood (it was demolished in the late 1970s). On this ancient hill, another ghost castle has been erected: the huge cubic Dom Sovetov - an expressive monument to prolonged construction, neither a ruin nor a Futurist project but an object of meditation, mysterious in its opacity. First, a Kaliningrad visitor wonders and steps aside in terror. There is no town, old or new, there is only draft, the rage of the steel winds of history, the mocking faces of destruction and the useless, doomed, poor, miserable, self-assertion of another life, the impudent glitter and ringing of cell phones, and the already familiar gush of waterfalls of beer flowing from commercial ads.
But here, evening falls upon the town. You are in long alleyways, you hear the special rustle of tires - as if in a forgotten movie - along the glossy cubic pavement, you see wandering car headlights on an ornamental brick wall, you notice a tracery sash in a yellow window and inhale the wet air under the trees. The huge silhouette of a tall roof suddenly looms in the sunset sky; you are invited to visit a local home and you walk up a squeaky wooden staircase with copper-padded stairs, here is a brass door-handle and a doorbell, both old. German objects still remain in many apartments: a piano, a cupboard in the bathroom, a coffee grinder - they feel at home here. A conversation starts: When did you come here? And you? Were you born in Kaliningrad or not? Have the previous residents come here to visit you or not? Where are they now? Et cetera.
But it is not necessary to witness this old-time sentimental picture in order to feel that you are not exactly in Russia. You can relax in a new billiard club or reserve a table under colored lights in a Biergarten, you may converse with young people who have never been to Moscow and who are not at all dying to visit Petersburg, but who go to Poland and Germany every year. You understand that you, a mainland Russian, live somewhere deep in the rear; it is here that something is happening, waiting, starting. However, in a territorial sense it is going in a quite different direction from the mainland. Curious, you enter the "German" movie theatre from the 1920s, thoroughly renovated and carefully preserving a few pre-war details but now equipped with the latest technology. You then go to a cafe and club inventively decorated by their designers in the spirit of the postmodern stylization of bourgeois luxury, with tense Art Deco lines that make you feel your own stylistic inferiority. You talk to the energetic, sometimes rather ecstatic people. You see that they are full of hope, they are robust, pragmatic, they speak Russian, they are absolutely Russian, but… And here your inner voice whispers that something separates you from them, something totally specific and almost ineffable: a direct living connection to the Genius Loci, to Koenigsberg-Kaliningrad, which you may contemplate only from aside, from far away.
Western writers like to depict Soviet Kaliningrad only as a prison, a concentration camp. However, already in the 1960es this town had another reputation in the Soviet Union. My aunt, a doctor, used to travel abroad from Kaliningrad on gigantic ocean liners, like Alexander Pushkin or Mikhail Lermontov (the latter had a tragic bitter end). The town was a restricted-access port. It had a special regime, financial bonds, an exclusive Beryozka shop with imported goods, the pretty wives of sailors and navy officers, delicious smoked fish, clean and very green streets, the nearby seaside, cozy German houses, children in summer camps and military units with apple trees painted white. All this was crowned by the Baltic Fleet, Sailors' Day and Navy Day. The town was closed to both foreigners and natives; it lived its own inner life that was hardly known in other parts of the USSR. It seemed to be exactly like life everywhere, and yet it was slightly different. For example, they say that after the war there was no criminal prosecution in Kaliningrad; one could come here and get lost. Patriotic propaganda was extreme, and there was nothing German. History was reduced to Russian military victories in the 13th, 18th, and 20th centuries; the only exception was that the victors over Napoleon were respected - Russian commanders and, unwillingly, their Prussian allies. The Soviet experience was not lost on the town. The very location at which the town lies had been transformed: hills effaced, dozens of streets disappeared forever. In its center, Koenigsberg was rid of 99% of the ruined and damaged yet still standing old buildings. It lost almost all its memorials and monuments, but this has let in the air and light of riverside meadows, transforming it into a complete and utter park, both spacious and sunny.
At that time, when everything was being demolished this measure was understandable, ideologically grounded, and unambiguous. Meanwhile, things which were not symbols lived on; they remained and continued their silent work. They were not tended to, they were not repressed, they were simply put to use. Thus, the run-down and rank but intact, true bourgeois German Koenigsberg survived up into the 1990s, with all its villas, quiet streets and gardens, and beautiful green suburbs. It was not officially valued, but it was loved. People lived in it and by it, even suffering from humidity and lack of free space.
As a result of the mostly post-war destruction, the surviving objects have acquired a strange character. Fortifications and enormous mid-19th century casernes have become the town's main sights and symbols. The island with the ruined Cathedral has gained special meaning and has become a romantic landscape. Spacious red brick hospitals, orphanages, schools, and some other official buildings are preserved. Key buildings of the Third Reich still stand, shocking in their austere monumentalism, as do fortress-like bunkers; the Soviet Army used the Reich's new casernes and officers' houses without much ideological hesitation. As for church buildings, it is not the old structures of the 17th and 18th century that have survived but more recent ones, right up to the Kreuzkirche, which was built in 1933 and whose forms provide expressive evidence about the epoch and taste of the so-called "German Christians" under Hitler. Many splendid industrial buildings have survived too, such as the castle-like brewery and examples of 1920s Constructivism.
Recent years have given rise to a wave of destruction of a totally different nature. It is impossible to resist. This destruction is the other side of reconstruction, repair and overbuilding; all the repainting and new roofing are essential improvements. The cityscape is changing rapidly, villas and mansions are being built on all vacant lots, and the town acquires a new lively image. Small details disappear, iron tracings are gone, and facades change. Windows suffer the most, bidding farewell to old frames and small glass tiles. Houses gape with empty eye-sockets and strange bare-looking white plastic window frames. Once Koenigsberg gave way to Kaliningrad; now Kaliningrad is retreating, hiding, under the pressure of the 21st century city, the city of supermarkets, villas, garages and bowling clubs. The green zone downtown will soon be built up; there are already seminars and competitions aimed at that. Some propose to build a castle and an old town there, to remake everything anew and even better; others, calling the former reactionaries stuck in the mud, suggest a showroom for contemporary urban architecture in place of the "cemetery" Kaliningrad: they want a real noisy city. But what about genius loci? Is it alive? Is it visible? How can one hear or see it? Is it possible to not mistake the sentimental fantasies of a professed Germanophile for the real? What or who is the genius loci? Let us delve into the scholarly literature.
"Genius is what the ancestors called the natural god of every place or object, or person," the Latin writer Servius wrote. The genii of a home-the Lares-and the genius loci were given offerings of wine and milk, fruits and flowers. For the Roman genius, the Greeks had daimon (demon). The very word genius refers to "genus", the origin or kin, i.e. the forebears. The Romans regarded genius primarily as the god of the inner forces and capacities of a free male citizen. Neither women nor dependent people had a genius. In a genius, one can see the impersonation of an individual's inner qualities, of their nature. Thus, after death, your genius wanders somewhere around the places where you lived, and can unite with other gods. Soon, the idea of genius was extended to inanimate objects and places. According to Servius, there is no place without a genius of its own. The most famous ancient genius loci is certainly the genius of Rome. On Capitol Hill, there was a shield dedicated to the genius and the inscription: "To either man or woman." These words were conditioned by the idea that neither the name nor the sex of the genius could be known. The unknown name of the genius was never pronounced, so that enemies could not entice it. One could sense the mood of the genius, one could feel its presence, and one could be in the power of the genius, but naming that mood or giving it a definition was considered impossible or even dangerous.
In ancient images, the genius was a snake that suddenly appeared in a certain place, the symbol of the fertility of the place and a sign that bore male, phallic meaning. But more often the genius was portrayed as a young boy with a horn of plenty (a snake-like source of benefits) and a cup in his hands. There are no snakes in Kaliningrad, but we do have large black snail-slugs without shells. They freak out newcomers to Prussia, who encounter them for the first time. Some locals give special meaning not to the slugs but to the souls of Kaliningrad, the dogs and cats who are thought to have survived the destruction of the old town.
Demon is a fatal force that both shows itself and disappears suddenly. Hermann Userner, the eminent German scholar of ancient religions, called demons "the god of the given moment." Demon has no face, shape or name but it can send a person trouble or a prophetic dream, an idea or inspiration. It can also show someone the way, but most often it is a perilous way. Demon is connected with notions of fate and history. Fate and history owe their scenarios to Demon, and it defines their type and character. Translating demon into the language of traditional Russian culture, we get bes - the evil spirit, enemy of God and angels, with his special abodes. Bes is scary, and the very word boiazn (dread) is related to the word bes. Evil, unknown forces can settle in human and other beings, becoming the reason for diabolism and for mental disease. Bes, demon, genius and spirit are always masked, they never appear in their true guise, and they do not have any true guise anyway.
This detailed story is of importance to the following study for several reasons. First, because genius loci never appears in its true form; it is always masked. Subsequently, a town or place is not exactly what it looks like or has looked like. The genius-demon can appear in a dark or in a light, comforting disguise. Both are not exactly the genius itself. Second, a genius loci may well be an evil demon, a curse burdening a place. Third, genius loci is not the genius of a person or a group of people.
But is it not the people who make a town, its classes and groups of inhabitants? This is certainly the case. One city differs from another by its people and their organization, the structure of the population, the social structure, the number and special character of its eminent citizens, their political and spiritual ideals, and the language of their culture.
Taking these enlightened modern notions totally seriously, we have nothing to look for in the place where Koenigsberg once stood if we are interested in Koenigsberg. The citizens, language and culture have disappeared. Some stones remain, but they can tell about the people only in a vague and mute way. Preserved in fragments stones can easily mislead. Furthermore, these stones have lived in peace with another people for a long time and seem to have forgotten their previous masters.
Yes, the town plan remains in the landscape, canals and streams, the river flows. The sea and major roads have not vanished. It is often said that they tell their stories and the stories of people, but this is nothing but a metaphor. In reality, the landscape is a dumb picture for those who have not read historical books and who are ignorant of names; for them, all the stories (if any) that the landscape can tell are either inarticulate or primitive and recent. It is better to sit in a library, among books and glossaries, than to walk around Kaliningrad, and that is what real historians do. If they get out into the landscape, they cannot but see first and foremost contemporary history and social processes, and only after those do they see signs and traces of the past.
Do they have anything to recall? Only what they have read. But let us try to move from reading and pseudo-recalling to seeing: let us try to see what opens itself in this place, to feel it, under the pressure of contemporary external forces, to see through strata, while recognizing the value of all the layers.
The natives of Kaliningrad and its newcomers usually feel that they are in a place where there was and remains the presence of a certain whole with which they come into contact. It is not so important what is purportedly objective and subjective here; the main thing is that we have directed our gaze towards this place, that we have recognized it and that we cling to it, forming a living unity with it. Everything that we further learn about this place will be superimposed upon the essential - on the experience of the place, on the experience of our life, imagination, and reflection in this place and about this place (when we are away from it). To meditate, to mentally be in Rome, Moscow or Kaliningrad does not require our presence. Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad is a place, the topos of ideas, a certain theme with its own inner structure. Even speaking about the genius loci of Kaliningrad means to be immediately drawn into the orbit of special questions, such as: Is genius loci permanent? If it is impersonal but spiritual, then how does it manage to exist, this genius?
It really is this way - invariable and impersonal! This is the very fact that enables us to establish a personal connection with it; otherwise, we would have to know the people, which is impossible as they are all dead now. Their spirit, though reflected in their manuscripts and ideas, is so various, individual and flexible that it enables the most varied selection and interpretation.
The town as a polis, people, social body: they are a totality of local genii, which have no common denominator. The denominator may be invented, explicated by highlighting some things and obscuring others. This is why a town, as a socio-historical phenomenon and, moreover, as a social phenomenon that has disappeared, like the Koenigsberg of the 18th to 20th centuries, does not have a genius. It can only have various constructions, slogans for the future reconstruction of the town in a certain way.
The Genius loci, as well as the location itself, was called Twertikos in Old Prussian (according to Lasitsky), existed before the town and will remain after it. This place, marked by nature and the pre-history of pre-history, is not at all empty, and that is why not everything is possible in it. Now, Koenigsberg is the pre-history of Kaliningrad; that is why not everything is possible there, and some things are probably inevitable. This is not entirely mysticism. We are not only speaking about stars and one's place in the world but mostly about the history of a place that can never be totally sterilized (with its past entirely purged) possesses a certain continuity. One can expel a people but not a place. It is easy to ruin houses, to cut down orchards, to level cemeteries, but one cannot alter a place among other places in the world, just as one cannot define a place's essence and content once and for all. A place cannot be extirpated. The genius loci says: "Here, at this spot, the adventure is not finished, the show goes on, not everything is dead." In an old park in Kalthof (Gagarin Street) stands a boulder with an inscription on it: Non omnes moriar (Not everything dies). This is absolutely correct.
From the point of view proposed here at least as an opportunity of reflection, the town is not just people but geography, landscape, houses, maps, pavements - more objects than texts. They may well be silent but they look expressive. People (ideas, opinions, interests) are variable and forgetful, humans are variant and yet alike everywhere. Without doubt, it is people who build towns, but not they alone; forces that work on towns are also the greater forces of nature, politics and history, whose development is not entirely, or is entirely not, in people's control.
Following from all this, the genius of the place at which Kaliningrad is located cannot be represented by either the image of the German (conqueror, merchant or scholar), the "Prussian" returning from a long journey, or by the contemporary Russian (heroic or beaten). Is Kaliningrad the town of Kant? Both yes and no, to tell the truth. Is it the town of the crazy E.T.A. Hoffmann? -Well, partly so. Is it the town of the arrogant Prussian colonel NN? To a great extent yes, but also just partly so. Whatever kind of people you take, they are just people, just individual cases, but not the place or the town with its special capacity to unite difference.
Sometimes I think that the genius of this place is calm, even drowsy. Here, everything seems to say: leave me alone, let me be as I am. That's the genius of surprising weekdays, light air, and quiet rain. At other times, this genius appears nervous, like the excited, unpredictable, disheveled and unclean character of the famous dramatic Romantic writer Zacharias Werner. The stones say that the local genius is stern, authoritative and dry, but my own personal contact with this place says, rather, that its genius is gentle, airy, and young. This place never seems to be old or ancient. It does not wear a beard. You never sense it as something completed, geologically firm; it is not a crystal. It provides a certain detachment from reality, an opening onto the hidden.
Let us look at the town from afar, from above. Any town has its major and minor places in the world. The minor place is a medium one, as well as a unity of parts. The major geographical place for Kaliningrad/Koenigsberg is East Europe, its Baltic shore, so-called East Prussia. Being there, one has to think about their fate. The area of the Samland Peninsula and Natangen Land, at whose border the town was founded in 1255, is a bit smaller.
If you take a flight from the Urals to the Pyrenees or from the Norwegian fiords to the Balkans, the point marking Kaliningrad is geometrically at the very center of today's map of Europe. However, this place is essentially extra-territorial. In a cultural and historical sense, it used to be the outskirts of Europe, it was not the North of Europe but neither was it the European East, which was located further into Russia and more to the South, in Poland. Previously, Koenigsberg was a faraway province of Germany, the German Siberia. For today's Russia it is a territory removed to the West, either an outpost or a drifting ice-floe detached from the mainland, or even a lifeboat into which survivors struggle.
Kaliningrad's medium scale equals the distance between the ancient Prussian lands called Samland and Natangia, the mouth of the Pregel River and its long delta. The middle of Kaliningrad/Koenigsberg is Kneiphof Island and the Royal Hill. But today, as well as at the start of the 20th century, the town has two centers: one purely symbolic and empty, the other alive; they are Ploshchad Pobedy (Victory Square) and the Old Hufen (Prospect Mira). Now, as in the past, the town consists of many different places and has many parts, isolated and hardly coordinated with each other.
Before the War, like today, there were two towns. One town is depicted in the famous photographs of the historical center, now sold at any newsstand. This was a very narrow, motley, ugly town on the banks of the narrow Pregel; the Cathedral is hardly visible behind the abundance of small shabby huts with walls almost descending to the water; loaded barges traverse the river, everything is stuffed with ships, bridges stretch out their iron wings. This is not Venice or Amsterdam or Saint Petersburg, but some mob in sleepy oily water. The Castle rose above this town. Its main tower was built in the 19th century: a dry silhouette, austere vertical lines, no expression at all - a rational symbol of the Middle Ages. The Castle itself is quite ugly with its pot-bellied towers, attachments, and rough buttresses.
But there was also another town. It started behind the town gate, and in the 20th century it quickly turned into a garden town, decorated with austere modern buildings. This town was designed for living, for walking, and for bicycles. It was filled with sounds of nature that accentuated the latest sports and cultural issues. The two towns were opposed like taste and tastelessness, like the old and the new, like the cultivated individual and the street crowd (markets, squares, stores).
The two parts plus zero equals an empty middle. The value, the beauty of a void in the center is hardly recognized in today's town and will soon be destroyed as something symbolically harmful. The town must not be absent but it has no right to disturb, either. This disturbance, or rather a conjunction of coziness and anxiety, the gap and the transition, is peculiar to all large territories: along the circle of the old military ring road stand numerous former villages and old districts, which officially became part of the town in the 19th and 20th centuries, but which still retain their special atmosphere. Living on Pavlik Morozov Street (behind the railway station, in Ponart) greatly differs from living at Orudiynaya or Rothenstein. All towns are defined not by their center alone but by their suburbs and outskirts as well. Vorstadt is a notion essential for Koenigsberg, as this was the place where the unity and unwilling proximity of the urban and the rural were revealed.
Certainly, the main distinguishing feature of Kaliningrad's landscape is the river entering the town via two sleeves coming from a vast jungle of reeds and marsh verdure and leaving the town northwards, towards the low banks of the gulf and the Sea Channel. For a long time, the town had no walls or fortifications at all, but it had many canals. What Koenigsberg does not have is the sea: you cannot see it. The Baltic is even less present than in Petersburg, as the Pregel does not at all resemble a seaward river and maintains its rural character up to the seashore. Old Koenigsberg had almost no marine imagery in its architecture or decoration.
After the erection of the Elevated Bridge in 1972, the image of the town center changed dramatically; the balcony of the bridge appeared, offering a view of the port and its cranes behind the empty middle of the absent town. From this balcony, it is not the town that is seen but rather a park with intersecting paths (Where did it come from, this Prussian diamond pattern?) and the blue or yellowish-brown river. This may also be seen from the windows of the surrounding houses and from the windows of Hotel Kaliningrad. From the middle of the bridge, great prospects open up almost to the horizon. When the weather is good, these views provide you with a nice light mood, arousing a desire to fly away from the town and into the fields or seaside. However, the town does not provide a real languor of faraway lands, a strictly down-stream orientation to the West, as in Saint Petersburg. I believe that the town rests in itself, transforming smoothly into nature. It is mostly oriented upwards, into the sky, and downwards, into the ground.
In the center of Koenigsberg, the river makes a loop that creates a circle. Two rivers enter the town and only one river flows out, but it does not grow wider and even narrows behind the railway bridge (the former Hollenderbaum Station), makes a turn and seems to disappear. From this place, the town returns to itself. The river flows sleepily, it swells under the influence of western winds and goes backwards. The rectangular island rests passively in the water, without any hardness of stone. Ground, people and houses are piled upon it. The old university, standing on old piles, almost flowed with the current. Koenigsberg is a peaceful haven, "the pumpkin arbor" of the 17th century poets, the cozy Simon Dach and Robert Robertin.
Kaliningrad has neither a basic cityscape nor a main outlook. Its plan is more important than its profile. It was not always like that, but this tendency also existed before the war. Koenigsberg has been spread across the surface. Shadowed by the foliage, it hardly ever rose above the surface. This will certainly disappear soon. The people of today love penthouses and the manicured evergreens in tubs. The bushes, thickets and wastelands will disappear. Before the war, there was the prison cell of the downtown and the garden city uptown. Nowadays, many old trees remain; the numerous wind-fallen trees in gardens and parks are striking.
Tangled planning, twisting streets and small rivers are peculiar to Kaliningrad. It is a billowy hunters' land, a breeding ground for wild boar. The complicated town plan is suddenly intersected by avenues. From the squares small lanes go in every direction. The squares have awkward polyhedral shapes. Even those who know the town well sometimes get lost, trying to find the shortest way. The intersecting streets push and force you to take wrong turns.
In Kaliningrad, the role of a separate house or mansion is essential. All of the time a prismatic volume, an isolated building with a tall roof, appears in front of you. Furthermore, a linear building-up strategy prevails in some districts; Long three and four-storied facades frame the famous "island inner courts." They once had blooming gardens.
The special role played by earth is characteristic of this town. Buildings grow from the earth, they are not separated from it, they do not float above. The earth is the beginning. The sky is the crowning element. Often a dark violet sunset suddenly glows behind the growing houses. You cannot see the horizon; the lines lie in a heavy horizontal. The trees crackle and make a lot of noise. This is how Koenigsberg lets us know of itself.
The underground. You can feel it everywhere. I do not mean the underground town, which of course does not exist, but the tunnels (a train running under the main square, almost a subway), numerous mysterious waterways, a very small aqueduct, bunkers, sewers, houses sunk into the ground, garbage-filled basements, tram rails, and cobblestones showing from under the asphalt. Old houses sit beneath new ones. Everywhere is archeology, a science that was advanced in Koenigsberg and that still develops: 1945, the Germans, the Prussians, the mainland.
Sky, rain, wind, fog. Kaliningrad would not be Kaliningrad without them. The sky and weather are in permanent motion. Kant traced the weather throughout his life. It is a pity that nothing but garbage remains around the stone in the place where Bessel built his Sternwarte (Observatory).
Kaliningrad is a town of picturesque sunsets, and it is also the town of a sunset, a decline, which cannot be forgotten. Two countries have already declined: Prussia (along with the German Reich) and the Soviet Union. But the tender, crystal-clear sunrises are piercing here too. It is a town with a play of light on shadowy streets, dramatic evening and night performances. Light is variant and constantly changing here. It is the town of an enormous yellow moon and bright autumn stars. A painter should render Kaliningrad in a high-contrast manner, with dark shadows and stressed accents, with glowing reds, deep-blue water and bright or brown but not pale buildings.
Two centers, two cathedrals, two names, two "K"s (Kant and Kalinin, Kant and Koch, Kleist the writer and Kleist the general), two railway stations, two lakes, two towers (Dohna and Wrangel), two rivers, two meanings. The two meanings are essential: a bad meaning and a good meaning, an aggressive and a liberal one, past and future (two faces looking East and West). A double-edged axe. Deuce is the prototype of Koenigsberg. It is not a town for compromise, for the removal of contradiction via synthesis; it is not a place for peaceful negotiation. Here, Kant thought of antinomies, here Herder (or Hamann) opposed him, here the democrat Jacobi argued against the liberal monarchist Simson, here the evangelical authority of Andreas Osiander subverted the evangelical authority of Melanchthon, and so on. Ceaseless pairs, ceaseless arguments. Ambivalence was already distinctive in the mythology of the Balts and the Prussians: coupled horse heads, doubled wheat ears, etc. This was probably due to the importance of the twin myth for the nations forming this group. Couples were also peculiar to the Prussian pantheon: an old deity and a young deity (Potrimps, the god of river, and Autrimps, the god of sea; the gods Pekols and Pokols, and others. In Koenigsberg, everything has two sides, like Queen Louise: on the one hand, an idealized sentimental icon (a puppet theatre in a former church named after her) and, on the other hand, the highly intelligent historical person; like the defeat and victory of Tannenberg, and the balance of the Soviet and the Prussian, ranging from an obvious mutual negation to a tacit interchange of stern styles.
Naturally, Koenigsberg had some original Christian patrons. The Cathedral on Kneiphof was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Adalbert, the baptizer of the Prussians. In the Catholic epoch, the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist were the heavenly patrons of the town (both were closely connected to the symbolic system of the German Order). Other patrons were Saints Barbara, Adalbert, Elisabeth, Nicolaus and, of course, the Holy Spirit. This set of saints is far from unique. After the Reformation, the saints were forgotten, and in the 19th and 20th centuries only historians could tell to whom the churches were originally dedicated. Angels have disappeared from the town, but the local demons and Prussian gods have disappeared as well. Historical personalities have become the town's patrons. Koenigsberg is a town of great people. They crowded the genius loci, fought battles against, but they also listened to it.
The people. The so-called simple people have always been present. They change a little bit from one epoch to another, and they also change depending on their nationality, but generally, their cares and desires remain the same. Yes, today's people cannot organize themselves, while the previous ones possessed a significant corporative, solidarizing power.
Who are the main people in this town? Certainly not artists or artisans, nor even craftsmen or workers. Art, industry, and production in general have always lagged at this place; they were second-rate, provincial. That is why the local architecture of the olden times was simplified, and good-looking implements were largely imported. Just compare this with Danzig, the town of skilled craftsmen, shipyards and jewelers. Merchants? Yes, doubtlessly the merchants, but could they ever compete with the merchants of Lubeck, Hamburg or even Riga? No, they could not. The genius loci was not addressed to the merchants.
The military? Here we approach the core of the problem. The town was founded by knights, ideological and ascetic people. But by the 16th century, nothing was left of their enthusiasm. Later, Koenigsberg was the permanent point of application of the military genius of Germany - i.e. Prussia, as there never existed a Saxon, Bavarian or Schwabian military genius. However, that was an unlucky genius. Its earthly embodiment was Fritz, with his head drooping down to his knees; even he was just a step away from death, and that was the greatest moment in his life. Koenigsberg and Kaliningrad (when it was Kaliningrad) is a military town, an outpost, as they say, facing both East and West. Von Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Wrangel and Hindenburg, Beck and von Richthofen, Admiral Roeder and Cherniakhovsky, the Soviet military from Stalin to Andropov - all these are K/K. And nevertheless, Koenigsberg is not merely a military town. It is something different.
Scholars, people of reason, political thinkers (not politicians), analysts, and teachers. They are the main ones, although at the first sight they seem to be pressed back by journalists, writers and activists. The latter brilliantly embody the motif of the opposition (in relation to the Order, the crown, Berlin or, now, Moscow) which has been present in Koenigsberg since time immemorial. However, despite the brightness of these revelations of free thinking and generally liberal inspiration (Braun, Jacobi, Lohmeier, Herder), I doubt that it is they who defined the profile, the spiritual pattern of Koenigsberg. The main people here are the scholars, who asked questions and who were not afraid of the answers they found. The main thing is the idea of fundamental questioning: Kant, Herbart, Fichte, mathematicians, historians, philologists, the biologist Lorenz, the sociologist and philosopher Arendt, but also those writer-artists who, like Kleist, due to some mysterious reason, contrasting the vegetative life of the bureaucracy and in tune with the genius loci, had their striking revelations here (Pentesilea) which cast a special light on human fate in this world.
I will return to the artists. They, like no other people, had to hear the voice of the genius loci. Let us begin by listing the main emblematic names. Not music, but the word and theatre. Not painting but graphic art. Not sculpture, but chiaroscuro and cast light. They can be secret and quiet, like Dach, Wichert or Fanny Lewald. They can be mighty and passionate: the painter Willmann (born in Pillau, but he painted in 17th century Silesia), the brilliant actor Wegener, the expressive Korinth, the graphic artist and a sublime poet Miegel, the obsessed writer Borchardt, and Kathe Kollwitz. If they are thinkers, like Herder or Hamann, they are excessive in both ideas and style, almost a natural phenomena. This nature was lacking in Thomas Mann, and maybe that is why he came here.
However, I do not think that the local genius addresses artists. An artist is hardly able to concentrate on the genius. Artists appear here, they are born here or pass though a strict ordeal, and then go out into the big world. Artists come here as guests, like the Expressionists, Mann or Borchardt (who came from Italy for just three days) or the art historian Worringer, in order to experience something and to take with them the story of this experience.
The genius of this place says something personal to everyone, that's its peculiarity, but it seems to be saying something very serious, something that can be revealed on the brink, at the moment of disappearance. About something lost… The decay of the Order - I am always sorry for the Order. 1806: all my compassion is on the side of the meek king. 1871: the spiritual and political end of a Prussian project independent of imperial Germany. 1933: the disappearance of intellectual Koenigsberg. 1945: the catastrophe of Germany, the beginning of the end of European culture. Our present day: the end of Kaliningrad, mutation, the town shrinking into its shell, the town going outside itself, turning its face to the problem of identity and, finally, into an object of research. What does the word Koenigsberg mean for me now? What does it primarily mean in a historical sense?
A crush, a defeat, a sacrifice, a victim. A posthumous and virtual being. The disappearance of Europe in the ultimate exertion of European thought. The new European question of metaphysics, of God, not just of Enlightenment. This word also means an uncertainty of symmetry in the mutual understanding of East and West. Just as Tannenberg (Grunwald) has two meanings (those of victory and defeat, reaction and pseudo-progress), in the same way Koenigsberg means both the victory and the defeat of the European idea, not just the funeral of the Enlightenment. Watch the sunset of Europe in Kaliningrad. There, the view of this very place is both a memory and a struggle with memory, that is, the meaninglessness irreversibility of the conquer, the inevitability of defeat. Koenigsberg means a Prussia that no longer exists. Koenigsberg means a virtual Germany. Koenigsberg means a gaping truth: the main word in this town, not the term coined by specialists in epistemology but the question sounding above its planes. Koenigsberg means controversy: between trade and university, between nature and liberty, and, most importantly, between liberty and liberty.
Originally, Koenigsberg was a global project of power with a spiritual filling. Later it has an administrative scheme for a heart. Even later it was filled with a domestic civilization and the rights of a private person. Yes, Koenigsberg was the place for innovative processes, for transformation, digestion, and convergence, but it was ultimately a field of defeat. Koenigsberg betrayed the Reich, but not the Third Reich. Kaliningrad betrays Moscow. Koenigsberg means symbolism transformed into a myth. It means empire, honor, political and military art, civics, duty, faithfulness. But it also means self-betrayal (like that of Duke Albrecht) for self-esteem; subsequently, it is a hidden treason as a way of survival. In what form is it destined to appear now? Is it a fact that Kaliningrad will surrender? Or that Koenigsberg will come back? Or that nobody will win, neither Asia nor Europe, because the winner has a different name? It turns out that Kaliningrad is "horizontally" neither a battering ram nor a net for (and against) the East. It has not justified its principal purpose, it has been defeated. Like all of Germany, it is a weak colonizer, a rather impatient one. Koenigsberg is the embodiment of an openly formulated principle of conquering and civilizing. But this principle was originally not founded upon the idea of a normal human community but upon the extraordinariness of supreme service and heroic deeds. This straightforwardedness becomes the cause of defeat not only because it was beyond life, but because it was prone to involution, i.e. a loss of noumenal substantial meaning.
It was not by chance that Nietzsche disliked "the Koenigsberg Chinaman" (which is obviously Kant) and waged war against him on every page; he totally disliked the German North and the Baltic Sea. All this was heavy with Protestant Burgers and their "cowardly" ethics. He was attracted to the music of the South. A true epiphany of the will to power. At one place, Nietzsche wrote in his cynical, mocking manner: "For example, Kant says: 'Two things will eternally remain worthy of worship' (the starry sky and the moral law, - I.Ch.). Nowadays, we would rather say: 'Digestion is more respectable'." (Nietzsche, The Will To Power). Nietzsche and Koenigsberg are incompatible. Does that mean that Koenigsberg and today's world are enemies, Nietzsche being the godfather of modern and postmodern thought?
On the other hand, Koenigsberg really had a soft burgher core to its depths, deep inside, a warmth of communication. This resulted in its permanent hesitation, oscillation between cruelty and meekness, between humanism as a custom and humanism as a duty imposed upon others. Nevertheless, we remember the proverb: "He who offers you a soft bed, makes it difficult for you to sleep."
Koenigsberg is a town of impossible but ideologically necessary things that you will never meet in real life: Kant's "eternal peace" and "human rights", as well as "the categorical imperative"; Johann Jacobi's ideal "German democracy"; the pure totalitarianism invented by Hannah Arendt; the totalitarian but worn-out "Soviet socialist democracy" practiced in Kaliningrad; and, finally, today's dream of establishing a true Russian European town. All impossible things amalgamate in one main Koenigsberg notion: "the thing in itself", objective and transcendent being, which absolute trust is to be placed in despite its unrecognisability. And the town itself, in which this notion came to life and became a heavy burden for its greatest thinker, begins to look like its offspring: it eludes all definitions, it only appears as a number of phenomena and reflexes, is totally disappears, like something which has been given to us as an experience but which continues to exist as a thing in itself at which the free effort of a free mind is aimed. Thus, Koenigsberg is doomed to be an eternal project, an eternal beginning (this being the essence of freedom), an eternal contradiction of different projects, and, at the same time, to leave us wondering about the original idea of its matrix. It is the same with Kant himself: all attempts to authentically understand him seem to be doomed while creative interpretations resemble the annexes of an utterly impossible building. The home town of the abstract became even more abstract after 1945. Nowadays, there is a void at its center, and its outlying blocks blend with wastelands and abstractly perfect comfortable oases of a new life: all those new cultural centers, shopping malls and mansions. It appears flexible, ready for any transformation you like. However, history proves this to be wrong. Out of that peaceful happy town of the 1920s and 1930s, a place for manslaughter developed, a place for the slaughter of culture and heritage. Its ruins did not give rise either to a real Socialist town or a new stronghold. All that remained was long-lasting, protracted building activity; new shoots spring through its slabs, capable of becoming both the truth and a treacherous illusion.
Koenigsberg is the image of Germany's most striking opposition of squalor (political, esthetic, urban) and the rise of Germany's most supreme nobility. That is what Kaliningrad has not yet become. It has not ever really been threatened. Koenigsberg can be a good lesson for us in its controversy. Narrow-mindedness and bad taste have always been especially hard to bear here. It was here that one could witness the boldest sparks of the sublime: in thought (classical philosophy) and in the poetic arts (Kleist, Hoffmann). The thinker Schiller directed his imagination here, towards Kant; Wagner heard the bursts of the Flying Dutchman's overture here; in this town, amid a circle of proletarians, Kollwitz crowned the 19th century with her drawings full of the deepest sorrow and humanism. Philistinism was versatile, it could sport both new and old disguise, it could be aristocratic or progressive, but it always embodied an imitative and degraded understanding of the purpose of human life. It was opposed by strict, lifeless, anti-biological maxims. Fidelity, Truth, Responsibility, Duty. The brake as a starter. These are the famous Prussian virtues. Nothing can be less similar to them than our Russian talents. These virtues can be embodied in people of any nationality. They have Christian roots but in their metallic sound one can recognize something else: a special pride, a stubborn decision not to follow the path of salvation, a readiness for disaster for the sake of one's vow. These virtues found their places in Koenigsberg. It was not the town but the place that was the source of sacred authority for the Prussian crown, for reactionary Romantics of the 19th and 20th centuries, for nationalists, for fanatics who resisted progress. This place is a kind of a trap. Finding yourself in it, you either have to escape to the individual and the private, or to burst straight out of its top, or, finally, to say goodbye to all that was yours, native but impossible, in order to leave forever. Then, in the place of Koenigsberg there will be a nice Baltic, instead of Prussia there will be Eastern Europe as the threshold to a big and peaceful world, and instead of heroism there will just be life. This very thing, just life, and this is one of the most obviously impossible things.
What does the word Kaliningrad mean to me? What does the genius loci say to me? On Aivazovsky Street, there lives Victor, a jeweler and a sportsman - heart, silver, amber. He has a small gym at home and a bathhouse in his backyard. In front of the bathhouse stands a long table, like those used for the dead in morgues. There it is, the starry sky above. Steam belches in all directions on a beautiful spring night. The craftsman's instruments, a grip vice and a gas jet, lie by the window. That was how I melted silver for the first time: in Kaliningrad, with help from the genius loci, which has summoned me here again to feel it - in the whole world or maybe at the interfaces between different worlds.
Translation by A.Matveyeva
Panorama of the city