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
THE AMBER ROOM
Ivan Chechot / St Petersburg, Russia
The editorial board has decided to place the information "Amber" and "Alcoholic Beverages" provided by A. Sologubov at the point where the imaginary walk around Kaliningrad takes us to the Amber Museum, located opposite the Distillery. This is one of the most beautiful and remarkable places in the city. In Vasilevskii Square stands a rather impersonal monument to the marshal-hero whose name graces the square, which is spacious but rather shapeless - just like Kaliningrad itself. To the left of the monument are the buildings of a small old German distillery. Adorned with columns, the Soviet era entrance-gate office looks just like a guardhouse designed by Carlo Rossi. On the side of Cherniakhovskii Street, Vasilevskii Square is closed by the dark-brown but graceful Neo-Gothic architecture of the Rossgarten Gates and the Dohna Tower.
The Rossgarten Gate, named after the adjoining pasture area for horses (later a hippodrome), is the most beautiful of those that survived. It is decorated with the portraits of General Gerhard von Scharnhorst (1755-1813) and Field Marshal Neidhardt von Gneisenau, outstanding military figures and reformers of the early 19th century. The latter defended the fortress of Kolberg from Napoleon and didn't surrender. Scharnhorst headed a special committee on army reorganization. He had a great military mind; in 1808 he wrote the Prussian law on military service.
The portraits of military leaders were made in Berlin from sandstone by the sculptor Wilhelm Ludwig Sturmer (1812 - after 1864). Sturmer was a court sculptor of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. His works may be found in the town of Greifswald and on Rugen Island, but the largest ensemble of his work is the Kaliningrad gates. This kind of art has little relation to the free creativity of the artist. The sculpture work and architecture of the Rossgarten Gates primarily embody a certain political content and style, which certainly lost their actuality long ago. The idea of a Romantic Neo-Gothic style with an English touch means a turn to tradition, which is, on the one hand, mediaeval and, on the other hand, rational, devoid of any emotional and decorative embellishment. A traditional class-divided state undisturbed by any revolutions, high-quality handicraft work with an aristocratic touch, the transition from past into present as an evolution from mediaeval to modern times, a feeling of national and cultural sovereignty, balanced conservatism - all of these features are present in the Gates and all of them represent, generally speaking, an English style adopted in a Prussian manner. However, Germany is not England and it was never able to keep the balance. Prussia did not become a Second Britain. The symbols of "English" knightly dignity turned out to be toy-like. After the victory over France and establishment of empire, the "Prussian style" died out or was transformed into other sublime forms of expression.
Today the Rossgarten Gates house a nice restaurant in a Romantic mediaeval style. The guards' room and passage "function" as real Gothic style, which is perceived as related to fairytales and knights. However, before we indulge in sybaritism and romantic dreams in the spirit of Soviet illustrations to Hoffman's tales and sybaritism, we need to walk around the Gates, take a look at the bridges and moat, and come out to the Dohna Tower on the side of the Upper Lake. From this point the whole panorama opens up. The lake is reminiscent of Aussenalster in Hamburg but devoid of bustling yachts and smaller, but it is very beautiful all the same. It is full of the quietness and dignity of everyday life. Clumps of trees, dark and silvery, as in watercolors by Ostroumova-Lebedeva, water rippled by the wind. But one can still sense the German sternness and the presence of an engineer-fortifier. This panorama has changed recently: in the distance five slender gilded bulbs rise above the city - this is the new Church of Christ the Savior. Now the picture has become richer and more complex, but picturesqueness and a compositional center have appeared, which in principle are not typical for this town.
The two low round towers on either side of the lake - the main fortified points - were built after 1850. They are the Wrangel Tower in the distance and the Dohna Tower to our left. The towers were named after the cavalry general and later Field Marshal Friedrich Count zu Dohna-Schlobitten (1784-1859) and Field Marshal Count von Wrangel. The former took part in the Battle of Preussisch Eylau (1807). He was commander of the Russian-German Legion and was an outstanding military leader. Field Marshal Friedrich Ernst Count von Wrangel (1784-1877) began service in the Koenigsberg Dragoon Regiment in 1809. This unit was later named after him as the 30th Cuirassier Regiment. In 1839 Wrangel became commander of the entire Koenigsberg garrison and was known and admired as an outstanding and strict commander. He was nicknamed "Father Wrangel" and his bronze statute was placed at the gates of cuirassier barracks.
The towers Dohna and Wrangel are connected by a fortified supporting wall that goes along the lake. In the center there is a small fortification with three loop-holes from which, as if in a picture-frame, opens up a simple and strict picture: a semi-circle, horizon, a line of trees, the water and the sky, and the bricks below (there is a bench there, where one can sit and wait for bad weather to clear). Unfortunately the landscape is spoilt by a derelict building that used to be a restaurant and by the vulgar buildings of a new cafe.
Let's visit the Dohna Tower, which now houses the Amber Museum. There we will contemplate real and false values, consider myths whose strength is virtually insurmountable.
The Amber Museum retains the pleasant atmosphere and coziness of a Soviet museum. Furthermore, the exhibits of the Soviet period produce the greatest impression: amber objects that are grotesque in their garishness. One of them depicts the ice-breaker "Lenin" and a polar bear, while another represents a space ship with cosmonauts. There is also a Stalin-style vase that is almost as tall as a man; it was made from all kinds of amber - a true example of the confectionery style of the post-war Empire. But there is more than meets the eye in the museum besides these exhibits, which inspire Socialist Realist and Postmodernist artists of all kinds, yet the aroma of genuine history is inaccessible and even fatal for those who place prime importance in symbols, forms and functions. Here the museum displays interesting samples of natural amber formations, a number of replicas of old artifacts and a few originals from the 17th and 18th centuries. The attention of a tired aesthete will be caught by amber-colored paintings in oil, which depict in a form of still-life old artifacts made from amber; they look like old paintings, but, thank God, their most precious quality is the spirit of recent times, the spirit of an irrevocable yesterday. Here we will meet one of the greatest subjects of the 20th. This is, of course, the Amber Room.
As everyone knows, there is only one step from the great to the ridiculous, just like there is only one step from a trinket to a serious work of art. The room itself has, gone long ago, but in its absence, it exerts more influence than when it was present. Actually, the Amber Room is a rather interesting phenomenon, which from the start was in a state of motion, designing and re-combining. All that we know about the room - at the time of its creation and during subsequent changes- are only versions, impersonal documents. There are no drawings, no drafts, no paintings. One paper says this, the other says that, one expert is sure of one thing and the other is confident of quite the opposite.
Obviously, the great Andreas Schluter cannot be considered the author of the room. In this case he merely acts as the representative of a Baroque style of arrangement, basing his designs upon some 17th century mirror frames. His arrangement was never been finished. Other German masters also failed to finish it. King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia gave the expensive but unfinished work to Peter the Great as a gift: "You can, sort of, finish it yourself, if you'd like." To this he added a luxurious but ramshackle yacht. In return, he got something rather valuable: two-meter-tall Russian soldiers for his army. This German gift gave us a headache: something useless, but striking and rare - ideal for satisfying naive vanity. By the way, when the Russian giants got old, they were replaced with new ones. The room was of some use. Peter the Great didn't solve the puzzle: he sent the panels of the Amber Room to the Summer Palace, and, actually, he was right, in a western way. The room would have been covered in dust even longer if it hadn't been for Elizaveta Petrovna, who was fond of trinkets. She had decided to use the panels first in the Winter Palace and later at Tsarskoe Selo. But she also failed to finish the business; the composition and decor of the room changed constantly until 1770.
Friedrich the Great supported the political myth about the Amber Room. In order to please Elizaveta, he sent her the missing frame at a suitable moment. The Seven Years' War was not far away. Interestingly, Friedrich's frame didn't fit. When at last the room was completed and presented in Rastrelli's interpretation in Tsarskoe Selo, its style turned out to be anachronistic and out of fashion. Ekaterina might still have valued the room as a work of jeweler's art as well as a monument to the relations of the Russian and Prussian courts, but she could hardly perceive the interior of the room as the expression of her taste.
This enlightened queen was fascinated by the austere classicizing agate rooms of Charles Cameron. Besides, Rastrelli and other masters had created a multi-style and multi-scale interior that was too large and high for the original miniature panels of the Schluter period. On the whole, the room itself, unlike some genuinely valuable details and panels, was not a masterpiece. Hence, there is a virtual architect Schluter whose works did not survive. There is a virtual room. At the location of the Catherine Palace there is a post-war model and the present pseudo-room.
During the reign of Nikolai I a miniature replica of Rauch's equestrian monument to Friedrich the Great was placed in the center of the room, just like in Berlin on Unter den Linden. After that the room became more like a museum of itself and a museum of a (dubious) Russian-German alliance. It also became a museum of amber, whose largest Russian collection was in Tsarskoe Selo. From the beginning of the 19th century until the Revolution the room was known to connoisseurs as an 18th century curiosity and gave food for thought about the Rococo fascination with artistic manner. Before the war it also served as an example of the extravagant luxury of the Tsar's court and attracted attention primarily due to the amount of precious material. The style of the most valuable, Prussian details of the room can fascinate primarily a seasoned connoisseur of applied art of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Dismantling the room, the Germans, no doubt, wanted to rescue it. If it had not been dismantled, the room would have burnt down before their retreat. Of course, for Alfred Rhode, curator of the room in Koenigsberg, it was an outstanding example of the Prussian art of carving on "amber - the German material" (the title of one of his books). After being transported to Koenigsberg, the room ceased to exist as a work of Russian interior art of the 18th century. It wasn't meant for that purpose. At the same time it was too fragmentary to become a German masterpiece. Rhode and others exaggerated its significance for national art: it had too few German features. In Hitler's Germany various institutions and people fought for the Amber Room. Rhode, so it seems, wanted to preserve the room for Eastern Prussia, whose revival he hoped for even after the town was taken by Soviet troops.
After the war the room became the subject of vain searching, covetous longing and inflamed imagination - a symbol of something irretrievably lost and unattainable. At that time it became a powerful indicator of social, political and cultural processes. Its role became more significant, still that of a parody. The Amber Room ridicules and unmasks everyone. Here one remembers semi-indigent Soviet treasure hunters hoping for remuneration, and painfully nostalgic German searchers using the quest for the Amber Room as a well-grounded pretext for visiting restricted areas of the Kaliningrad Region. However, in the process of the quest serious researchers discovered more valuable information than they would have done should they have discovered a damaged and semi-destroyed Amber Room itself. Searching for the room, Soviet people learned about the history of their new native land. They wanted to find an intact, undamaged room as if there was no history, no disaster. But, unfortunately, there is no pre-war Tsarskoe Selo, and no pre-war Koenigsberg.
Some mysterious and even tragic events are related to the room. Alfred Rhode died under obscure circumstances. Georg Stein was killed or committed suicide. Erich Koch made the disclosure of the secret of the Amber Room a condition of his extradition to the Federal Republic of Germany and clearly testified that the room had not been lost.
The whole story of the valuables from Koenigsberg, not only the Amber Room, is a really shady business. It was not only museums that disappeared: the decor of houses, mansions, churches and public buildings vanished into thin air. There was almost nothing in antique shops, there is very little in private collections and nobody knows where and who possesses what. Are they in Russia, in Lithuania, somewhere else?
Gradually the room turned into a searching mania, a symbol of absurdity, which was completed with its re-creation. According to countless versions, anything could have happened to it and, consequently, it was possible and even necessary to recreate it. The story of attempts to recreate the amber panels and then the entire interior of the room began in the 1970s. The search gave rise to a vast amount of literature of a semi-detective nature: everyone in the Soviet Union knew about the Amber Room (which was not the case before the war); the words Bernsteinzimmer became common in the world. The room turned into an element of mass culture. The well-known myth gradually grew into a brand that could be easily sold. Just writing about the room, attempting to re-create the Amber Room could already bring certain benefit, some material and symbolic capital. It became possible to make the room popular financially and even politically.
At the same time the Soviet post-war school of the restoration of works of art and architecture fully ripened during the 1970s. Its works were soon covered by the patina of time and were perceived by the public as genuine. Some restorers completely lost self-control. More precisely, they thought it was possible and necessary to recreate not only the buildings that served as the background and space for genuine exhibits, as in the exhibition halls at the Pushkin and Peterhof palaces, but also to recreate the relics themselves. This became possible during the 1980s and 1990s, in an atmosphere of the dilution of the ethics of authenticity and quality, in an atmosphere of total latent commercialization and media promotion. Anything can be done, surpassed, recreated; the public will devour anything. Money may be obtained for any sort of work, so long as it has so-called public significance, if it can become an event. Growing media influence and the search for the Amber Room went hand in hand from the very start. The re-creation of the Amber Room was a great technical project that was transformed into a commercial public relations stunt. The re-creation of the Amber Room played into the hands of amber miners, amber artist, and politicians - first, the politicians of disarmament and gas pipeline deals, then the politicians of Perestroika and the politicians creating the image - as empty as the Amber Room itself - of the great Russia of the Yeltsin -Putin period. The Germans paid money for this clearly cheap thing in order to gain political capital. Let the Russians build their Amber Room for the next victory anniversary. Let them celebrate a Pyrrhic victory of their art. However, the moneybags from Germany hardly understand a thing in genuine cultural values, considering what kind of cultural projects they are financing. What is being financed is just public relations.
In this way a vivid monument of our time has appeared in the Catherine Palace, something, in this case, not so naive as the Empress Elizaveta. The Amber Room in Pushkin is a cheap (despite the amount of money spent) tourist trap of local significance, which diverts people's attention from genuine things and, like television, transforms real things into illusionary ones. This work has nothing to do with art as it is inherently meaningless, and the technical and stylistic skill that amber carvers acquired might as well have been wasted on producing expensive knick-knacks. Undoubtedly, after the re-creation of the Amber Room, its myth should decline because what opens before the tourists' eyes is far from being "the Eight Wonder of the World" - which the room had never really been.
However, it is time to leave the stuffy atmosphere of the Amber Room and come out into the fresh air in order to absorb the no matter how small but real things that are still live in Kaliningrad - the present and the past which have gone forever.
Translation by I.Vassilieva