. Umanskii. Photography, silk graphics, 1999


Anatolii Bakhtin / Kaliningrad, Russia

Not only did the architectural image of the city suffered from pragmatism of the citizens and the city council, its spirituality suffered as well.[1] The great son of Koenigsberg Immanuel Kant was virtually forgotten until the year 1920. There has even arisen some doubt, as to whether the citizens loved their famous compatriot.

Everything that somehow recalled Kant was destroyed. The German researcher Karl writes: "The house where was born was demolished at least four times in 200 years, twice by fire and twice by demolition, so that not a single stone is left standing."[2] All five houses in which he once lived have been either completely rebuilt or demolished.

A house that belonged to Kant also wasn't spared. After his death the house was bought by the merchant Johann Christoph Richter in 1804, and in this very year he sold it to the innkeeper Johann Ludwig Meyer for a price that was twice what Kant had paid for it. A tavern opened in the house. On the 30 August 1836 this house was bought by the government councilor Karl Friedrich Schaller at auction, and on the very same it was resold to Doctor Karl Gustav Doebbelin, who built a bath-house in the garden and organized an inquiry office in the house. An heir of Doebbelin sold the house to the neighboring company of Bernhard Liedtke, who demolished the building with an aim to boost his production. Much earlier the garden that was behind Kant's house had been separated and transformed into major businesses. It seems incredible, but there was no one in the city who sought to preserve the house as it was.

The house of Kant's friend Karl Adler in Hufen Alley (Prospect Mira), where Kant liked to stay, was also demolished. Hufen Gymnasium was built on its spot (a technical school of municipal building was located there after the war).

The house of the forest-guard Vobzer in the vicinity of Moditten, known as "Kant's House" as he liked to work and rest there, was completely destroyed by the 20th century. It was pulled down and a new house for the forest-guard was built there. Later a restaurant was housed in this building.

The so-called Kant's house in Moditten. Photo from the collection of A. Bakhtin

Kant's tomb experienced similar difficulties. The philosopher was buried in the professorial crypt, which, in addition to its primary function, served as a trade outlet where doctoral theses and other scientific compositions were sold. According to Schaeffner's proposal, the crypt was turned into "Stoa Kantiana" (i.e. Kant's Portico). Gradually "Stoa Kantiana" deteriorated and a grave chapel was built in 1880. But as it was poorly built the walls sank and wide splits appeared by the start of the 20th century. The monument to Kant, a copy of which now stands near the University, was erected only 60 years after his death. What is the reason for this? The statue was made by Christian Daniel Rauh, who presented it to the city. Yet it took decades for the committee on the monument's erection to make a final decision. It was decided to situate the monument in a then-deserted corner, behind the garden of Kant's house. This place livened up only twice a day, when a stagecoach passed by the monument. However, it took many years to gather the 4000 thalers for the granite pedestal.

As it turned out, Koenigsberg society treated the erection of this monument not only indifferently but even with hostility.[3] The artist Rauch didn't live to see the completed monument, as he died in 1857. The unveiling of the monument to Kant, to this peaceful, world-famous sage, was timed to coincide with the 51st anniversary of "the battle of nations" under Leipzig, 18 October 1864. In 1880 when Schlosstrasse was being built, the monument was dismantled and Kant was boarded up in a wooden box. The citizens unburdened their hearts by making jokes about this matter, but they eventually forgot about it. Fifteen years later the box containing the Kant monument was found by accident. It was decided to erect it once again, and a special commission on erection of monuments was again appointed for this purpose. They eventually found a modest place in Paradeplatz, which was visited only by nannies and sweethearts.[4]

Why were the words "Koenigsberg is Kant's city" engraved upon our hearts? After 1918 Eastern Prussia lost part of its territory and was separated from Germany; these events negatively impacted its economy. To improve the situation a set of decisions was made, including a decision to develop international and domestic tourism. For these purposes, as it is now said, the brand "Koenigsberg is Kant's city" was created


But the city faced a problem: nothing connected to Kant remained in Koenigsberg, except for an old university building where the city archive and the ramshackle "Stoa Kantiana" were located. A "pitiful ersatz of Kant's room" was opened in one of the old buildings of the university on 21 March 1920. Other efforts were promptly made to reanimate the memory of the philosopher. Besides, a good round figure cropped up: the 200th anniversary of his birth. The architect Friedrich Lahrs was commissioned to plan a new "Kant's Tomb." The project was drawn up very quickly. While it was not in harmony with the Cathedral, there was nothing else from which to choose. "Kant's Tomb" was sanctified and made public on 22 April 1924.

Second Kant's monument. Photo from the State Archive of the Kaliningrad Region

In Moditten, another small room was provided in an old framed house, where Kant most certainly had never been if this building had existed in the philosopher's time. The main exhibit in this room was a trunk that had allegedly belonged to Kant. This initiative was launched by the restaurant owner, who wished to attract more visitors. Actually, that is everything for which "Kant's city" loosened its purse-strings. But Koenigsberg was depicted as the city of the great philosopher Immanuel Kant in advertising brochures that were distributed all over Germany and the world (even in the Port of New-York there was a poster inviting tourists to visit the city of Kant). The brand was created and it caught on. Even after 1945 it kept functioning and is still alive nowadays.

Translation by N. Shtock

[1] A.P. Bakhtin, Unsightly Koenigsberg.

[2] Karl, Kant and old Koenigsberg (Kaliningrad: Bitekar, 1991):.28.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Karl. Kant and old Koenigsberg. - Kaliningrad: Bitekar, 1991. - p.28.