Królewiec Returns

Kaliningrad

When the destinies of Europe were mapped out at the conferences in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam few could have envisaged a united Europe within the space of sixty years. Clear demarcated spheres of influence took shape during these conference and “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain descended across the Continent”. The Soviet sphere of influence shifted west as the countries of Eastern and Central Europe lost territory and new borders were drawn.

Post-war Division
One of the greatest and most controversial border changes was the annexation of the province of East Prussia by Poland and the Soviet Union. The northern section went to the Soviet Union with a far-northern slice of land known as the ‘Memel Territory’ going to the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, the rest going to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. The southern section went to Poland. The problems that this created were unseen by many but the Soviet leaders had their motives for the creation of a Russian exclave sandwiched in between Poland and Lithuania.

Division

Kingly Exclave
By all accounts, Stalin was intent on creating a buffer zone between the Baltic States and Poland in order to keep these newly acquired territories as far away from ‘the West’ as possible. He also believed that Königsberg, Kaliningrad as it was now renamed, was an invaluable strategic point (and port) for the Soviet Empire. To this day the Kaliningrad Oblast (affectionately known as Jantarny Kraj due to its rich deposits of amber) is Russia’s foot in the western door placing a wedge between the EU member states of Lithuania and Poland.

Annexation Again
During Boris Yeltsin’s reign, there was talk of the Kaliningrad Oblast being sold off to Poland. In fact, rumours abounded that Yeltsin himself had put this idea to the Polish government but the Poles were wary that this post-Soviet albatross would have a negative effect on an already frail economy. This mirrors a similar decision made by the Lithuanian SSR when the idea was mooted by Moscow high command for the Lithuanians to take formal control of Kaliningrad and the surrounding area. With both Poland and Lithuania within the EU and enjoying economic growth, now would be a good time for the EU to wash its hands of the ‘Russian exclave problem’. Rumoured plans are afoot for the EU to formally apply for jurisdiction of the area.

Border

Divide and Conquer
The plan would be for the territory to be administered directly by Brussels (as Russia would never submit to either Poland or Lithuania). In return Russia would obtain vital concessions from the EU. The area would become known as the EU Free Port of Kaliningrad (the Russians stipulating no change of name). The initial plan would be to create an EU Hong Kong free trade area. However, in time the Lithuanians and Poles would gain control of the area with the territory being swallowed up by each state.

Dream or Nightmare?
The idea of wrestling Kaliningrad away from Russia would bring a communal sigh of relief from many EU negotiators, decision makers and especially the future EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kaliningrad is a perpetual administrative nightmare for EU politicians. Should the residents of this territory be afforded transit visas or must they use regular visas? Should the denizens of Kaliningrad be seen as exterritorial Russians with limited rights within EU territory or simply Russians? The simplest answer to many of these problems would be to hand the territory over to Poland and Lithuania. Whether this happens or not is another problem.

15 Responses to Królewiec Returns

  1. Jimbo says:

    On first reading, the plan for an EU administration sounds like by far the best solution. Yr points about Russia not wanting its historical adversaries to have jurisdiction, and the unlikelihood that they’d want to burden their economies with it anyway, are valid and convincing. There’s no EU precedent for it (unless you count Kosovo), but that doesn’t stop people from doing things for political expediency. The main snag wd be Putin – he’s too much of a nationalist to admit to even the slightest hint of loss of control. Maybe it’d be a chance for Medvedev to (at least appear to) ditch his puppet reputation?

  2. No matter how much sense it might seem to make, I think a change in the status of the “exclave” is a total impossibility in the foreseeable future. Though Yeltsin agreed to negotiate re the Kuril Islands and Japan dangled yen, nothing happened. That was in a different era, when Russia was poor (“Burkina Faso with rockets”) and democratizing. Kaliningrad is yet more sensitive than the Kurils — a prize won in the Great Patriotic War, the central element of Russian/Soviet history, mythology, and propaganda.

  3. Raf Uzar says:

    Jim, agreed – Putin could be the major hurdle.
    Peteris, thanks for comment! It may sound impossible but stranger things have happened!😉

  4. Steve Myers says:

    Why not offer the Oblast (and the Polish part, if Poland would agree – for requsite compensation) to Germany?
    Now, before the shouting starts or brickbats fly, let me add that the EU has a much larger hand in European state activites and, ultimately, will exercize at least a quasi (if not actual) control over its geographical area(s). Germany, which has gone from hated enemy, to pariah, to aspirant to democracy, to sheet anchor of European governance by parliamentary means, has several hundred years presence in the region — and a ton of interest in it.
    Yes, the Soviets fought and bled mightily in the Great Fatherland War; so did the Germans and a host of other states. “”Yefrehtir Sokolov and Feldwebel Schmidt are very different soldiers today than their fathers were, 75 years ago.
    “Never Again!” is better known in the Federal Republic than in the USA. Germany will never forget.
    Germany, I think, would take on the assignment with gusto and can afford to repain the Oblast. What’s more, I believe the Germans would undertake bringing the region back to life eagerly.
    If agreeable, the one immutable preconditiion?’
    If permtted, war memorials would be combined facilities, with ALL war dead together.

  5. Raf Uzar says:

    Yes, the idea had crossed my mind. Again, the problem is a geopolitical one with the one political exclave being supplanted by another exclave. Russian becomes German albeit under EU jurisdiction. No, I think the only real way out of the problem would be for the territory to be divided between Poland and Lithuania.

  6. Toni M says:

    Why divide the area or hand it over to anyone when it could be made its own independent state? Bring back Prussia!

  7. Raf Uzar says:

    That would be like creating a Kingdom of Cornwall, a Republic of Paris or a Grand Duchy of Saarland. Talk to any Prussians lately?

    • Szlachcić Żmudzki says:

      Nonsence. You said in the same imperialistic spirit. In the same spirit that people were thrown put of their homes by Soviets. There are lots of Prussians in Germany. There are still peolple who were born in East Prussia. They are real owners, tehy are real descendants of people who lived here from times immemorial, but not you. Prussia proper never belonged neither to Poland, nor to Lithuania per se.

      By they way, you are very naive if you think Russia will give to Poland and to Lithuania. Do you know that Poles and Lithuanians wants that land?

  8. […] Uzar writes about the history of Kaliningrad region. Posted by Veronica Khokhlova Share […]

  9. island1 says:

    Somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, just because it’s one of those fascinating map oddities. Looks like I should get my skates on!

  10. Raf Uzar says:

    An oddity it certainly is. Island, I recommend you try Puńsk. What an oddity! A small town in the north-east of Poland where everyone is Lithuanian!

  11. […] list of what-ifs, maybes and perhapses. In a sense this post is related to a previous one (Królewiec Returns). The ‘what-ifs’ in history relate to different futures with each ‘what if’ […]

  12. Colin Reid says:

    There’s one little snag in this plan: Kaliningrad Oblast is inhabited overwhelmingly by Russian-speaking Eastern Slavs, and I suspect most of them would want to remain part of Russia, even though it’s hurting them economically. (Having said that, no-one has really asked them, so we don’t know what they’d say.) Most of them were born there, something they can hardly be blamed for, however appalling the history. In any case, let’s just say no side has much to be proud of when it comes to sudden demographic changes in that region.

    If it weren’t for nationalist sentiment, I can think of all sorts of ways of rationalising Europe’s borders. In large part you could just abolish them altogether and reforge much of Europe as a single country, subdivided into more rationally-designed provinces. But I think people who are born and grow up in a territory, however their parents got there, have a right to a veto over any fundamental change in status.

  13. Raf Uzar says:

    Very true, Colin. The sad fact is, however, that most border changes are rarely consulted with the local population. I think a Europe of Regions would be an excellent idea. No more states but local areas. Regional patriotism, I think, is much healthier than nationalism. Thanks for the comments.🙂

  14. Roberto Cocinero says:

    All of this armchair intellectualizing and board game geopoliticking is making my eyes roll out of my sockets.

    @Steve Myers – Give it to Germany? Why on earth would either Lithuania or Poland want Germany sandwiched in between them like that? The answer is: they wouldn’t, and no especially given Germany’s history of imperialism. Mind you, the hundreds of years of connection to Germany is about the worst characterization of the situation I’ve come across. There was no Germany until the late 19th century, and prior to that, Prussia doesn’t go back quite so far. Before that, the Duchy of Prussia was a long time Polish fief following the defeat of the Teutonic Knights who were hired by Konrad I of Mazovia to convert the Baltic Prussian tribes. He was generous enough to offer them land as a base of operations. As everyone knows, the Teutonic Knights, probably feeling a little purposeless following the Crusades, overstayed their welcome and not only managed to conquer the Prussians, but began conquering Poland. If you now your history, I don’t need to tell you about the Peace of Torun, the Prussian Confederation which revolted again the Teutonic Knights (which included the raising of some of their castles by the general populace) in favor of joining or returning to the Polish Crown, or the Masovian settlers that would make up the future Masurs, or that German wasn’t even spoken by that much of the population until 19th century Germanization campaigns and the influx of settlers designed to shift the ethnic constitution. I don’t have to tell you that there was a difference between Royal Prussia (which includes most of Warmia and Masuria) which was part of the Crown, and Ducal Prussia which corresponds best to Kaliningrad and which was a Polish fief (arguably, it was a major to keep it a fief instead of incorporating it into the crown; the Hohenzollerns weren’t to be trusted and developed ambitions of their own which eventually cost Poland dearly). Then you go on to say that Poland should just give up Warmia and Masuria to Germany? Are you mad or just stupid? Where do you get off treating territories like they’re just a piece of a rag that can be allocated willy-nilly? And don’t overstate the poor plight of the Germans. In the broader context of history, they’re not really that poor. Not that I like the Soviets or anything, but the expulsions are overstated (many fled before they could be expelled). Also, Poland has signed treaties with Germany which end all land disputes, so it’s settled unless you want another war or wish to resort to various economic/cultural/social tactics. Like any whippersnapper nation, the Germans need to learn to cool it (Germans like to say they were a nation for a long time, but that’s bullshit jingoism, because you and I both know they are a 19th century imperial creation, prior to which they were largely a band of unimportant principalities). The Ukrainians like to make similar claims. Don’t worry, guys, we’re not coming for your land, for those Eastern Brandenburgian and Saxon marches or for Galicia. But we expect you to cool it and…phrack off.

    @Raf Uzar – A Europe of Regions? Does it come with a rainbow and a continuous stream of subsidized LSD in the water supply? What planet are you from? You sound like a Soviet technocrat who wants to engineer societies and play with peoples lives, like the psychotic who sits there looking at his neighbors cat, thinking up a plan of how best to nail his paws to the floor next to the kitty litter so he doesn’t shit in the other neighbor’s flower pot, without realizing how ABSOLUTELY CRAZY HE IS. (But then you think “perhaps I’ll take the other neighbor’s cat across the street and swap the parts of the two cats such that the first doesn’t have equipment to shit in the flower pot in the first place. Or maybe I’ll sew them together so that the one across the street will make climbing into the flower pot impossible. Yes! That’s what I’ll do! I’m a goddamn genius!”). And while I’m at it, you know, one thing that angers me about the Poles? It’s not just their political impotence, both internally and in geopolitics, but what causes their political impotence. You know what it is? Their holier-than-thou arrogance and pride. You see it in the elite or those who parrot the elite like poor people who try to mimic what they think are the mannerisms of rich people which only has the effect of making them snobbish imbeciles. You may not know what I’m talking about or you agree thinking I’m talking about some small group of guys on the far right. You’d be wrong. This transcends political camp and indeed those with socialistic tendencies are probably more likely to exhibit it. YOU exhibit it. It’s this subconscious belief that Poles are the messiah of the nations, that they will suffer the abuse of other nations for the good of others, that they’ll give up their nationhood and culture because it makes others more comfortable. National interest, the principles of effective geopolitics, you Poles are just so far above all of that, aren’t you. You’re all about peace, for your peace and ours. Oh, how nice. How quaint. How positively charitable of you for gracing us with your presence, your sublime intellectual and artistic sensibilities. How is it up there in your messianic nirvana? I can tell you one thing: there must not be much oxygen up there because it’s impairing your sense of reason. You know, for your neighbors, it is absolutely convenient that your politicians are absolute schmucks. It’s far better for them that you’re high on political apotheosis instead of walking on the ground and showing a little humility, realizing what the stuff of politics is really all about. Not the crap they put in the media, not the nice slogans about peace and other bullshit that political PR spins all the time, that stuff is for the common rabble to keep them in control.

    And what makes you think the EU, a German dominated tract of land, would give up a Brussels controlled Kaliningrad? Even if they did, it would be a formality at best. The way the Poles do it now (and I must admit, I like it) is actually potentially quite intelligent. They’ve waived Visas for the Russians living in the Oblast and the Russians have done the same for Poles. Maybe the Poles took a bit of advice out of the EU playbook: step one: dissolve their borders, make it appear like it’s being done for the good of commerce and trade.

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