Monday, July 9, 2018

Russian Authorities See Separatism Everywhere in Kaliningrad

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 8 – The local history museum in Sovetsk, formerly Tilsit, in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, has been shut down, the latest victim of a campaign launched last month by oblast governor Anton Alikhanov who declared that “foreign agents of influence in Kaliningrad are numerous, harmful and have been working there more than a decade.”

            “Our neighbors, including via agents of influence here,” the governor continued, “tell us all the time about Little Lithuania or the Rech Pospolita,” and they insist that “supposedly we here in Kaliningrad are people with a special identity,” separate and apart from the Russian nation.

            Andrey Vypolzov, a journalist for the Moscow portal Sovershenno Sekretno, has investigated the situation and now has filed a report, one that he suggests shows that Alikhanov and those who think like him are quite properly worried about what is going on in the exclave (

                In his view, the museum deserved to be shut down and other steps need to be taken. The museum has behaved especially badly, Vypolzov says. It has had an exhibit on Tilsit, the name of the city before the Soviet annexation; it has shown pictures of the region when it was German; and it has hosted people like Vytautas Landsbergis who has sometimes suggested that Kaliningrad should be part of his Lithuania.

            Vladimir Shulgin, a regional historian of Russian nationalist leanings, says that “it seems to [him] that our authorities do not see the seriousness of this problem; they do not understand [the dangers].” And they do not recognize that many of the problems arise from the actions of local officials rather than from any foreign visitors. Action is required now, he insists.

            And local “patriotic” activist Maksim Makarov goes even further in sounding the alarm.  Closing the museum in his view was only a small step in the right direction given recent events like the decision in 2011 to go back to the Tilsit coat of arms after a special Sovetsk coat of arms was confirmed in 1998. 

            Or even worse, he suggests, was the following: Kaliningrad’s youth theater “on its official site” declares itself to be the Tilsit Theater and then compounds its crime by writing that name in Latin script!

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