Moscow has Transformed Kaliningrad from a Pioneering Euro-Region to an Anti-European Bastion, Shtepa Says
August 28 – Just as Moscow transformed Chechnya from an independence-seeking
republic in the 1990s to “an imperial bastion” in the Caucasus, the Russian
government of Vladimir Putin has changed Kaliningrad over the same period from
a pioneering Euro-Region into an anti-European outpost on the Baltic, Vadim
an essay for Tallinn’s International Centre for Defence and Security, the
editor of the AfterEmpire portal says
that the Kaliningrad exclave is special because far more of its residents have
visited Poland and Lithuania than “big” Russia and 70 percent have Shengen
visas while most Russians don’t even have foreign passports (icds.ee/ru/kak-pilotnyj-region-evrointegracii/; also at afterempire.info/2018/08/27/kenigsberg/).
Since Vladimir Putin
came to power, Shtepa continues, its “pro-European regional consciousness was
suppressed or more precisely transformed into its opposite” in much the same
way that the population of Chechnya was transformed over the same period. Three
aspects of this are especially noteworthy, he says.
all, Moscow went after the flourishing Kaliningrad regionalism of the 1990s,
epitomized by the emergence of the Baltic Republic Party which sought republic
status for the oblast and the formation of a Euro-Region on its territory.But in 2003, Moscow disbanded the party
because it violated a 2001 Putin law and refused to form a Euro-Region.
development was compounded, Shtepa says, by Putin’s power as of 2004 to appoint
all governors, something that undermined the electoral power of the
regionalists and led to the closing down of all pro-European projects in
Kaliningrad and the integration of the oblast into the Kremlin leader’s “’power
the continuing influence of regionalist and European ideas in Kaliningrad
especially among the young, the regionalist writer continues, Moscow was able
not only to block their realization but after 2014 with the deterioration of
relations with the West promote “the sharp growth of militarist attitudes” in
“again as in Soviet times began to be considered purely as a military advance
post” rather than as some kind of bridge between Russia and Europe. The
increasing militarization led to an outburst of “spy mania,” Shtepa says; and
that led to a closing down of European offices in the exclave and the arrests
of local activists who cooperated with them.
Moscow transformed the Kaliningrad State University into the Baltic Federal
University, outrageously inappropriately taking the name Kant from the region’s
German past, something “typical for imperial technologies,” the commentator
says.Absurdly, it now appears that Kant
“lived in Kaliningrad,” not in Koenigberg.
had been a hotbed of regionalist thought, the BFU became a place where any
deviation was suppressed and where the goal of those in charge was to produce “specialists
in the information struggle,” according to the institution’s website.And it was out of this factory, Shtepa says,
that the third arrow at the heart of Kaliningrad came.
the portal Rubaltic.ru, a website that represents “a bold indication that the
present-day Kaliningrad is not only a rocket but an information-propaganda base
directed against Europe” in general and the Baltic countries in particular, the
Russian regionalist says. To date, its activities have been relatively
that remains the case, the activities of Rubaltic.ru “clearly demonstrates the
hostile attitude of the Kremlin toward neighboring countries which have been
able to achieve independence from it” and its commitment to keep Kaliningrad as
a bastion of hostility to them and to the West more generally.