Sunday, February 18, 2024

Kaliningraders are ‘People who Speak Russian but Think European,’ ‘Free Koenigsberg’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 15 – Many Russians think that Kaliningraders can never become a separate nation because they speak Russian and are thus part of the Russian ethnic community, but ethnicity and nationhood are two very different things, according to the editors of the Free Koenigsberg online newspaper.

            Ethnicity, they write, is “a natural cultural phenomenon characteristic of pre-modern times” while “a nation is a socio-historic community characteristic of modernity” that reflects the choices of its members about how they will live rather than mechanically projecting into the future the past (

            Those in Kaliningrad who are calling for the creation of an independent Baltic Republic of Koenigsberg are in the process of transforming themselves into a political nation where “political culture is more important than ethnic culture and where a nation is a political category and a contract-based state involving the observation of certain principles.”

            Such people, when the Declaration of Independence of the Baltic Republic of Koenigsberg is proclaimed “will not longer be Russians since the main factor of Russian identity is loyalty to Moscow and acknowledgement of Moscow’s unconditional right to exercise power over them.”

            Since the collapse of the USSR, this new nation has emerged on the territory of Kaliningrad and its members have far closer ties with and identify with the values of their European neighbors rather than with the Russian Federation. They are, the paper says, “people who speak Russian but think European.”

            “For the most part,” the paper continues, such people are “natives of the region, members of the second and third generation born there. Most have not been to Russia but have regularly gone to neighboring European countries. And they have acquired European values while rejecting Russian ones.

            Russians may say that “’everything officials do is beautiful and fair’” but the Baltic people of Koenigsber say, that may be true for Russians “but for us, only beautiful things are beautiful and only fair things are fair.” That means that they “cannot be called Russians in the full sense since ‘a Russian’ is a subject tied to a certain way of life.”

            And already, the editors of Free Koenigsberg say, “many Baltic people have made the political choice not to be part of ‘the great Russian culture,’ the culture of empire and enslavement,’ but to gain and realize their own identity which serves as the basis for the formation of ‘a nation’ understood as a political community of solidarity.”

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