by Alexander MAKARYCHEV, Museum of History and Arts, Kaliningrad Region
The Kaliningrad Region was formed in 1946 in the northern part of the German province Eastern Prussia that passed to the USSR upon World War II (1939-1945) results. Today it is the smallest and most westerly region of Russia and the only Russian semi-enclave: this region has an exit to the Baltic Sea, i.e. a marine border with Russia, and has no land frontier, since it is separated from our country by Lithuania and Belarus.
Royal Gates renovated to the 750th anniversary of the city. 2005.
The history of human society in the territory of the present-day Kaliningrad Region started about 10,000 years ago during glacier thawing, gradually retreating to the Arctic and leaving behind boggy soils, numerous lakes full offish and geological agglomerates. The land was then gradually settled by forest hunters who built their houses on piles---thus they protected themselves from wild animals and made it possible to fish right from the threshold with bone harpoons.
Late in the 3rd millennium B.C., there lived also representatives of cord ceramics, a group of Indo-European tribes who decorated ceramic dishware with ornaments in the form of cord imprints. They had a number of common traditions, i.e. a tradition to burry tribesmen in burial mounds* as a symbol of eternal life and interconnection of terrestrial and the other world states of the soul, which was widespread in Eurasia.
The first written evidence on the aboriginal population of the South-Eastern part of the Baltic Region were found in the works of the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (end of the 1st century): "They are not used to iron weapons, cudgels are more frequent. They are patient corn and fruit growers, which is typical of lazy Germans. They also search the sea and gather amber along the seashore..." By the way, the local "sunny gem" is still the principal natural wealth of the Kaliningrad Region possessing about 90 percent of the overall prospected reserves of this mineral.
* See: S. Korenevsky, "What Burial Mounds Bury", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2014.--Ed.
In the 6th-8th centuries, the local population was engaged in growing oats, barley, wheat, rye, and flax, market-gardening, wild-honey farming, fishing, fur gaming (normally, black marten and beaver). The social structure was based on communities united in districts (with administrative centers in the form of fortresses), which, in their turn, grouped into territorial units--lands. Religious beliefs of the local population focused on the future life associated with funeral ceremonies (effected in holy woods), with the main god in the pantheon Okopirms, the God of the earth and the sky, the Almighty.
By the late 12th century the Catholic Church chose the south-eastern Baltic Region, including Prussia (this name was already in use in Europe to denominate the region, part of which is known today as the Kaliningrad Region) as an object of Christianization. The army composed of knights of the Teutonic Order, a German military religious organization established to fight against enemies of true faith, was sent there. In 1255, during the fifth Crusade, Ottokar II, King of Bohemia called the Iron and Golden King, established a castle of Königsberg at the confluence of two arms of the river Pregel at the fortification of Tvangste.
Soon the settlements of Altstadt, Lebeniht and Kneiphof with town halls, residential houses and churches grew around the castle. In 1380, the grand Cathedral built there became the most significant (in terms of architecture) building of those times boggling imagination with a monumental Gothic style brick-
work and beautiful interior. That time Prussia was an order state headed by a Grand Master with a tenure system based on major landlords famous for well-developed agriculture, in particular, gardening, beekeeping and cattle breeding strongly stimulated by the authorities.
However, after the Teutonic knights were defeated in the Battle of Grunwald of 1410 (during the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War of 1409-1411, supported by Russian principalities) the power of the order state began declining. Nevertheless, it kept attacking the neighbors, which was stopped only in 1525 after the king of Poland and the Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg signed the peace Treaty of Krakow. According to this document, a supreme secular hereditary power was introduced in Prussia.
To revive the economy devastated during the war, Duke Albrecht actively attracted Scottish, Silesian, and Bohemian merchants and craftsmen, promoted development of science, culture, education, and enlightenment. He was an initiator of establishment of the Königsberg University (1544, the first university established in Russia) organized after German prototypes: it was a self-regulated institution with its own jurisdiction, incorporating 3 "higher" departments--those of theology, law, and medicine, and a "lower" department of philosophy. In addition, the faculty of Albertina, thus called after its founder, where professors had a right to material benefits, and talented students, who had no money for living but showed diligence and respectability, get food free of charge.
Peter could the Great's visit to Königsberg in 1697-1698 as a member of the Grand Embassy is an interesting chapter of history of this region of the 17th century. Prussia was the first independent state the Russian sovereign ever visited that later on served as a bridge connecting our country and Europe. The distinguished guest settled not in the castle, but in one of the private
houses as a regular guest. Under guidance of the chief engineer of local fortresses Colonel Steitnervon Sternfeld the tsar mastered the art of artillery preparation and was even awarded a corresponding certificate: "the Moscow gentleman Pyotr Mikhailov... to everybody's surprise, turned to be so successful and got so much knowledge that he was everywhere recognized and respected as an industrious, careful, skilled, courageous, and daring fire-arm master and artist."
In 1711, Peter I together with his wife Yekaterina visited Prussia (in 1701 it was proclaimed kingdom). In Königsberg he visited the Moscow hall of the local castle, an office, archives, and a library, where he got acquainted with the Radziwill Chronicle--an old Russian literary text of supposedly early 13th century, thus called by name of the commander Radziwill of Grand Duchy of Lithuania who kept it in the 17th century. The tsar ordered a copy of the rare book, wich was made in 1713.
In 1724 the castles of Königsberg, Altstadt, Knaypkhof, and Löbenicht united to become a royal residence--the capital of the Eastern Prussia named Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad). This very year, in 1724, Immanuel Kant, one of the most eminent thinkers of the 18th century, a patriarch of German classical philosophy, was born there. In 1740 he entered the Königsberg University and 15 years later was employed there as a faculty member to stay with his alma mater forever.
Due to a poor health, Kant strictly adhered to a tight regime he developed for himself: he believed that constancy and individual hygiene system are able to kill any disease. It is not by chance that every morning at 5 am his servant woke him up with the words "It's time!", after which Kant got prepared for lectures, then taught students, wrote down ideas of the day, had dinner, received guests, went for a walk, and went to bed on the stroke of 10 pm. Such daily routine helped him to work efficiently, have fun at rest hours, spent time with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, play billiards or cards, combining deep erudition and worldly luster. The great thinker died in 1804 in his native city and was buried near the Cathedral.
In the 18th century rich in talented people, Eastern Prussia gave birth to two famous writers. In the early 2014 the Kaliningrad Region solemnly celebrated the 300th birth anniversary of the founder of Lithuanian national fiction Kristionas Donelaitis. Like Kant, he graduated from Albertina, then taught children music in the town of Stallupönen (present-day Nesterov), and from 1743 till his death in 1780 served as a pastor in the village of Tolminkemis (village of Chistiye Prudy), where he wrote numerous works, in particular, The Seasons poem that made part of the golden fund of world literature.
Königsberg is a birthplace of the great writer, composer, and painter Ernst Theodor Hoffmann (1776-1822). It was there that he attended Kant's lectures while he was a student, then worked as an investigator, after which he moved to Dresden and Berlin where Hoffmann entered public service, but he went on with his active creative work. Youth experiences of one of the brightest representatives of the Romantic School are reflected in his works. Thus, in The Golden Pot: A Modern Fairytale novel (1814-1819) we recognize the library of the Cathedral where he used to study in his student years. Vissarion Belinsky, a Russian critic and publicist, believed Hoffmann was "one of the greatest German poets and a painter of the inner world".
In 1757, during the Seven-Year War*, the Russian army occupied Eastern Prussia and the Prussians swore allegiance to the Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna, after
* The Seven Year War of 1756-1763--one of the largest wars in world history (confrontation of colonial interests of Great Britain, France, and Spain). The combat actions took place in Europe, North America, states of the Caribbean basin, India.---Ed.
which they were granted such rights, powers and benefits other Russian regions could never enjoy. It is worth of note that in 1760-1761 the new province was governed by a powerful dignitary, a member of the military collegium Vasily Suvorov (father of the great military leader Alexander Suvorov*), whose work, as compared with his predecessors and successors, was very efficient in terms of collecting revenues for the state budget.
The Napoleonic Wars of 1806-1815 did not pass over the "amber land". In 1807 the battle of Preussisch-Eylau between the Prusso-Russian and French armies, one of the bloodiest battles of those times, took place there, resulting in a retreat of both sides after a bitter fight. Meanwhile, Prussia was forced to sign the Treaty of Tilsit with Paris, but the country was liberated from the enemy armies only in 1813. Peaceful life stimulated development of a leisure industry--in 1816 the first seaside resort was opened in the village of Krants (present-day Zelenogorsk).
Painful experience of the past war made Prussia understand the importance of well-defended frontiers. In 1843-1859, the Crown Prince quarters and a 15-km long defense line were built in Königsberg. The considerable part of this defense line, namely six gates--
* See: A. Bogdanov, "Russia's Sword", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2011.--Ed.
Sackheim, Royal, Rossgarten, Ausfalltor, Brandenburg, and Friedländer Gates, as well as Wrangel and Dona towers (the latter is used as the Amber Museum from 1979), has survived till our days.
In 1870-1875, a stock exchange building designed by the architect Heinrich Miller in the Italian neorenaissance style with classical elements was built in the capital of Eastern Prussia (today, it is the Regional Center for Youth Culture)*. During the 1939-1945 World War it was badly damaged and renovated in 1967. Fortunately, decorative figures of lions holding shields of local merchants (sculptor Emil Hundrizer) at the entrance survived during the war. The memorial temple in commemoration of the Queen Luisa built as a fortress (1901, architect Friedrich Heitmann) is another sight of the city; from 1976 it is used as the Regional Puppet Theatre.
In 1871 the Eastern Prussia, like other provinces of Germany, became part of a newly formed German Empire and, in this new status, the 1914-1918 World War, the 100th anniversary of which is celebrated in 2014. It is worth mentioning here that the Kaliningrad Region, as a northern part of this territory is named today, is the only territory of our country, where combat actions were held.
* See: Z. Zolotnitskaya, "Lofty Simplicity and Dignity", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2009.--Ed.
Russia entered the global military conflict as a member of the Triple Entente (in a coalition with Great Britain, France, etc.) against the Quadruple Alliance (Germany, Austro-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria) and hindering almost half of the enemy forces contribute to the victory of our allies. On August 17, 1914, the Russian army crossed the border of Eastern Prussia trying to save France from invasion. The next day, the 1st Army under command of General Pavel Rennenkampf attacked the enemy near the town of Stallupenen (present-day Nesterov) and won; soon after that it defeated the 8th German Army under command of General Maximillian von Prittwitz in the battle of Gumbinnen (Gusev), who as a result deemed it expedient to leave Eastern Prussia.
Nevertheless, the German authorities made a decision to hold this region at any cost: Paul von Gindenburg replaced Prittwitz as a commander of the 8th Army, General Erich Ludendorf was appointed Chief of Staff, two army corpses and a cavalry division were sent to Prussia from France. Concurrently, in the mid-August, the 2nd Russian Army led by General Alexander Samsonov entered Prussia and soon was crushed by the enemy that accumulated forces using a developed railroad network.
To comply with the order of the headquarters of the North-Western Front, Samsonov sent his army to the enemy rear to "close pincers" on the Germans retreating after the battle of Gumbinnen. However, in fact, Gindenburg and Ludendorf were preparing to crush the Russian army and soon succeeded in this: on August 27 the Germans crumpled up our left wing, while the counterattack of the Russian troops failed-- soldiers were almost totally exhausted. When Samsonov realized the situation, it was too late to retreat: the central units of the Russian army were already isolated.
The enemy's success was preconditioned by a number of factors: when the battle commenced, the headquarters of the 2nd Army were located to the south of the shock groups and commanders were unable to direct the events, the communication lines functioned poorly, and the enemy regularly managed to intercept important messages. In addition, after defeat of the German army in the battle of Gumbinnen, the pursuit and gathering of information on the retreat routes of the German troops were not organized; finally, the command of the Russian North-Western Front did not take into account that Samsonov's units were extremely tired of constant fighting. The commander of the 2nd Army died, supposedly he shot himself dead.
The RAS Acad. Alexander Solzhenitsyn presented a shocking story on the last minutes of General Sam-
sonov concerning his suicide, in the historical saga The Red Wheel: "Leaning against the tree, Samsonov stood and listened to the roaring forest...He was getting better. He was an old soldier living side by side with death and danger, he was ready to die and never knew that it was so simple, so soothing.
The only thing is that suicide is a sin.
His revolver was ready too. Samsonov put it into an overturned service cap, took off the sabre and kissed it. He found and kissed his wife's medallion. Then he moaned out as any dying animal does:
-- God! Forgive me and receive me if you can. You know: I could do nothing and can do nothing."
In the mid-September, at the same time as the central units of the 2nd Army were defeated (its survived units retreated to the starting positions), the 1st Army left the theatre of operations and moved back to our territory. This operation known as the East Prussian Offensive of 1914 turned out to be a failure. However, this campaign had important strategic results: after redeployment of the troops from France, the German bloc weakened its forces in Western Europe, which led to its defeat in the battle on the Marne River--allied forces stopped German troops advancing to Paris.
It is worth mentioning that representatives of the Romanov family participated in the battles held in the territory of Eastern Prussia, namely, great princes Ioann Konstantinovich, Oleg Konstantinovich, Gavriil Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich, and Dmitry Pavlovich; the Great Princess Maria Pavlovna worked in the hospital of Insterburg (present-day Chernyakhovsk, Kaliningrad Region) and fixed this period of life in her memoirs. "The first days of my stay in Insterburg were relatively calm--she recalled.--From time to time, we heard sounds of gunfire becoming more distinct when close. Infantry regiments in dusty boots were leaving the town accompanied by songs, cavalry units, cars, and wagon trains were moving towards the cannonade.
Dmitry was in Insterburg as a liaison officer under Rennenkampf's headquarters... Everything was looking well except for minor things. The troops were well procured with food, weapons, and supplies. People looked content and everyone was trying to do everything possible to achieve the overall goal and even die for it."
Thirty years after the depicted events the territory of the present-day Kaliningrad Region turned into a battle ground once again--fierce combat actions of the Great Patriotic War of 1941 - 1945 took place there. The Soviet forces chased the enemy in the western direction and crossed the border of Eastern Prussia to complete the task of surrounding and defeating the German army defending Königsberg. According to the Commandant General in the Wehrmacht Otto von Lasch "On the third day of the assault, the Russian troops advanced to the city center where were located our headquarters and me. The situation in the city was awful. It was enchained by extensive fires as a result of artillery shelling, mortar fire, and air attacks. The city was demolished, shelters-ruined. The municipal transport did not function.
Ammunition supplies were not stopped. Radio and telephone communications were cut off. The armies bore heavy losses. The morale of the soldiers rapidly went down. Civilians and foreign employees threw out white flags trying to make us stop resistance. As the front line shortened, the problems became worse. Food and ammunition supplies were liquidated. The city was so badly damaged that it was hardly possible to move through and find a way out."
On April 9, 1945, the command of the German garrison signed an act of unconditional surrender, though, the battles on the Frische Nehrung (Baltic) spit--a narrow strip of land separating the Kaliningrad Bay from the Baltic Sea) continued till May 8. This is how the 700 year-long history of Eastern Prussia ended giving way to the present-day Kaliningrad Region of Russia.
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