The paper discusses different appropriation strategies applied to the same historical region of East Prussia. By dating the beginning of the symbolic appropriation to the early 19th century, the author reviews the strategies, first applied by Germans and Poles, and later also by Lithuanians and Russians, to make East Prussia or their respective part (Warmia and Masuria, Lithuania Minor, and the Kaliningrad Oblast) their own. This is demonstrated by several periods, starting with the situation before 1914, the First World War, the interwar period, and the Second World War, when East Prussia still existed; and finishing with the postwar period and the changes after 1989. A distinction is made between national and regional East Prussia appropriation strategies, as well as different levels of the process, i.e. publicistic (literary) and practical.
Changes in the political power and the population in the southern part of East Prussia, which went to Poland in 1945, led to the removal of traces of the German past in the region, and to its Polonisation immediately after the war. After discussing the de-Germanisation policy, typical of the postwar period, the removal of symbols of ‘German power’, the elimination of the ‘German spirit’, and trends in the adaptation of the new population to the cultural landscape, the author raises the question how relations between the population of the territory and the German heritage and past changed after 1989. The issue is considered in the context of the discussion among intellectuals in Poland as to what the relationship with the German heritage should be. The answer is based on the results of a sociological poll carried out by the Institute for Western Affairs in 2001.
The paper characterises the several-decades-long process of rehabilitation of the prewar cultural heritage in the Kaliningrad. After the northern part of the former East Prussia (Königsberg, and since 1946, the Kaliningrad Oblast) had been annexed by the USSR, and after basically a total change of the population had taken place, the authorities started to Sovietise the region. Knowledge of the prewar past was prohibited from the very beginning, and Stalin-era propaganda formed the founding myth of the Kaliningrad region with reference to the notion of ‘a Slavic land from time immemorial’. Despite the significant shifts that took place in the process of research into the history of the Kaliningrad Oblast during the Soviet period, carried out by historians from Russia and other countries, the adaptation by the postwar settlers to the socio-cultural landscape remains a poorly researched theme. The paper argues that the rehabilitation of the prewar (and primarily German) cultural heritage took place all through the Soviet era, by gradually converting the initially alien environment into their own. Ultimately, a fundamental shift took place in the cultural memory of Kaliningrad’s inhabitants; from the fear of staying ‘in an empty land’, they moved to the compatibility of ‘memory and desire’: the understanding that the metaphor of ‘paradise lost’, which revealed the nostalgia of the former inhabitants of East Prussia, also defined the feelings of Kaliningrad residents for the land that had become their home.
Journal:Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis
Volume 24 (2012): Erdvių pasisavinimas Rytų Prūsijoje XX amžiuje = Appropriation of Spaces in East Prussia during the 20th Century = Prisvoenie prostranstv v Vostochnoi Prussii v dvadtsatom stoletii, pp. 141–152
The article focuses on the role of the specificity related to East Prussia and its past in the current self-consciousness of the population of Kaliningrad Oblast and in the future strategies of the said territory of Russia. The author questions both the impact of the above mentioned specificity on the formation of uniqueness of Kaliningrad people in the context of other Russian territories and the existence of a special Kaliningradian identity. To his mind, for the population of Kaliningrad, East Prussia is a multidimensional symbol that provokes different social-cultural phenomena and simultaneously is used in order to trigger, maintain, and enhance the phenomena.
Journal:Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis
Volume 18 (2009): Antrojo pasaulinio karo pabaiga Rytų Prūsijoje: faktai ir istorinės įžvalgos = End of the Second World War in East Prussia: Facts and Historical Perception, pp. 87–108
This article analyses commemorations of World War II events in the northern part of former East Prussia, comparing discourses and practices of commemoration in post-war Klaipėda region and Kaliningrad oblast. It reviews the socio-cultural developments in this region and distinguishes between private and public forms of commemoration. Author argues that two main plots were important in the public commemoration of war: the plot of “liberation” and that of the victory achieved in the “struggle against Fascism”. Analyzing the public commemoration of these plots, it distinguishes and exhaustively examines its three functions: legitimation of territorial subordination, founding myth, and payment of homage to the warriors as strategies of regime legitimation and the formation of valuable orientations.