© Evgeniy Chernyshev, 2022
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This book focuses on Kaliningrad’s development as a transnational bordered zone, and the self-understanding and self-positioning of its youth in the context of regional culture. By taking into consideration historical and geopolitical factors, this empirical research was conducted in the Kaliningrad region, Berlin, and the cross-border area of «small border traffic» between Kaliningrad and Poland.
The research is multifaceted, resulting from the diverse and overlapping experiences of Europeanization, globalization, and post-socialism.
In the scope of this study, ethnographic and sociological approaches and resources, including participant observations, interviews, go-alongs, press materials, and statistical data and literature, were considered and examined.
The formation of Kaliningrad, within the scope of European Union-Russia relations, has been analyzed as a case of competition for a specific niche in a transnational region as well as in the context of a post-socialist transition and a rethinking of historical heritage.
On the 14th of December 2015, this manuscript was successfully defended as a PhD/Doctoral dissertation at the Institute for European Ethnology of the Humboldt-University in Berlin. The first supervisor of the dissertation is Prof. Dr. Regina Römhild, and the second supervisor is Prof. Dr. Yury Kostyashov.
Copyright © 2021 by Evgeniy Chernyshev
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I am grateful to the people who have guided and supported me throughout the research process and provided assistance for my work.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my scientific supervisor Prof. Dr. Regina Römhild, who has been following the research work from the initial phase up to its finishing touches. Her contribution both to the development of the objectives of this research and to the choice of empirical research method is by all means invaluable. Moreover, she provided me with guiding lines during my search and analysis of methodological approaches. Without her critical feedback, ideas, profound knowledge, help and an inspiring positive attitude, this dissertation would not have been possible.
I would also like to extend my appreciation to my second supervisor Prof. Dr. Yury Kostyashov, who has contributed with his highly considerable experience within scope of this research, comments, suggestions as well as his constructive criticism. His observations were especially significant in the historical and cultural aspects of the research.
A special thanks to the protagonists of this study: The interviewees who gave me insight into their everyday life through their openness and willingness to share their thoughts, desires, consideration, motivations, plans, projects and knowledge.
I express my deepest gratitude to my parents Yury Chernyshev and Nina Chernysheva for their wisdom, moral support, patience and continuous guidance, which inspired and motivated me throughout the entire journey of my research. Their support is of the greatest importance.
Scope of study
This study focuses on the question of self-understanding and self-positioning of Kaliningrad’s youth as a process and the result of the Kaliningrad regional culture.
The background of the study is the following factors and circumstance, which up to date play the significant role within the issue of self-understanding and in the positioning of Kaliningradians: distinctive history of the region; multilevel cultural space and identity representations; migration genesis of the region’s society, and significant migration flows; peculiar geographic location.
Therefore will be examined approach to cognition of historical heritage, historical consciousness; practices in everyday life, which illustrate strategies and experiences of Europeanization; the practice of transmigrant and cross-border mobility; enclave/exclave phenomenon, the concept of the «bridge» and «pilot region»; and phenomenon of regional culture.
During the study were involved ethnographic, anthropological and sociological approaches and resources, including participant observation, various interviews, go-alone, press materials, statistic data and literature.
Field description: relevance of research
The Kaliningrad region was formed in 1946 on the territory of the former East Prussia as a most western part of Russia. There processes of globalization and regionalism intertwined, which are manifested by peculiarities of established regional culture. The particularity of the historical heritage and cultural space of the Kaliningrad region is largely determined by such features as a bordered zone, multiethnic, and multi-religion. That is why the following issues are the most relevant: the historical roots, cultural identity, and cultural dialogue. Cultural issues of the Kaliningrad region are significant, not only because of their specificity in comparison to most other regions of Russia, but also because of active cooperation in the bordered zone.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Kaliningrad region was separated from the rest of Russia by several borders. Traditional economic ties were broken; the region experienced a severe crisis and fought for economic survival. The status of a special economic zone1 assigned to the area became a way out. Later, a special economic zone was perceived as a compensation tool of drawbacks of exclave position of the region.
There is a growth of interest among residents of the region to the pre-war history, arise discussions about the renaming of the city, Russian Germans and residents of the former Soviet Union republics actively immigrated to Kaliningrad. The area was opened for foreigners, including former inhabitants of East Prussia. There was an implementation of long-term programs of cross-border cooperation. In the 2000s, numerous investment programs for the region’s development were started and a program of resettlement of compatriots from the former Soviet Union republics was introduced. In spring 2004, the neighboring Baltic countries and Poland have become members of the European Union. Since 2004 the Kaliningrad region is the only Russian enclave within the EU.
The topic is relevant due to the presence of accumulated data on regional culture and the lack of complex studies focused on the cultural space of the region in the context of cross-border mobility and self-actualization of young Kaliningradians. Moreover the analysis of the complex socio-cultural processes in the Kaliningrad region is important for the development of regional cultural policy priorities.
Maintenance and development of regional culture plays a significant role for mutual understanding, which should make for overcoming various severities of contemporary inter-regional relations.
Objective and tasks
Objective of the study is to explore the self-understanding and self-positioning of young Kaliningradians in the context of regional culture, and its development as a transnational bordered zone.
The assigned objective involves the following tasks:
– describe distinctiveness of the cultural space of the Kaliningrad region and forming on its basis a model of regional culture,
– analyze the position of exclave Kaliningrad region in the social-cultural discourse of the inter-regional dimension;
– consider the establishment and development trends of regional identity, self-positioning of youth under conditions of exclave region: If a combination of historical memory and geography provides a sense of commonality resulting in a perceived, distinct kind of groupness?
– characterize everyday cultural orientations of young Kaliningradians in the scope of EU-Russia: If the choice with whom to distinguish themselves (Russian or Europeans) is a choice between two temporalities for Kaliningradians?
«Kaliningrad issue»: focuses of research
The Kaliningrad region is an administrative-territorial unit of the Russian Federation, which has the most unusual history among other entities of the Federation and consistently attracts socio-political and research interests. Established as a result of the Second World War the Kaliningrad region became a target for intensive Soviet resettlement policy. The complete shift of the population in extremely short period of time has prepared the necessary «testing ground» for voluntaristic construction of the collective memory of new inhabitants of the region – immigrants from various Soviet republics and regions.
The cultivation of the idea that the territorial accession is just the trophy of war was an important arrangement of Soviet propaganda and cultural-educational policy, which was most pronounced in the first two decades after the war. The official discourse has ensured the fact that the Second World War is the starting point of history of the region.
History and culture of the Kaliningrad region after 1945 has long remained beyond the scope of scientific research in Western Europe and in Germany in particular. Scientific interest in the «Kaliningrad issue» was focused mainly within the field of politics and economics. Researches on socio-cultural issues appeared only in recent times, and presented in studies of Kaliningrad’s youth by Matthes2, Hoppe3, Brodersen4.
The second half of the 1980s marked a new phase in studies of the Kaliningrad region. It was officially recognized the fact of the continuity of pre-war and post-war (Soviet) histories. This trend was accelerated since the early 1990s,, when the discourse was aimed on questions of «who we are here?», «what is our mission?», «what are our roots?»
Therefore in the post-soviet time the public and scientific debates on the question «whether is it appropriate to regard Kaliningradians as a distinctive group or community, framed by regional cultural markers», acquired a significant role in the political and everyday discourse.
The 1990s may be defined as the period of updating the regional cultural, historical, ethnographic and multidisciplinary studies. Researches of this period are characterized by the introduction of results of ethnographic studies. The issue of cultural identity came to the fore in the last twenty years5.The issue of identity and regional consciousness is associated by many researchers with Kaliningrad’s exclave status6. This approach allows defining the Kaliningrad region as a geographical and political space, but also as cultural exclave.
In the 2000s, due to the emotional quest of «Kaliningrad distinctiveness» and as a result of search for some regional «identity», not only the territory and place, but also people – Kaliningradians became the object of significant attention. In this context among political establishment is studied and crystallized the idea of «strengthening of loyalty» to the Russian statehood («center») among the Kaliningrad community. Particular attention is given to the young generation. To this end, political actors, mainly of the central government, bring to the agenda the topic of «latent separatism».
Academic science, especially political science and sociology, were involved in carrying out the necessary adjustment of the attitude of Kaliningradians from superfluously «European» to more typically «Russian». Anthropology brings modest «contribution» to this activity. The complexity of the abovementioned factors leads to the enrichment and diversity of discourse about identity and regional culture as a model (modification) of the national identification core. Since 2004, the Kaliningrad region has become a Russian enclave within the EU and discourse articulated more intensely.
In 2007, neighboring Poland and Lithuania became the members of the Schengen area and the «Kaliningrad issue» became a topic for EU – Russia relations. Since this time Kaliningrad regional official and public institutions are included in multilateral projects of «region-building» in the Baltic Sea region. The expiry of the valid law of «The special economic zone «Kaliningrad region»7 permanently brings the issue of economic security of the region, which has a lasting impact on «Kaliningrad distinctiveness».
The «Kaliningrad issue» is quite actively developed by political science with the intensive involvement of the methods of empirical sociology and statistics. A number of questions rise: «What role plays the identification of the region’s residents with their space of habitat», «where are the boundaries of the construct of regional identity», «Do they lie exclusively within the administrative boundaries of the Kaliningradskaja oblast or construct of identity finds nutritional base abroad, in the border areas, in the „center“ or anywhere else?» and «Is it possible at all to measure the construct of regional identity by spatial categories?»
Since the beginning of 1970s, the regular development of the academic design of «regionalism» theories in European academic circles began. Theoretical development of political anthropology, political sociology, social psychology, cultural history, focused on the categories of «place», «territory», «identity», «border» and «boundary». It is worth to note the studies of Keating8, Aronsson9, Neumann10, Joenniemi, Browning11, Paasi12.
As an important milestone of the study of regional «historical self-consciousness» should be considered a long-term research project of Kaliningrad historians led by Kostyashov. The large-scale collection of memories of the first Soviet immigrants was published in the Polish, Russian and German languages and became a significant example of oral history13.
At the same time, including through this project, a gradual shift took place among the German scientists away from the extreme views of Kaliningrad as a place without a past, or vice versa, as a place without a present and future14. In particular, Matthes15 has repeatedly appealed to the theme of regional identity of residents of the Kaliningrad region.
Also I should note the high relevance of the studies of Hoppe16 and Brodersen17, who undertaken a successful attempt to reconstruct and analyze the cultural, historical and social contexts of everyday life of Kaliningradians in 1945—1970, that is, during the period of most massive ideological «processing» of the population and prior to the planned upgrading of the urban landscape of the city of Kaliningrad.
Among the studies of regional identification and consciousness of Kaliningrad in 1990-2000-ies the most relevant in terms of the objectives of this research are studies of Sezneva18 and Browning19.
At present, the theme of the Kaliningrad region is positioned in a few focuses of research capacity.
Firstly, from a geopolitical point of view as a distinct region, which is an enclave / exclave. In recent decades, theories of enclaves, as well as the history of their origin, development and specific problems, are subjects of many studies. The Kaliningrad region is one example of which is reviewed and analyzed in scientific body of literature. It is worth to note the studies of Vinokourov20 and Nis21, which consistently develop the theoretical basis of the phenomenon of «enclaves».
Enclave territorial entities are considered as a kind of category of regions, which plays an important role at the intersection of theories of globalization and regionalism. So often enclaves/exclaves become places for application of interests of different dimensions: local, regional, national and cross-border.
The Enclave is an area or territory, which controlled from outside by motherland, an international organization or a transnational enterprise, which is lying outside the enclave. Accordingly to this definition, also Oblast’ may be an enclave: it is important that this Oblast’ is an integrated component of another state and politically controlled by this state. In this case, from the perspective of the administrative center (Moscow) such area is an exclave, but from the point of view of the surrounding states (European Union) and the international community is enclave. The state, which surrounds the enclave/exclave, is named surrounding state. The state, part of which is an enclave/exclave, is named – mother country22.
The necessity for design of theoretical framework for socio-economic development of the Kaliningrad region in terms of EU and NATO enlargement to the East in the mid-2000s has led to the search for evidence-based ways to ensure stability and coexistence with neighboring states23. However, it should be taken in account that this search takes place from the perspective of the established categories of political science that preaches the classical approach to the role of state institutions and their borders as limits of political influence. The issue of the «most western region» of Russia is poorly considered in cultural studies as in Russia so in Western Europe. The focus of research aims on discourse about Kaliningrad from the standpoint of political science, which theories are seen among political actors as most applicable and practically oriented in terms of the study of the Kaliningrad exclave, as a factor of Russian foreign policy24.
The second focus of scientific interest can be designated as historical memory. The memory is positioned in a close relationship with migratory flows and changes that have taken place in the second half of the 20th century in the region25. As known, life in the Kaliningrad Oblast was ensured by method of labor rotation. This shifting of population formed a kind of psychology with a sense of temporality that to some extent stuck in the mentality of Kaliningradians26. This population has built the city of Kaliningrad. This process was the central point of identification of people with new place27.
The third focus is related to the question of identity and identification of Kaliningradians in the process of everyday life and its articulation in the socio-political discourse. Starting from fifty years ago, the presence of Kaliningrad has been the subject of identity politics. However earlier in the spotlight was the idea that «Kaliningrad plays the role of the western Soviet outpost populated by «homo sovieticus kaliningradensis»28.
Nowadays it is explicitly clear that the analysis of identity and culture has become a significant theme in historical studies of borderlands, precisely because of the tensions residing in state’s attempts to impose national culture on all of its localities. Ambivalence border regions «often experience as they are both: pushed away from national centers, as part of the centrifugal forces of being the state’s frontier with non-national others, and pulled in by the centripetal forces of the borderlands and state centers across their borderline»29.
The fourth focus is directly related to the nature of the Kaliningrad boundary regional culture. Social scientists often neglected or underestimated transfrontier cultural systems. This is partly the result of different research focuses, but also methodological complexity. Symbolic design of the boundaries to border cultures are often highly significant signs of national and regional identity, but also are among the most difficult to perceive.
One of the trends which took interdisciplinary approaches to the research of frontier has been through the conception of borders and their regions as «systems» worthy of study in their own right, and not only at the peripheries of states and their institutions, or as the outer cover of state societies30.
As Prescott has classified, two research themes would be of concern to an anthropologist: the study of the impact of the boundary on the attitudes of border inhabitants and exploration of the effect of the boundary on national policies31. It is reasonable and justifiable to consider all the above aspects in interrelationship. Until now, it did not occur and studies are not based on a multidisciplinary approach of social sciences. Theory and methodological development of anthropology and cultural studies are still on the edge of the Kaliningrad issue.
Course of field research
Since I am an aboriginal Kaliningradian, I can then test on myself the processes and changes that occurred and are occurring at the moment in Kaliningrad. Meanwhile, it is necessary to take into account the fact that a large part of Kaliningradians are immigrants, which means that they have previously changed their place of residence. Young Kaliningradians with a migrant background are became a noticeable part of my research. Another important point, I come to make my study from Germany (Berlin), so the perception of me as an interlocutor from the view of respondents could be often described as «an alien who once lived in Kaliningrad, but came away long time ago and now explores period of his life, which was once, but already gone».
I talked «just about the complex» with those who are the target of public actors, and object of politics, social studies and educational activities. The course of field research provided answers to the questions that troubled me even earlier. Moreover, it has allowed me to take a novel look at the scope of study.
Interviewed people can be divided into two major groups: the «experts» and «ordinary» respondents.
«Experts» are increasingly public people with experience in a particular field of activity. These are people who lead an organization or institution, who are, or have been involved in various initiatives, activities and events that affect, shape, and govern the cultural and social landscape of the Kaliningrad Oblast as ambivalent border region, located at the junction of different spaces. Among them are scientists, leaders of public initiatives, entrepreneurs, leaders of NGOs, government officials, and journalists. In general, these are young people up to 35 years old. Each of them has their own life story, some born in the Kaliningrad region, and some immigrated with their families. However, each of them spent a lot of time in the region already, familiar with daily life of the region and its socio-cultural image and they themselves form it. Almost all experts expressed their wish to be marked in the thesis by their real names and positions.
I have a different degree of familiarity with each of them: from friendly relations, to those I was meeting for the first time. It is worth to note that in both cases, I tried to stick to the same format of conversation, although it is obvious that the meetings with strangers lasted for a shorter time than with familiar persons. I was pleasantly surprised that even strangers, who just learned about the theme of my research, always have expressed a wish to meet. Moreover a waiting time for a meeting was relatively short, even despite of a high official status of the respondent and his/her busyness.
Another observation: almost all of my interviews I have appointed by Facebook or other online social networks. This applies both to my friends and strangers (even high ranking officials). In all cases, online social networks have played the role of an effective communication channel, which is to some extent eliminates the social status of the respondent and makes his/her more accessible for communication.
In my opinion, a significant role was played by the fact of presence of «mutual friends» on online social networks. This fact serves as an effective recommendation and partially replaces the initial phase of familiarity, because it is always possible to make inquiries about the person beforehand. Although Kaliningrad is a town with a population of nearly half a million people, nevertheless, it is a «big village», where many know each other. This is especially noticeable in certain professional circles (among journalists, academics, social activists, politicians e. t. c.).
The venues of my interviews were cafes, offices and breaks during events and conferences.
The sample interviews allowed my respondents to move away from the structured aspect of the conversation and give a response in broader framework of the designated theme. Although, it was largely possible with the second group of respondents.
The second group of respondents is «ordinary people». This group is more numerous and includes a variety of people. Almost all of them are mentioned in the text of the thesis anonymously (under fake names) or under real, but without family names. I have only few familiar people among this category of respondents.
The type of interactions with the second group may be divided into interview (which were planned in advance) and conversations that occurred spontaneously. Interviews were conducted during the events at the opening of thematic exhibitions, scientific conferences and seminars. I should also mention the sporadic conversations that took place in public transport. Here I mean traveling from Kaliningrad to Poland (Gdansk and Olsztyn) and Germany (Potsdam) by bus.
The conversations on the border, while waiting for the border and customs control, as well as with applicants for Schengen visas, who submitted their documents to the General Consulate of Poland and Germany in Kaliningrad, were devoted to the cross-border mobility and perception of Kaliningrad as a borderline region. With some of these people I have managed to become acquainted and to meet again to clarify some questions. In Poland, mainly in Gdansk and Sopot, I was looking for places that are particularly popular among Kaliningradians, who travel there for recreation and shopping of popular products and foodstuffs.
Since many Kaliningradians «migrate» on weekends to «Trójmiasto»32 my field of research literally «overflows» across the border and rushed for 120 kilometers into the EU, «carpets» the cobbled streets of the old town of Gdansk, corridors of shopping malls, seafront of Sopot, theatrical annual processions of the St. Dominic Fair, yacht festivals and new shopping centers, arrayed along the Polish-Russian border.
On the other hand, my experience of research and teaching at the Baltic Federal University of Immanuel Kant helped me to establish contacts with students of universities of Kaliningrad, with whom I have organized pre-scheduled interviews.
My affiliation with the institution «from the West», which is the Humboldt-University, initially caused the «mixture sense of wonder» among the respondents of my research. The interest of Russian researchers, mostly political scientists and sociologists, considered as usual. Interest on the part of the West is expected only in respect to the lighting in the news and usually in a negative context. The fact that I am conducting an academic study has caused slight bewilderment: «It cannot be! We are interesting for researchers from the West?»
Secondly, my respondents were surprised after I said that I am conducting research in «European Ethnology». They asked with curiosity: «They are interested what we eat, drink, how looks like our housing is and what we daily wear?»
At this point, I should refer to Buckowski33, who is of the opinion that still exist knowledge hierarchies, when researchers from the west and their study met with more respect among the field. As explanation for this attitude Buchowski considers a kind of inferiority complex among anthropologists from Central and Eastern European countries, who research the post-socialism. In my case, it was quite the contrary, because people, who are unfamiliar with me, took me as a researcher from the «Western Europe».
Buckowski explains this approach as reaction on colonial pattern of thinking. According to Buchowski, western anthropologists often reject locally produced theories, because they would classify it as ideologically contaminated. The western anthropologists pursue the goals to preserve their interpretations and discourse sovereignty and to legitimize their scientific position34.
In conversations some respondents expressed ambivalent feelings of suspicion and of respect to me at the same time.
During interviews with respondents from both groups I felt their aspiration to «explain» features, problems and possible prospects of Kaliningrad, as part of a cross-border space and as a «European» city. I felt their aspiration to use me as a reporter on the line to the west. This confidence appeared after a few respondents said about it directly. One opinion united almost all respondents: «It is „nice“ and „right“ that they are interested in us».
How was the search and identification of fields for interviews and participant observation? Field was found at scientific conferences, at educational institutions, informal youth hangouts, in the corridors of the official regional authorities, media expert communities of journalists and political scientists, in the queue on sale of European goods, on the state border (on the way to it, during customs and pass control and during my stay abroad in bordered zone).
As Baumbach emphasizes the main agents involved in creating and sustaining «regions of culture» and «regions of identity» are acting by communicating shared traditions, customs, and values include a wide range of different sites and media devoted to the promotion of regional history and the creation of a regional collective consciousness. This is exemplified through museums and monuments, traditional fairs and festivals of art35. Therefore events and actions, which aimed at maintaining or reconstruction of historical traditions and values, have been my priority in time of field research. Among them are public holiday of «Long sausage»36, historical reconstruction37, «Week of Prussia cat»38. By these and other events I held participating observations.