Rewriting history in Kaliningrad: Facts on the ground
In 2010, more than 50 castles and former church buildings – in many cases, merely their ruins – which had belonged to various religious communities before World War II, in what is now the Kaliningrad Oblast, were reassigned to the Orthodox Church of Russia
The law states that property which had belonged to religious communities before the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and was nationalized afterwards, must be returned to its former owners. As some critics have warned, the enforcement of the law will turn the Orthodox Church of Russia into the country’s largest independent landowner
What would happen if the Lutheran, Catholic and Jewish communities were to claim their former property? If the property were returned to them, would these communities want and be able to sustain it?
almost 40 buildings under federal jurisdiction, such as the Georgenburg castle near Insterburg (Chernyakhovsk), the former Evangelical Church of Christ in Ratshof, or the churches of Tharau, Allenburg, have been reassigned to the Russian Orthodox Church since February 2010.
This poses a further question: why does the Russian Orthodox Church need these castles built by the Teutonic Order and the old Lutheran or Catholic churches of East Prussia?
Until now, the population of Kaliningrad Oblast has been connected to the rest of Russia through the annual commemoration of the "Great Patriotic War" of 1941-1945. "The Great Patriotic War" was, and continues to be, the major historical narrative uniting the entire Russian population, the symbols of which were exploited in the Soviet period, particularly under Brezhnev, to strengthen Soviet patriotism. In the Kaliningrad Oblast, the remembrance of the war and, especially the constant actualization of the narratives of victory and liberation, have made them part of the local foundational myth, a sacralized story which explains and legitimates the political and social order of the region. None of this has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The statue of Lenin, the central icon in the square for 46 years, was removed and replaced by two other constructions: a triumphal column to celebrate victory in the Great Patriotic War and the Orthodox church of Christ the Saviour. The new symbols, imposed from "above" in 2005, clearly signalled the directions attempts to bring the people of Kaliningrad closer to Russia were going to take. The rapidly increasing number of Orthodox churches in the Kaliningrad Oblast is symptomatic of the same process. In 2009 alone, eight new churches were under construction in this relatively small territory, five of them located in Kaliningrad city.
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