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Old 07-21-2016, 02:40 AM
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Default Konigsberg (Kaliningrad)

PREAMBLE

If you use a high exposure, the people on the silver photo plate will first appear blurred and then turn into grey shadows before disappearing completely. If you use even higher exposure you will see the way whole cities and countries vanish shakily into the darkness. History, like a reel of tape, exists simultaneously with its good and horrific sides: the times of dawns and sunsets, the loss of civilizations, the periods of burgeoning culture and their total destruction. Rewinding the tape of history we experience once again the events of the past, providing a broader and more objective view of them than contemporaries could gain, helping us to see the cause and effect of developments.

There is a city in front of you in these pictures and the people who create its fabric. Here is its history, of how the substance of one city disappeared under the pressure of those new people, who came to occupy this land. Erosion, which rapidly swallows the city and dissolves it completely, is in the post-war pictures. A vacuum that spread through the space and, later, its refilling with impersonal monotonously identical elements, a new architectural landscape, its green shoots sprouting throughout the place- alien and meaningLess.The chaos of featureless new buiLdings - a reflection of the chaos of the ruins - that enveloped the citizens of the city for the first sixty years after the end of the war.

And then there are the more recently restored ruins, acting as some kind of metaphysical point from the war as well as being the first creative changes in the city's environment and consciousness. In these pictures there are people, different people, people from different times, who led their own lives, realised their own destinies, and through them moulded the fortune of their city. Today we can look at these people from a different perspective and at their historical deeds.

And understand, or at least try to imagine, what we ourselves can do and what kind of changes we can bring to this specific place. And although it is impossible to avoid subjective emotional experience, this is my story about the history here, the aim of which is to tell you how it was with the utmost level of impartiality.

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Old 07-21-2016, 02:41 AM
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FOREWORD

Overall this is not a preface to the book; these are reflections and notes recorded at different times in the course of research and preparation. At the beginning there were pictures of Konigsberg and the early post-war period; later there were pictures which were found in the regional state archive and in private and foreign archives. In general this is the product of impressions obtained from everything that was expressed in the pictures. This album comprises 400 photos.Tens of thousands more were not included. During the whole period of work I plunged so deeply into this chain of images that it became hard for me to stand back from the constant visual flow. In the final year I devoted myself to minor details. It was only during the last month that some decisive changes were made that defined the character of the book.

My personal path of learning was basically chronologicaL,from Konigsberg to the post-war photos. But the more I learned the more I understood: without a clear picture of today one can understand nothing about the past and vice versa - without a full picture of the middle of the 20th century, no one can explain how today came to be. And this feeling of continuity of timing and history, a sense of the multiplicity of connections coming from various periods (despite the surreal distortions in the official history), gripped my attention to such an extent that it became impossible to put a full stop to my journey. Every new day brought new knowledge and new outcomes, constantly postponing the end of my project. It took me a real effort to stop looking for new impressions and stop making yet more pictures.

My own story in Konigsberg started with a photocopy of "Konigsberg in 144 pictures", somehow found in my parents'place, and that episode later on was followed by a loud-voiced argument with my mother on the bus - whether there was a peaked roof on the Cathedral or not (I was probably seven years-old at that time). I remember the passengers were smiling at me. Even today, I stiLl can't believe that Mum didn't know what kind of roof the Cathedral had! Many years later, perhaps ten years or so, more complex questions arose. The search for answers to these questions led to this book. I deliberately call this album a book - as there are several layers - not only the photos to look at, but a chance to see everything for yourself and reach your own conclusions. At the end of the day every observer will see his or her own history.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:41 AM
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From one side the photos show the city as a stage setting where the drama is supposed to start; the play, the end of which is known to us but unknown to the actors. And it looks as though these people, the casual passers-by who happen to be in the shot, are only the background. But it is only an illusion that they are extras; in reality they are the real actors of the history. These people of the background are the people who created this city, built the houses, baked the bread and loaded the barges in the port.

Some of them even gave a hand to the Bolsheviks in order to ship the newspaper "Iskra" to Russia. But there were others who were making ready for war, those who were marching towards the East with enthusiasm (and others without it). In exactly the same way, the later photos show the evidence of those who destroyed the city. Anyway, photographic art is not concerned with "what to depict" - its job is to record the reality, whatever it was. At the end of the day we make our own contemporary assessments whereas, for the photographer, for him there are simply different events, emotions and causes.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:42 AM
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The deliberate act of destruction of material culture in Konigsberg on such a scale probably can't be compared to anything since the times of Carthage.This was always a puzzling question for me, in terms of why it was deemed necessary and how it was justified. Anyway, at first glance there were no obvious reasons beyond the ideological cliches. It took a Lot of time to see and realize what else was involved - a very careful look backwards was needed.

This book had its start with the answer to this question on the causes of Konigsberg's destruction.

One very simplistic thought is that, in the absence of a culture of one's own and with no respect towards an alien one, total indifference led to the destruction of a centre of developed civilization. But it is too simple to be the complete truth - there are very few completely unambiguous events, so it is even more difficult to understand what it means to say "we simply came and decided to destroy it". Could it be otherwise under those historical circumstances? There is only one answer to this - no, however hard certain individuals tried and despite whatever they did. In order to save Konigsberg one would have had to change the course of history and development of the Soviet Union since its very beginning -no civil war, no emigration and no systematic massive extermination of the active part of the population over several generations.The
empire didn't want free and free-thinking citizens who enjoyed living and working (in the broad sense). Thus they were removed from the empire by various means.

As a result of the great number of factors present in the previous development of the Soviet society, the people who came to this land were incapable of preserving the previously existing culture, in the same way as the Mayan tribes would have failed to preserve the culture of the Middle Ages in Europe, if they had swum to Columbus in Spain and not Columbus to them (the Spaniards, by the way, didn't succeed a great deal in America either). And this is for one reason alone - these cultures had different purposes.

The Soviet Union was a typical empire - state - the aim of which was preservation of its existence, expansion of the state itself and the maintenance of its supremacy. And the people of the state were supposed to be silent cells of a well-coordinated system. That is why culture and art, let alone architecture, meant nothing for the functioning of such a system. Consequently, in such a society the old cells continued to be favoured and new cells of the system were brought up in the same mould.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:43 AM
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An empire breeds conquerors and they are raised to conquer and destroy - in order to bring new futures. But somebody forgot to give the conquerors a new message. People were taught to hate, and to divide people and cultures into friends and foes. But they were not taught to unite.

Konigsberg was destroyed because the incoming civilization didn't see anything in it other than stones. In a society у of absolute materialism, chips from the Parthenon columns are the same as from the battlements of the Royal Konigsberg Castle. We, as well as the British in 1944, did it only because we were able to do it.

As Friedrich Nietzsche used to say - an individual starts where the state ends. And in the Soviet empire j the state was an endless, ; '; closed continuum without any room for an individual.

So the plight of Konigs- tj berg was predetermined long before the great dictators appeared on the scene. It was predestined by the trajectory of the events which started in Russia in 1917, the day when common people became the governor of the state and sublimated the inferiority complex into the moral standards which still corrodes the society.

Clearly, history doesn't have a subjunctive mood - it just "exists". The interconnection of events is multidimensional and is far from being obvious. Events that seem like horrific crimes at first sight turn out later on to be the logical and inevitable outcome of the essential function of states.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:43 AM
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In Konigsberg the events of the middle of the 20th century left emptiness, both material and metaphysical which stilL undermines the culturaL landscape and peoples' souls. We see only the empty stage and the myths in the background, from the castle hill and towards the direction of Altstadt and Kneiphof...

In 1933 Hitler came to power in Germany. The atmosphere of intolerance and murderous encounters in the streets of Konigsberg one year earlier caused even Thomas Mann to write an article from Nida "What should we ask for?"

"...Willthis murderous vileness of Konigsberg ever open the eyes of the admirers of that zealous 'movement', which calls itself National Socialism ...to the authentic nature of this national illness, this mixture of hysteria and stagnant romanticism, megaphone Germanicism, which is a vulgar caricature of all things German?"

Looting preceded the destruction of the synagogue in 1938. Firstly the synagogue disappeared and following that the Konigsberg Jews walked in columns through the city to the Northern Railway Station where they were put on a train to Ukraine, and the next day all of them were exterminated2. Their shops, freshly cleaned up, were given to new owners at significantly discounted prices. But for many citizens these events were un-noticeable, and with regard to reminiscences, until August 1944, despite the approaching frontline, the smell of war was not perceived in the city.

Without doubt, people who fall into a trance need to be slapped to come back to the reality. The question is still the subject of discussion as to how sharp was the slap of 1944 inflicted by British bombers. Over 5,000 people burned alive, the treasures of all the museums and libraries destroyed, and the historic city centre consumed in flames.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:44 AM
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Vladimir Yegorov, an ex-governor of the Kaliningrad Region, at the premier of the film, "The Battle for Eastern Prussia", characterised this as a deliberate act forewarning the German population of the coming encounter with Russian troops. Later, before the storming of the city, gallows were set up on lampposts and in shop windows; deserters were executed by firing squads on the platform of the Northern Railway Station; and there were the words of Goebbels at the end of April 1945,"The people gave us the power themselves, they should have thought about this earlier."

But the players themselves were frightened by the final scene and, washing their hands of responsibility, abandoned the city which effectively put the bullet in its head.The people were left totally alone to complete the final act. In Frau Goebbels'words -not only the mother of seven children but the head of propaganda films, "The world that comes after the Fiihrerand National Socialism is not any longer worth living in and therefore I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow."

Three weeks before that the storming of Konigsberg took place, which was followed by the expiry of the ultimatum by Vasilevsky4to burn down the northern and southern residential neighbourhoods (Hufen and Haberberg correspondingly).The final curtain of the act crashed down and buried both the actors and the spectators.

The postwar famine of 1946/47 was a period when, according to the statistics, up to 5,000 people died every months. Michael Vik talks about a hundred thousand victims - his own family miraculously survived the famine and filtration camps, and had to pay a bribe to be among the first to be deported from Konigsberg.

In 1945, when the Russian troops entered the city, it was known for certain that Konigsberg would become part of the Soviet Union.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:44 AM
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However, when in 1968 the last remains of the Royal Konigsberg Castle were blown up, there was nothing left of the city itself.

A twenty to thirty year period in the middle of the 20th century turned out to be completely deleted from not only the photographic annals but chronicles in general (obviously, we are not talking about the coloured party reports on the front and the back pages); the number of photos with authentic reality still at our disposal can be counted on our fingers.

That time was known for emotional demonstrations of happy and laughing people against the background of what the current regime was experimenting with, including what was hidden behind the curtain. And the termination of that time was marked by demonstrations of similarly happy and laughing people - but totally different ones, people imbued with very different ideas although under banners of the same colour. And the ruins of the Royal Konigsberg Castle happened to be the background for them.

Only the superficial side of events has remained generously illustrated. For their report the National Socialists took a picture of the burned-out synagogue while only a passer-by managed to photograph the actual destruction of the synagogue. Photographers were shooting the demolition of the castle by explosives but the police were confiscating their fiLms and exposing them ... Only the official photographs by a Mr. Savin provide us with the clear evidence of soldiers dragging makeshift bags of sheets from the ruins filled with goods, or drinking wine from bottles at the Gesekus square... And after that there was a ten-year gap.

Judging by the photographs we know that some time ago there used to be a city full of life, but the next stage of the city's environmental development displays an emptiness and anonymity which totally obliterated the traces of Konigsberg.The new configuration of space even exaggerates this vacuum. The unprepared spectator finds it difficult to relate the images of the past to the new reality, let alone to accept that a significant part of the city was destroyed not only by the British air force (though its role was considerable), but primarily by the efforts of the new masters of the Eastern Prussian capital. Not in one go, of course. But gradually, getting closer to the Royal Hill, they gnawed it down to the level of the pavement.
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:45 AM
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The political will of a Mr. Konovalov* and others - featureless or personally acceptable party functionaries - was obviously not enough for the Royal Konigsberg Castle to disappear. It was also not sufficient for other places to vanish like Altstadt, Sackheim.Tragheim and other churches; the partly preserved developments in Kneiphof, Forstadt and Altstadt; the post-office in Gesekus square; the Royal Government building in Tragheim; the old Arts Academy in Rosgarten, and too much more to enumerate. Thousands of people would have had to be prepared to be involved in the mass destruction of so many substantial objects.

And these happy, laughing people in the photographs were unconcernedly despatching sculptures from the portals of baroque Lutheran churches to machines for producing chips.The Lutheran churches themselves were later destroyed in the same way.The paths in public gardens were covered with small red-bricked gravel until the beginning of the 1990s. Was it secret symbolism or some kind of pagan sacrificial offering to the Mother-Russia idol to cover the paths with red chips from Konigsberg's flesh?
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Old 07-21-2016, 02:46 AM
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The story of the reconstruction of a Lutheran church in memory of Duke Albrecht in Maraunengof is significant. At the end of the 1940s it was decided to turn the church, which survived during the war, into a cinema by adding to the Roman building a constructiv-ist portico, and by placing a huge sculpture of a worker and a kolkhoznitsa (collective farm worker) on the tower. That sculpture was supposed to be fifty(!) meters above the city. The reconstruction began, the Roman portico was pulled down, and a colonnade was built as well. But that was the end. The church remained in this condition till the end of the 1960s, gradually falling to pieces, and was finally demolished. A new street and tram-tracks were laid on the site.

In the 1960s all the monuments were removed from cemeteries, which were turned into mines. Afterwards, from the middle of the 1960s to the end of the 1990s, with the tacit blessing of an indifferent society, all the coffins in all the cemeteries were dug up in a search for gold teeth and jewellery. And this is not a metaphor.

The substance of the city was not inexhaustible - to raze to the ground everything that had been created over seven hundred years took a mere twenty-five years.

But should we be horrified by the consequences? All of this together is only a summary of the upbringing of people by the Soviet system. In finding an answer to the question about the destruction of Konigsberg, we will answer the big question about the causes of the death of the Soviet Union in general, since Konigsberg is only a particular phenomenon within the vaster project; and the destruction of Konigsberg is also one of the localised results of the project to create a new society (more accurately, its failure).
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