East Prussia


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Vladimir Vepryev is a consultant in business and international relations with a diverse background. A native of Ukraine, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and a firm believer in life-long enhancement of skills, he finished a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, another Bachelor of Science in Structural Engineering, and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, all from the Ukrainian State University of Water Management. Later, Vlad earned a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University, a Master of Science in International Development Studies from the University of Amsterdam, and a Master of Liberal Arts, concentration in Government, from Harvard University. He also completed graduate studies in international management at the University of Oxford, Trinity College.

The recent development of the events in the former Soviet Union (FSU) brought more attention to the tendencies of aspiration of a greater autonomy in some parts of the Russian Federation. The rapid changes may lead to the outcomes that would not be expected a couple of years ago. Traditionally, the tendencies of moves from Moscow pertained to the heroic pro-independence efforts in Chechnya/Ichkeria. The central governments in Russia initiated and fought two wars in the recent decades in order to keep their control over Chechnya. More recently, in July–August 2014, the movement for the greater autonomy of Siberia planned peaceful public events and activated the online sources of information (Luhn, 2014). Furthermore, there is an area in Europe that currently belongs to Russia, but can be located on the maps far west from mainland Russia. The historic name is East Prussia. Only the member states of the European Union (EU) surround its territory. East Prussia with its historic German roots customarily played a prominent political, economic, and social role in Europe. Numerous trade ties with the places located many hundreds kilometers away contributed to the prosperity of this land since the Middle Age. East Prussia was annexed by the USSR in 1945. Since 1946 it bears the name of Kaliningrad region/oblast. That was the year when Konigsberg became renamed to Kaliningrad. The new name was chosen after Mikhail Kalinin, a member of the Soviet Politburo. The last part “grad” is the old-style Russian version of the word “city”. Therefore, the name of Kaliningrad serves as a symbol of the incorporation of Konigsberg in Soviet Russia.

East Prussia is an exclave of Russia that borders Lithuania mostly on the east and Poland on the south. The total area of East Prussia equals 15,100 square kilometers or 5,830 square miles (Lineback and Lineback Gritzner, 2014). This number translates into “about half the size of Connecticut” (ibid). The city dwellers constitute the larger part of the population with the “three-quarters of [the region’s] 940,000 inhabitants […] classified as urban” (ibid). The total length of the Baltic Sea coastline in this exclave equals 140 kilometers (Vaulina, 1998). The Baltic Sea is located on the west, the northwest, and partially on the north from East Prussia. The southern border with Poland extends for 210 kilometers or 131 mile (CIA, 2014). The border with Lithuania on the east, the northeast, and partially on the north, equals 227 kilometers or 141 mile (CIA, 2014). Neither Poland, nor Lithuania shares common borders with mainland Russia.

Here it is important to indicate the difference between an exclave and an enclave. The Merriam-Webster dictionary respectively defines an exclave as “a portion of a country separated from the main part and constituting an enclave in respect to the surrounding territory” (Merriam-Webster, 2014) and an enclave as “a distinct territorial, cultural, or social unit enclosed within or as if within foreign territory” (ibid).

The city of Konigsberg/Kaliningrad currently has an estimated population of 448,000 residents (CityPopulation.de, 2014). Therefore, a significant proportion of residents in East Prussia not just simply inhabits any city, but resides in one particular major center. Based on the data provided by the Central Intelligence Agency (2014), such a situation does not seem to be typical in comparison with the neighboring countries:


Name of a Country or a Territory Population of a Country/ Territory Name of a Capital City Population of    Capital City Percentage of a Country’s/Territory’s Population   Residing in a Capital City
Denmark 5,569,000 Copenhagen 1,206,000 21.7%
East Prussia 940,000 Konigsberg 448,000 47.7%
Estonia 1,258,000 Tallinn 400,000 31.8%
Finland 5,268,800 Helsinki 1,134,000 21.5%
Germany 80,997,000 Berlin 3,462,000 4.3%
Latvia 2,165,000 Riga 701,000 32.4%
Lithuania 3,506,000 Vilnius 546,000 15.6%
Norway 5,148,000 Oslo 915,000 17.8%
Poland 38,347,000 Warsaw 1,723,000 4.5%
Sweden 9,724,000 Stockholm 1,385,000 14.2%


Several factors contributed to the clear dominance of the major center in this territory. First of all, the city of Konigsberg has historically led in East Prussia. Later, when the ethnic Germans were pushed out by the Soviets in the 1940s, the agriculture of East Prussia was severely damaged. People, who carefully cultivated the native soil and worked on the farms, could not remain there due the decision of the Stalin administration. The Soviets brutally expelled them from East Prussia to mainland Germany. The removal proceeded as a similar case to Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingush, Kalmyk, Germans from the Volga basin, and other ethnic groups from various parts of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that were mercilessly deported to the remote areas of the USSR by the same regime in the same decade. Then, in the following years, the new settlers from the rest of the USSR aspired for better opportunities in a new location. In the USSR, the opportunities more commonly existed in the urban centers.  For example, the discriminatory policies against the collective farmers in the USSR in the 1940s–1960s generated a very strong incentive for intensified attempts to move to urban areas. Any center of a region (oblastnoy tsentr) enjoyed the better allocation of funds in the system of Soviet central planning compared to cities in the same region that lacked such a status. Specifically in the case of Kaliningrad after World War II, the city quickly became a place for a major navy base and a recipient of the additional financial attention. When the market economy emerged in Russia in the late 1980s–early 1990s, Kaliningrad had the economic basis for the future growth.

The USSR functioned with a very cumbersome structure of the administrative division. After coming under the Soviet control, East Prussia was designated in this structure only as an administrative region/oblast. The historic German ethnic roots and many centuries of the unique political, economic, scientific, cultural, and social ties of East Prussia with the surrounding lands did not hint the Soviet bureaucrats to assigning of an ethnic-territorial autonomous status even on paper. In fact, the decision to consider this land only a region/oblast acted as a mechanism of solidification of the Soviet control.

The eventual collapse of the USSR resulted from several reasons. The list includes the economic mismanagement by the Soviet leadership, corruption, the increase of the pro-democracy opposition, and the mostly peaceful resistance to an attempted coup of the Soviet hardliners on August 19–21, 1991. This failed coup was organized against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by a number of people from the top echelon of the Soviet political and military circles.

There was one and the only one criterion why any part of the USSR could become independent when the USSR itself collapsed in 1991. All post-Soviet countries that gained independence had an immediate previous status of the so-called Soviet Socialist Republics (SSR). Being an SSR meant the highest place in the Soviet hierarchy of administrative units. Because East Prussia maintains only a rank of a territorial region, its independence could not be feasible in 1991. The same status remains in place as of today.

But the status of the political life in East Prussia did not persist in the stagnated mode. In December 2009–February 2010, many thousands of the residents in Konigsberg went to the streets in order to protest against the unpopular economic and administrative decisions of the local administration with the addition of some more politically flavored topics to their demands (Pan, 2010; Harding, 2010; Schwirtz, 2010; BBC, 2013). Such a proportion of protesters among the general population would be unthinkable for another city in the post-Yeltsin Russia. A brutal force remains an actively used tool of response from the officials to the much smaller crowds across the country. In the case of East Prussia, the protests resulted in the removal of Georgiy Boos, a governor appointed from Moscow (BBC, 2013).

These events may serve as a platform for the future evolvement of the situation in East Prussia up to the change of its political status. The Konigsberg-dominated demographic breakdown in East Prussia will be beneficial for the future protesters in order for them to organize the mass participation in a case of the opposition rallies. Historically, many political movements started exclusively with economic goals, but eventually produced the major positive political changes. The Solidarnost movement in Poland in the 1980s may be mentioned as a remarkable example. Such a shift may be explained by the threats from totalitarian regimes. An extreme risk derives from making political demands in the Gulag-style systems without any backing from a sizeable party or a movement. In certain cases, activists choose to be careful even in the environments when the majority of the citizens shares a strong, but silent political dissatisfaction. When a party or a movement grows and strengthens on the basis of common economic concerns, activists can come up with the political ideas.

As for the political component of the protests, this trend continues in East Prussia. On March 11, 2013, three activists of the pro-democratic opposition in East Prussia placed the state flag of Germany over one of the buildings of the regional headquarters of the FSB, the security service of Russia (Fakty, 2014). These gentlemen, Oleg Savvin, Mikhail Feldman, and Dmitry Fonarev, were eventually arrested and placed in jail for two months (Rudomanov, 2014). Ironically, the law of Russia does not have a specific prohibition against the installation of an official flag of another country.

In the meantime, the residents of East Prussia enjoy an opportunity of frequent traveling to the EU countries (Amundsen, 2012; A.C., 2013; Lineback and Lineback Gritzner, 2014). As the result, the modern East Prussians become increasingly familiar with the conditions in the neighboring independent countries (Lineback and Lineback Gritzner, 2014). The protests in 2009–2010 may be also influenced by the traveling experience of the residents of the region. They could observe and compare the economic policies and an extent of political freedoms inside and outside the borders of the Russian Federation. Furthermore, the location of East Prussia results in creation and development of various economic and business ties with the EU partners.  In contrast to the current situation in East Prussia, such countries as Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia dealt with higher risks, initial economic disadvantages, and uncertainties during their process of the achievement of independence in the late 1980–early 1990s. In addition, the aforementioned current members of the EU needed to overcome all negative effects of the stagnated Soviet economy of central planning.

It appears that the current international economic measures against Russia and the sanctions coming from Russia may have several exceptions for Kaliningrad region due to its location (Sinkovsky, 2014). The record of the protests in 2009–2010 may be the part of a reason for making these exceptions.

From the cultural perspective, the awareness of the historic past becomes increasingly clearer in East Prussia (Amundsen, 2012; Lineback and Lineback Gritzner, 2014). For example, many historic sites were renovated in the recent years in contract to the lack of preservation in the not so distant past (Amundsen, 2012).

Because the cities, towns, and villages in East Prussia were renamed after World War II, the traditional communist ideology reveals itself in the topography of East Prussia. The central city of East Prussia continues to be designated as Kaliningrad. There was another center of a region in Russia that the Soviets renamed after the same person in 1936. The city of Tver held the name of Kalinin until 1990. Alexander Kramer reports in Forbes (2013) that the efforts of the local activists brought the name of Tver back. Similar return of names transpired in many cities and villages in Russia, let alone other countries of the FSU. This process did not cause much impact on East Prussia. As of 2014, the topographic names include even Sovetsk and Sovetskoye. These are two different places, a city and a town, both renamed in the honor of the Soviet Union. Respectively, they were called Tilsit and Korelen until 1946 (Prussia39.ru, 2014).

Several blogs and Facebook pages currently endorse the dedication to the independence of East Prussia. Symptomatically, these sources simultaneously advocate the return to the historic topographic names in East Prussia. It must be noted that many messages in support of the independent state of East Prussia promote a center-right political platform, market economy, dedication to the European values, the EU membership, human rights, and solid relationships with the West. However, another group of messages unfortunately pushes racist propaganda, especially an anti-Polish and anti-Central Asian hate speech. Certainly, the latter group of statements is not acceptable, it cannot be tolerated, and these postings create valid concerns. But the reason of such concerns connects with the behavior of the pro-Putin propaganda machine. The modus operandi seems consistent with all the other recent actions of the Kremlin-controlled media. Instead of being an expression of the opinion of some pro-independence residents of East Prussia, the hateful portion of the messages may be deliberately posted by the supporters of the Russian Federation in order to discredit even a theoretic idea of the possibility of the East Prussian independence in the eyes of the worldwide community. For example, modern Germany implements and utilizes effective anti-racist laws. Modern Germany demonstrates respect to the memory of the innocent millions of Holocaust victims and cooperates against the ugly lies of the Holocaust deniers. In the same time, neo-Nazi groups comfortably push the extreme racist propaganda and exercise very high numbers of violent attacks against various racial and ethnic groups in the territory of the Russian Federation.

As it has been mentioned, the EU member states surround East Prussia. The land neighbors, Poland and Lithuania have steadily increased their authority in European and international affairs. Overall, the EU includes many areas of various sizes throughout Europe that could belong to different neighboring countries in the past. The entire historic experience of Europe after World War II proves that the governance in such areas can be stable, effective, and transparent in the case of democratic institutions in place. The lands that subordinated to the authorities of East Prussia in the past, but ended up either in Poland or Lithuania instead of Kaliningrad region, now prosper within the EU. Naturally, these lands shall continue to belong to Poland and Lithuania without any doubts. The EU prioritized a mutual respect to the borders among the member countries a long time ago.

In the case of destabilization in Russia, the international community may receive a win-win situation in the case a stable North European neighbor such as an independent East Prussia. Its territory shall equal the current area of Kaliningrad region. Presently, the EU structures really support Moldova in that country’s aspiration to the full membership. In the case of the EU membership, Moldova will be much more stable and much less threatened by the deteriorated conditions in the breakout area of Transnistria. The powers in Transnistria benefit from the Putin regime in Russia. In relation to Moldova, Barbara Lewis and Stephen Powell (2014) elaborate on the EU decision about the waiver of visa requirements for the citizens of Moldova since April 28, 2014, and discuss other welcoming measures from the EU. Going even further, Robert Kaplan (2014) emphasizes on the sense of urgency in cooperation of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with Moldova. Kaplan explains such an urgency by the clear threat from the actions of the Putin administration. The example of Moldova shows the readiness of the EU to fasten the process in some exceptional circumstances. As for the declaration of independence, the world observed the precedent of South Sudan. The global community encouraged the independence of South Sudan in 2011 as the measure for stabilization. Likewise, if East Prussia would be a democracy with a functioning economy and civil rights, such a country would mean much more stability compared to the status quo due to the current international threats from the Putin administration.

While a geographic distance continues to mean less and less for the opportunities of political, military, economic, and scientific cooperation in the modern world, the main opportunities for East Prussia exist in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The younger generation of the population in East Prussia would greatly benefit from the fluency in the languages of the aforementioned countries, as well as from English. The change of the political status would not mean the change of an official language in this particular case. Russian language would continue as the official one.

In the case of independence, East Prussia may become a popular destination for immigration. First of all, there is a general inflow of immigration to Europe. Then, the pro-democracy oriented residents of the very populous city of St. Petersburg in Russia and other territories of mainland Russia would consider Konigsberg as a reliable destination in the case of a formation of a new country in East Prussia. The flow of the labor migrants from Central Asia may increase. The labor migrants from Central Asia would prefer East Prussia over mainland Russia in the case of the adequate measures against ethnic discrimination in East Prussia. The proximity to the main European centers and the use of Russian language would work as the reasons for such a choice. Some ethnically German residents of the Russian Federation can relocate as well. In addition, the independent status of East Prussia would attract expats from the more economically developed countries. East Prussia would great strengthen the international reputation from the beginning, if upon obtaining the independence, the laws promoting racial and ethnic equality will be immediately enacted and fulfilled. For East Prussia it would be important to follow the steps of some EU countries and to establish measures in support of the increase of fertility and birth rates. Of course, such measures and policies need to cover all ethnic groups, etc.

The precedent of Singapore may be mentioned as an encouraging example of a small city-country. The effective leadership led Singapore to the strong international respect in all economic and political endeavors. The economic well-being of the ordinary citizens of Singapore significantly increased in the lifetime of one generation. East Prussia with the dominance of Konigsberg may eventually become a European Singapore. In addition to the main urban center, East Prussia possesses more significant land resources. The total area of Singapore equals 697 square kilometers or 269 square miles with the population of 5,567,000 (CIA, 2014). It means that East Prussia offers vast opportunities for the urban growth.

Overall, East Prussia has a remarkable past and a good potential. The choice of independence may bring a successful future to East Prussia.



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Rudomanov, Olexandr (2014). The activists that elevated the flag of Germany over the FSB building are arrested in Kaliningrad. Lb.ua. In Ukrainian language. (http://ukr.lb.ua/news/2014/05/02/265103_kaliningrade_arestovali.html). Published on May 2, 2014. Accessed on September 4, 2014.

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