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Kaliningrad (Königsberg until 1946)

Y. S. Kim (2005.12.15)

I am interested in this city because Einstein was profoundly influenced by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant who was born in Königsberg and lived there for 80 years. He never left the city except on one occasion. He had to attend the funeral of his father. In my earlier article on Kant, I said Einstein's special relativity was profoundly influenced by Kant's observer-dependent philosophy.

  • According to Marie Arana's review of Ann Applebaum's book entitled At the Crossroads of History Between EAST AND WEST, the philosophy of Immanuel Kant was a product of geography of Königsberg. Historically, many different people went through this city, and Königsberg had to entertain many different ways looking at things. Indeed, according to Kant, things depend on how observers look at them as well as their status of mind. If Kantianism is indeed a product of geography, the best way to study his philosophy is to go to Königsberg and look at the place. I went there in June of 2005, and took some photos. I would like share them with you.

  • The city of Königsberg does not exist on the world map these days. Its name was changed to "Kaliningrad" in 1946. How did that happen? Before 1945, Königsberg was the capital city of a German province called East Prussia. While the Soviet troops were advancing toward Berlin in 1945, Hitler ordered all German citizens in East Prussia be evacuated to western provinces of Germany, but only one half of the population of 400,000 were able to flee. Based on Stalin's habit of moving people around, we can assume that all remaining Germans were sent to various construction sites within Soviet territories. The Lomonosov campus of Moscow State University was built by Germans. Soviet authorities then sent Russians to Königsberg to repopulate the city, and transformed the it into a non-freezing naval base for their Baltic fleet.

Here are some photos which I took while in Königsberg/Kaliningrad.

      Two German sisters born in Königsberg (top), and three generations of Russian ladies.
  • At the Kaliningrad Airport, I was lost. There are no bus services to the city 100 km away, and taxi drivers do not speak English. I was rescued by these two ladies. One (left) of them is Russian, and she came to the airport to pick up her German friend (right). Both of them spoke fluent English, and asked me to come with them. After arriving at my hotel, I thanked them and took this photo.
  • Two German sisters born in Königsberg before 1945. They fled the city with their parents. They now live in Germany, but came to Kaliningrad to visit their birth place. They were also interested in the church where their parents got married. Next to me in this photo is the younger sister who was six years old when she fled, and her husband was very busy in his job in Germany. The elder sister is two years older, and she came with her husband.
  • Three generations of Russian ladies. This photo was taken on a city bus. The grandmother came from Russia, and her daughter and granddaughter were born in Kaliningrad. By now, Kaliningrad is a Russian city.
  • Russian Lady from Kaliningrad in London. I met this lady at the breakfast room of the Hotel Lancaster London (September 2011). She was born in Berlin while her father was a military attache at the Soviet Embassy. She said this city is still called Königsberg in Germany. She was with her Russian colleagues in the amusement park business.

  • Mikhail Kalinin was the (powerless) president of the Soviet Union and died in 1946. Joseph Stalin changed the city name from Königsberg to Kaliningrad in 1946.
  • Stalin, Lenin, and Kalinin. These three distinguished communists used to own their respective cities, namely Stalingrad, Leningrad, and Kaliningrad. Kalinin managed to keep his own city, presumably because he did not have too many enemies. He looks like a very kind person in this photo.

  • After 1945, the Soviet Union annexed the East Prussia and made transformed it into their naval base, and changed the name of Königsberg to Kaliningrad. Furthermore, Soviets moved the headquarters of their Baltic Fleet from Saint Petersburg to Kaliningrad.

    1. Since Peter the Great was the person who started building the Russian navy, his statue should be in front of the headquarters building. I was there in 2005 and had a photo of myself in front of this statue. With me in this photo is a professor from Kaliningrad Fishery College.
    2. Navy City. Since Kaliningrad was to serve as a Soviet naval base, it is not difficult to find navy sailors and officers on the streets. Here is another photo. Here is Russian Military Police, a strong man who does not need a pistol or a Kalishnikov rifle. They are all friendly people.
    3. In Moscow, Peter the Great is portrayed as the creator of the Russian navy in this giant statue. Russians like to remember him as the person who led their country to a world power by constructing a strong navy.

  • In July of 2008, I met these Russian sailors in Istanbul (Turkey). I asked them whether they belong to their Black Sea Fleet, they said No. I then asked whether they came from Kaliningrad. They said Yes. I told them I was in Kaliningrad in 2005, and promised to put their photos on this webpage. Next day, I met more at the Topkapi Palace Museum, and I am happy to put three more photos of those young sailors.
    1. Photo at Topkapi Palace.
    2. Another Photo.
    3. One more Photo.
    I hope these sailors will be happy to see their own photos from this webpage.

I went to Kaliningrad in order to learn about Immanuel Kant. Russians respect Kant, and there is a museum dedicated to him.

  • Kant Museum is in the tower of this cathedral. Viewed from a different angle.
  • Another view of the Cathedral (photo from the public domain).
  • Kant's grave is located outside this cathedral while many other prominent people were buried inside the building. The reason is that Kant did not believe in Jesus.
  • Kant's name. In order to prove that I was there, I took this photo. You can read Kant's name.
  • Kant's Portrait inside the museum. I was indeed happy to pose with his portrait.
  • Kant's Dinner. Portrait of Kant enjoying a dinner with his colleagues.

  • Books on Kantianism. In one of the rooms at the Kant museum, there were many books written about Kant and his philosophy. There are many books written in German, of course. There are also many in Russian, and some other languages. There were also a number of books written in Japanese. However, there were no books in English. I can understand why there are Kant books in Japanese as I explained in my earlier article on Kant, but it was a total surprise to me not to see any books in English. I have some ideas to resolve this puzzle, but I choose not to elaborate here.

  • Kant as a Russian hero. In Russia, young couples hold their wedding ceremonies on Saturdays, and they then visit graves of Russian heros. Kant is one of their heros.

  • Catherine the Great of Russia had a strong interest in Königsberg and constructed an amber room in her summer palace from ambers from this area. Catherine was also fond of socializing with interesting gentlemen. Kant lived for 80 years, and Catherine was born and died during the Kant era (1724-1804). They both spoke German. I do not have enough expertise to tell whether she met Kant here, but I was happy to see her portrait in the Kant museum. It would be interesting to examine what they learned from each other.

  • Kaliningrad State University (now called Kant State University) replaced the University of Königsberg which was totally destroyed during the WW-II battle. In addition to Kant, Königsberg played a pivotal role in Einstein's formulation of special relativity. Maxwell's equations known to us in the present form were developed by physicists in Königsberg during the period 1890-1910. The Lorentz-covariant formulation of Maxwell's equation was completed by Hermann Minkowski who studied in Königsberg Minkowski was Einstein's professor in Zurich, even though he was not a good student. Einstein was not a good student to anyone.
  • Kant's statue. This is a statue of Immanuel Kant standing in the front yard of Kant State University (formerly called Kaliningrad State University). This statue was presumably erected by Germans during the Königsberg period and re-constructed by Russians after the War.

  • Karl Marx talks about philosophers.

There were many German tourists in Kaliningrad, and they all told me to visit a resort city called Svetlogorsk located at the Baltic coast, about 100 km north of Kaliningrad. It was a German resort town before 1945, and it is becoming a resort area again for rich Germans. It takes about 90 minutes by train to go there.
  • On the train, I met this young lady who speaks English fluently. She is a sophomore at Kant State University in Kaliningrad and was going home in Svetlogorsk (2005). She became quite interested in my background, because I went to the United States with two empty hands and became rich and famous. To Russians, everybody from the USA looks rich. She said she is planning to visit the States as an exchange student. Her name is Irene Ovchinnikova.
  • Beach. After arriving at Svetlogorsk, we walked along the beach. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, and it started to rain. There were not many people on the beach.
  • Lunch. I became somewhat hungry, and I invited Irene to a lunch at restaurant in an expensive hotel designed to earn Euros from German tourists. She said she was not hungry, but would drink orange juice while I eat. She then called her cellphone to tell her mother where she was. Her mother was initially upset because she was a strange man, but eventually became curious. The mother invited me to her house. Because it was raining, we took a taxi to go to their house.

  • Family photo. She is with her mom and dad. Their house is one of the condos in a large building, as most Russians live. Irene's father is a very prominent surgeon in the Kaliningrad area.
  • Mother and neighbor. As in the case of old villages, neighbors get excited when there is a strange guest, one of the ladies in the same condo building spent time with us. In this photo, on my right is the mother, and the neighbor lady is on my left. Irene is somewhat amused at the older people behaving like children.
  • First floor. Their condo is on the first floor. This allows them to cultivate a beautiful garden in front of their house.
  • Church. They showed me things around the town. Among them was an old German church, which still looks like a German church, but it is a Russian church inside. Irene goes to this church every Sunday.
  • She is also a creative artist. The Kaliningrad region is the amber capital of the world. Irene picked up amber grains from the Svetlogorsk beach and created this artwork for herself to keep. She gave this to me.
  • House. There were also a number of old German houses refurbished recently by rich Russians. Of course, all Russians like to live in houses like this, and they will. Russians are highly-educated, hard-working, innovative, and peace-loving people. Sometimes, they drink too much, but it is OK.

Let us get back to the main point. The philosophy of Immanuel Kant is a product of geography of the Kaliningrad area. This area had to and still has to entertain many different points of view.
  • 750 years old. This year (2005), Kaliningrad is 750 years old, and there were celebrations. The age of the place is defined by its political system. Before 1946, this place was called Königsberg. People lived there before 1255 AD. This place, with a large lagoon, provides an excellent harbor for ships navigating in the Baltic sea, and was developed as a commercial center, and more recently as a naval base. In 1255, a rich and powerful man built his castle at the top of a mountain, and called himself the "king." That is how that place became Königsberg.
  • Fishing. Thanks to its navigational advantage, Kaliningrad has been a fishing center ever since humans started using boats for fishing purposes. Two thousand (more than 750) years ago, one of the disciples of of Jesus was such a fisherman. In this photo, I am having a dinner with a professor at the Kaliningrad Fishery College. I learned many things from her about this place. She was quite curious about my life in the United States. She asked me how much it costs to send a son or daughter to Harvard or Princeton.

  • Amber. Kaliningrad is the amber capital of the world, as South Africa is for diamonds. Emperor Nero of Rome was quite fond of amber products from this area. Here are pieces of raw amber displayed at the amber museum. Many of you have seen the amber room at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. That room is only a re-make of the original amber room constructed by Catherine the Great in her palace from ambers from the Kaliningrad area. What happened to the original amber room? During WW-II, Catherine's palace was once occupied by German troops. They took the room and brought it to somewhere in Germany, but it is still unknown where it is hidden.
  • Amber Shop. This lady is happy because I bought some items from her.
  • Beef. Poland and Belarus are potato-producing/eating countries. It is easy to conclude that people eat potatoes in Kaliningrad. Wrong! It is a rainy area with green and healthy grasses. As a consequence, it is easy to grow cattles there. Those grass-eating cows do not worry about whether their area is called Kaliningrad or Königsberg. In this photo, I am waiting for a steak dinner at one of the capitalistic restaurants in Kaliningrad.

  • Geographical Resources. Russia's Kaliningrad region is protected by two large lagoons from hostile Baltic waves. Indeed, these two lagoons provide an excellent stop-over place for ships navigating in the Baltic Sea. Furthermore its flat inland can provide excellent highway and railroad transportations to Russia and neighboring countries. Unfortunately these resources were not properly developed by the communist government of the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991. This area was used solely as a secret military base for the Soviet navy. Kaliningrad is Russia's only non-freezing harbor, but is largely unknown to the rest of the world.
  • New Kaliningrad. I am not the first one to see this point. Russians knew this for many years, and a new Kaliningrad is being developed.

  • Isolated City. During the Soviet era after 1945, Kaliningrad's main role was to provide a naval base for the Soviet navy. It was a secret city isolated from the rest of the world. Its main streets still look like this, and people live in apartment buildings like this (Kurushichev era) or like this (Brezhnev era). They should do something about their Soviet-era airport which is 100 km away from the city.

  • The House of the Soviets. This twin-tower building was originally designed by Soviet authorities to show off the success of communism in the center of the city, but they did not have enough resources to complete it. This unfinished structure serves as a monument dedicated to the failure of communism. This photo was taken in June of 2005.

What about Kant?

    Marx's grave at in London.
  • Karl Marx said "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point however is to change it."

    If Marx was talking about himself as the philosopher and Vladimir Lenin as the person who would change the world, he was wrong.

    Marx was right, if he was talking about Kant (philosopher) and Einstein (to change the world).

  • Einsteinism. E = mc2 by two different observers.

  • Yet, Russians are very busy in constructing an exemplary Russian city. They are trying to achieve what the communists failed: to construct a Russian show case on the border between the East and West. They are building this Russian orthodox cathedral in front of their city hall built during the communist era.

  • Russia's New Capitalists. The collapse of the Soviet system produced many, though small compared with the entire population, rich Russians. They are buying up old abandoned German houses (abandoned since 1945) and transform them into luxurious homes.
  • Another house recently refurbished.

    Also these days, foreign capitals flow into the area, and people are seeing higher living standard. Quite naturally, Germans have a keen interest in this area. This year (2005), the name of Kaliningrad State University was changed to Kant State University. It is safe to assume that Germans contributed a huge sum of money for this name change.

    Germans hope that Kaliningrad will become a German city again, but Russians do not agree. They like to have German money and know-how, but the title of the city is theirs. In addition, there are now many super-rich Russian capitalists, buying up properties in Western Europe. They should also investment their fortunes in Kaliningrad if they are determined to keep it as a Russian city. Historically, Russians have a tradition of investing heavily in arts and sciences. They now have a unique opportunity to raise the standard of their Kaliningrad and Kant State University to the level of the Kant era.

    How can they reconcile these two different points of view? German point of view and Russian point of view. Kantianism is still in its developing stage.

New Kaliningrad

    Thanks to Russia's petroleum resources, Russians are becoming richer and are buying cars, TV sets, PCs, and other personal items. Where are they coming from? Kaliningrad is a major supply base for those consumer products.

    Auto parts and electronic components come to Kaliningrad from Asian and European countries. They are assembled there and are transported to Russia's mainland by their wide-gauge railroad system.

    Indeed, Kaliningrad is Russia's main assembly plant with diligent Russian workers. This is a labor-intensive industry. Kaliningrad's next move should be to construct world-class educational and research institutions, in the tradition of Kant, Euler, Minkowski, and Sommerfeld.

We would like to thank Sergiej Leble and Urlich Mosel for sending us corrections and comments. Some of the maps on this page were from Ann Applebaum's book entitled between EAST and WEST, across the borderlands of Europe.

Why is he with Einstein?
Copyright@2011 by Y.S.Kim.