• The Baltic Times
  • 2002-07-18 TBT-No. 316
  • Size: 3.8 Kbytes .
  • Page:6.
  • Words: 631

NEWS. Kaliningraders want old name Koenigsberg back

Author: By Vladimir Zhukov, AFP KALININGRAD

Russia and the European Union may be battling over Kaliningrad's impending isolation, but the Baltic enclave's residents are at odds over a more immediate issue - its name.

Split from the rest of Russia by Poland and Lithuania, the issue of Russians moving freely to and from Kaliningrad - about half the size of Belgium - is gaining urgency as Warsaw and Vilnius eye European Union membership and the tough travel visa regime that goes with it.

Russia fears losing its grip on an enclave which already has something of a split personality, having been an historic cultural center in East Prussia before World War II.

And in a worrying signal for Russia, a group of Kaliningrad residents are demanding that Kaliningrad city resume going by its former German name, Koeningsberg.

"We are living in Europe and, if we want to be accepted as equals in the European cultural sphere, we have to give back its historic name to our city," said Sergei Pasko, leader of the Baltic Republican Party which supports the initiative.

Kaliningrad took its Soviet-era name from politician Mikhail Kalinin, who was the Soviet Union's honorific head of state from 1938 to 1946, the year the city was renamed.

But until then, Kaliningrad was known as Koenigsberg, capital of the then-German region of East Prussia.

As such, it was mostly identified as the native city of Emmanuel Kant, who revolutionized Western philosophy in the 18th century. Its university, where Kant taught, was viewed as a landmark of European culture.

Advocates of the Koenigsberg initiative say giving the city back its old name would acknowledge its European heritage.

Others argue that the name Koenigsberg, or at least its diminutive form Koenig, never fell out of fashion completely and is still used by some Russians today.

"Young people often call Kaliningrad (Koenig), and I think it is about time to give it back its old name," said Andrei, 24.

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