Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Königsberg Castle ( Königsberger Schloss) must be rebuilt.



For years Kaliningrad has been allowed to decay as a forgotten Russian enclave surrounded by Europe. But now a movement is afoot to rebuild the city center. The castle too may soon dominate the skyline once again.
The city center of Kaliningrad is not a pretty site.
Shoddy concrete housing blocks constructed by the late communist regime stand next to rusted water fountains and apartment blocks from the Third Reich. A 20-story Communist Party fortress ( the "House of the Soviets") rises up in the center. The building is a ruin.
It's not uncommon for elderly East Prussians ( having arrived in a tour boat in the nearby port of Pillau) to break into tears when they see to what architectural depths their city of birth has sunk to. The destruction visited on the former pearl on the Pregel River by the bombs of World War II was immense - matched by hardly any other European city. Indeed, Kaliningrad, once known by its German name Königsberg, became a symbol not just of loss, but also of the destruction of homeland.
Some 30 divisions and two air fleets of the Red Army attacked the surrounded city during the final battle in April 1945. They fired at the city from thousands of barrels for days, without interruption.
It's time to turn the tide.
No one here wants to run from the city's Prussian German legacy. On the contrary. To restore a sense of urbanity to the ravaged city center ( further wrecked by the Soviets) is to go retro.
The cathedral, which was damaged during the war, has already been rebuilt. The "Fishermen`s Village" - a group of old half-timbered houses and 18th century-style warehouses complete with pinnacled roofs - is currently taking shape right next door, on the banks of the Pregel.
But the city is presently the site of another, far more ambitious project - that of rebuilding its castle. The defensive fortress was built by the Teutonic Order in 1255 as a jumping off point for crusaders heading east - a military stronghold in the midst of a pagan wilderness, built on the ruins of the freshly conquered Baltic fortress Twangste.
The old Prussian center was considered a "hornet's nest of militarism and fascism" in the jargon of the communist rulers. In 1969, then party leader Leonid Brezhnev had the still impressive castle ruins blown up and the rubble cleared away with bulldozers, right down to the foundations.
That kind of animosity is hardly to be found in Kaliningrad today. An isolated region, northern East Prussia led an impoverished and shadowy existence in the Soviet empire for decades, but now a fresh wind is blowing. Petro-billionaires and oligarchs from Moscow have discovered the region for themselves and they're bringing plenty of money, much of it of dubious origin, into the area.
Economic growth could be one reason. For the third year in a row, the enclave by the Baltic Sea has seen GDP jump by at least 10 percent. Bars, restaurants and hotels are springing up out of the ground and the city now has the second highest concentration of cars in the country. The old Amber Coast has become Russia's new place in the sun.
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin likes the idea of bringing back the Prussian fortress. On a visit to the region, he promised the equivalent of $50 million from the state treasury. Putin, of course, also has an interest in a resurgence of Kaliningrad. His family is currently building a villa in the area, on the Courland Spit which separates the nearby Courland Lagoon from the Baltic Sea.
But there's still plenty of work to do. The crusader fortress took on enormous proportions over the centuries with the inner courtyard stretching for fully 105 meters (328 feet). The castle's tower "Bergfried," which was more than 80 meters (263 feet) tall. The west wing contained the Moscovite Hall with its collection of trophies; a mechanical elevator transported wine barrels into the cellar.
Just how sumptuous the interior was can be seen in paintings showing the 1701 coronation of Prussia's first king, Frederick. Apparitors in festive dress heralded the grand event, followed by 24 trumpeters, drummers and 60 aristocrats. It was the beginning of the dream of world power.
All this finery went up in flames in August, 1944. The British Air Force sent two waves of more than 800 bombers over the city. Newly developed fire bombs were dropped from bomb bays - and 48 percent of all buildings were damaged or destroyed in the resulting inferno. The legendary Amber Room - displayed as German war booty in the castle between 1942 and 1944 - disappeared without a trace.
Only recently has an exploration of the basement vault ( financed by DER SPIEGEL) yielded new findings. Researchers have discovered old wine bottles and a collection of amulets. The remains of the castle's heating system were also found, as was a secret underground tunnel.
Despite the near total loss of the original building material, an accurate reconstruction is possible. The castle was mainly built from bricks and it was plastered, this makes elaborate stonecutting work largely unnecessary.
The reconstruction of the Prussian palaces in Potsdam and Berlin ( also blown up) has been stalled for years, partly because the effete elite considers the imitation of historical buildings "kitsch."

The castle must be rebuilt. We estimate it will cost $100 million.

It is essential for the city to be rebuilt. It is the greatest of shames that such a beautiful city was bulldozed by malicious individuals. I feel that the rebuilding of Konigsberg would give back to the city its cultural heart which was sadly taken away.





31 comments:

  1. The whole old town should be rebuild no, skylines...or atleast not in this old town area..:)

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  2. There are talks up here. OK, we are will rebuild Königsberg Castle, but for what purpose? Some say it could be a good supermarket. Yeah, I know it`s a joke, but really, can you answer on that?
    My view, it should be for a parliament of a newly formed Baltic Republic.

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  3. in the castle their might be meny options for what it can be used..as a museum ,parlament house..etc meny options...

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  4. I have seen in some pictures that, if the castle is reconstructed, an ugly roof would be placed over the courtyard. I really would like to see the Schloss rebuilt, but without that..that 'thing' over it.

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  5. I would like to exchange links with your site kaliningrad-eu.blogspot.com
    Is this possible?

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  6. You can see the roof on flickr. I don't understand why they have to bring all that bad-looking modern thing into the area, the same happened with the Stadtschloss in Berlin.

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  7. Hello, you site is very funny he told me to cheer up .. Merry Christmas.

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  8. Merry Christmas to you Anonymous! :)

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  9. Happy new Year. I hope you succeed in the rebuilding of Konigsberg castle. If I might suggest, keep the Castle separate from any other development and make sure it gets financed first if it is tied to a larger project. Better yet, let the townspeople build the Tower first with their own hands. Once that is on the skyline interest will soar in completing the whole castle. Unfortunately, it may be more difficult to properly re-build the castle now that Kaliningrad (and surrounding district) has become so popular with Russia's oligarchs. Perhaps pushing for a free trade zone would be a start? Getting foreigners as well as locals interested in new commerce possibilities would certainly help more than a few of the Russian elite? Good luck.

    Rp38

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  10. I agree.

    Mr. Vasiliev, it has come to my knowledge that a plebiscite will be held in your city this March to decide if the Schloß will be rebuilt. Do you know something about that?

    P.S. Happy (late) New Year!

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  11. Generalfeldmarschall, I heard nothing about plebiscite. Anyway, it`s just talks, not supported by money and authority wiliness.

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  12. Would the reconstruction of the Schloß (and possibly of all the old center) apport a touristic advantage, and so an economic advantage, to the region? Because if it is so, the project is possible and reachable.

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  13. This discussion is truly enlightening! I am an American of Prussian descent and was heartbroken when I first learned of the history of Konigsberg. What more can we as Americans do to spread the word and make people aware of the situation there? please do let me know and keep up the good work!

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  14. Local gouvernor says, some business group wish to rebuild Koenigsberg Castle, but in exchange they asking 150,000 square meters of land of city area. The prise has rised up from 100.000.000 $ to 1.000.000.000.000 euro .
    http://www.klops.ru/news/Kultura/37477/Biznesmeny-gotovy-vosstanovit-Korolevskij-zamok-no-prosjat-vzamen-15-ga-v-centre-Kaliningrada.html

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  15. I hope that Koenigsberg and the castle are rebuilt someday. A real tragedy that the Pearl of the East was destroyed, and that the castle that the Teutonic Knights built in 1255 was destroyed. Of course the Russians would want to wipe out Koenigsberg and all it represented. All the more reason why it should go back to being a part of Germany IMO. Ancestors of the East Prussians who were forcibly driven from their homeland should be allowed to return and settle in the new re-Germanized Koenigsberg.

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. And why would this not to My family be returned? Give to Us Our property, rebuilding is Our responsibility then.

    Jule von Koenigsberg

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  18. The high rises in the background are ghastly.. the whole Kneiphof could be reconstructed as Warsaw's Old Town was. Already the Potsdamer Platz rebuild in Berlin is looking very much "of its time" and will not age well. This is a steallr opportunity to rebuild the city center in Konigsberg and retain its scale..

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  19. It is good to see someone with the surname Vasiliev who understands Koenigsberg's past and that it can only rise from the ashes when it acknowledges that past instead of hiding it.

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  20. Very interesting site. Of course the Schloss should be rebuilt. It can then become a space for the articulation and dissemination of the cultural history of the region and its peoples. It would be fitting that such an important, and potentially liberating, pacifying focus of cultural and intellectual fusion (Slav and German) should be housed in a building originally created for the martial dominance of one cultural grouping over another. The new Schloss would thus be a re-imagined meeting point between the two traditions - a meeting point where both cultural hinterlands can be viewed and cherished.

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  21. The whole town must be rebuilt brick by brick, you cant leave it in its present condition. What a tragedy.

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  22. Rebuild the town asap. You owe it to Europe and Germany. I started a digital reconstruction on www.koningsbergen.nl

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  23. Yes the city should be rebuilt. A Russian friend tells me that the region is viewed as war booty and not an integral part of Russia. It should be rebuilt, but only if it returns to Germany. Several Crusader churches in the region were restored a few years ago, only to have the local Duma thereafter transfer ownership from the Lutherans to the Russian Orthodox. This is not how a nation of laws behaves. For instant good will, the parts of surrounding nations snipped off by the Soviets (e.g., Petsamo and Viipuri from the Finns) should also be returned.

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  24. Greetings from Kaliningrad, where I have been for the past five days. It is indeed a depressing place, with the worst Soviet apartment blocks I've seen anyway, and some fine old Prussian buildings standing derelict. Where else in Europe can you still see buildings bombed out in 1945 still standing in ruins? I would support rebuilding the Schloss - I would support building anything to get rid of the House of Soviets, which must be the ugliest building in Europe. This city's only economic hope is tourism, and German tourism is the most obvious source. Rebuilding the Schloss and turning it into a good museum of Koenigsberg history would be a great attraction.

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  25. thanks for sharing.

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  26. Well, Adam Carr you saw everything for yourself. :)

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  27. I think rebuilding the historic Schloss would be an excellent idea. Think for one minute about its commercial potential. There could be a historic museum inside, exquisite wine shops, antiques etc. It could be really upscale. My family came from Klaipeda, Memel, and Rastenburg East Prussia. All of them fled the area in 1945.

    Es ist einer Wunderschoene Idee. Privet! Rolf

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  28. The region now called Kaliningrad was not Russian nor German in the past, but belonged to several Baltic tribes, among them the original Prussians (which were exterminated and assimilated by Germans who later called themselves Prussians). So if the region has to be 'given back', it should be given back to the real Prussians. Unfortunately they don't exist anymore, all of them killed or assimilated into German and Polish culture, nobody even speaks the Prussian language anymore. Anyway, rebuilding the castle is still a good idea, but in this museum has to be paid attention to the original Prussian tribe too.

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  29. I think that since the castle is long gone, as a consequence, it is best forgotten. I'm afraid you can count me among the ranks of your 'effete elites', as I would consider a pastiche to be 'kitsch'. Instead of spending $100 million constructing an imitation of an ancient building, which is a cultural artefact of a long vanished society, why not push the envelope a bit and build something for tomorrow, something which represents the future. Maybe something along the lines of the Guggenheim Bilbao. Or would the sentimental complain that it would just be a new 'House of Soviets'?.

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