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Kaliningrad
January 26, 2003 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Kaliningrad is the name of the little dot between Poland and Lithuania which lights up when you select "Russia" in the Axis Applet. It turns out to be a Special Economic Zone entirely surrounded by newly-minted EU members.

But before it was gobbled up by Russia in the wake of World War II, it was named Konigsberg. Founded in 1255 by Ottocar II (Not related to the Ottokars of Syldavia) of Bohemia, Konigsberg was the inspiration for the problem of the 7 Bridges and the name of two famous warships.
posted by hob (24 comments total)

 
Founded in 1255 by Ottocar II (Not related to the Ottokars of Syldavia)

Whew! Thanks for clearing that one up.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:19 PM on January 26, 2003


When I was an exchange student in Germany, the father of my host family was a Koenigsberg German who had been forcibly resettled with his family after the war. It seemed to me his family got off lightly, in comparson to the refugees of modern wars, but it hurt. Oddly, no one really spoke of it, except as an aside - yes, Heinz was born in Koenigsberg. I also can't help wondering if they didn't all make out better starting with nothing in the Bundesrepublik, rather than being condemned to stay in the Soviet Union. Out of the fire into the frying pan?

If the exodus from Koenigsberg had spawned a writer like Guenter Grass, who could do for it what Grass did for Danzig (Gdansk) the world would be partly recompensed. Koenigsberg is one of those wee anomalies that makes me rather sad, as one injustice is answered by another.

Space Coyote - Ottokar is surely the coolest Eastern European name ever. Boris, Pavel and Sergei don't even come close.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:32 PM on January 26, 2003


Königsberg was also Kant's home. "Kant is notorious not only for opacity and difficulty, but also for having lived about the most unpromising life imaginable for a biographer. He spent it entirely within a few miles of the desolate coastal town of Königsberg, or Kaliningrad, in northeast Prussia. He never travelled. In all his life he never saw a mountain and never heard a decent orchestra. He never married." (From Simon Blackburn's review of a recent biography of Kant.)
posted by sylloge at 11:33 PM on January 26, 2003


...and that explains a very great deal indeed.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:50 PM on January 26, 2003


Thanks for the link, sylloge.

Kant's grave is one of the few things that remained in Königsberg after the war. Most of the city was erased and then rebuilt in Stalinist style. Most famously, the 700-year-old castle was knocked down and replaced by the perfectly ugly House of Soviets. (Known locally as "The Monster.")

As far as I know, it's still unfinished.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:52 PM on January 26, 2003


Ottokar is surely the coolest Eastern European name ever. Boris, Pavel and Sergei don't even come close.

I'll agree with that, at least until I find an Eastern European named Ottobus. (though that sounds more latin to me)
posted by Space Coyote at 12:33 AM on January 27, 2003


So... I wonder, did people really wonder about the seven bridges problem? Euclid proved something much more general eventually, if I don't misremember. The 7 bridges problem lends itself to a brute force solution, if I'm not mistaken.

I'm really curious about the true scope of historical knowledge. This reminds me of the old tale that Columbus discovered the world was round, when of course there are clues there for the intelligent observer and many had, in fact, observed this.
posted by Wood at 12:33 AM on January 27, 2003


Christian Goldbach (of the conjecture) was also born there.
It may be "possibly one of the ugliest places in the world", but at least it now seems to have a decent orchestra... albeit rather too late for poor Kant.
posted by misteraitch at 12:39 AM on January 27, 2003


Here's a relatively simple explanation of Leonhard Euler's solution to the Konigsberg bridge problem.
posted by jonp72 at 12:54 AM on January 27, 2003


Reporters of Poland's largest daily (Gazeta Wyborcza) decided to illustrate the coruption in Kalingrad by taking a 'shortcut' through it while driving down from Estonia. In reality, because of 'customs', bribes and fines it actually took them twice as long to go through Kalingrad then it would have to go around it. Not to mention the extra couple of hundred dollars they spent.
posted by jedrek at 2:46 AM on January 27, 2003


Poles are talking smack about another country’s crooked custom agents? There’s a laugh.

He says, rather snidely.
posted by raaka at 3:32 AM on January 27, 2003


The horrendous warcrimes committed by the Red Army against the German civilians living in Königsberg and East Prussia is something people only recently have begun discussing.

East Prussia was much larger than what is now Kaliningrad, and had been part of the German nation for the last 700 years. That, the Red Army was about to change. The civilian population was killed or raped, driving the entire East Prussian population to leave their homes helter skelter in midwinter 1945. It was a massive ethnic cleansing.

Playwright Zakhar Agranenko wrote this in his diary he served as an officer in East Prussia."Red Army soldiers don't believe in 'individual liaisons' with German women," wrote the "Nine, ten, twelve men at a time - they rape them on a collective basis."

Though a few tried to stop it, a commander personally executed a lieutenant who had lined up his men in front of a German woman spreadeagled on the ground, it had little effect. Neither, was the fact that the Russian army had quite a few women serving.

Natalya Gesse was a war correspondent and observed the action in 1945. "The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty It was an army of rapists."

There was no refuge, in Dahlem Soviet first-line officers had visited Sister Kunigunde, the mother superior of Haus Dahlem, a maternity clinic and orphanage, and behaved as perfect gentlemen. They even warned the mother superior of the approaching second-line troops. When the troops arrived nuns, young girls, old women, pregnant women and mothers who had just given birth were all raped without pity.

The stories are truly horrific, stories how soldier, too drunk, to rape used their liquor bottles on the women with disastrous results when the bottles broke. Stories, how relatives to young women with infants pleaded with the soldiers who had raped her for hours and hours to let her go for just a few minutes so she could breast feed her baby.

The story of the German refugees, those who got away, is also disturbing. Many tried to flee across the Baltic to Sweden or Denmark and some of the greatest maritime disasteres is a result of this, as German steamers such as the Wilhelm Gustlof, Goya and General von Steyben was torpedoed and sunk with thousands on board. Those were by all account legitimate targets, however, as they carried German troops as well as civilians.

Those that did arrive, didn't receive any welcome at all in Denmark and Sweden, and many were given no help or medical assistance.

It's a bleack chapter of the modern European history.
posted by cx at 7:48 AM on January 27, 2003


Königsberg was also Kant's home.

So why do we call him a German philosopher? Shouldn't he be Polish, or Russian, or Lithuanian, or something?
posted by goethean at 7:51 AM on January 27, 2003


East Prussia was much larger than what is now Kaliningrad, and had been part of the German nation for the last 700 years.

Oh. That answers my question.
posted by goethean at 7:52 AM on January 27, 2003


It's ironic since Kant influenced Hegal and Hegal influenced Marx and this tradition in western philosophy was ultimately what led to Communism and Nazism. It's ironic the guy who started it all his home town was wiped off the map by the "rational metaphysics" forces he set into motion. Fitting and just deserved.
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 AM on January 27, 2003


Kant:Marx::Aristotle:Aquinas.

That is to say, Kant was not responsible for the total misreading of Hegel that Marxism is.

[/derail?]
posted by goethean at 9:33 AM on January 27, 2003


stbalbach - deserved? That's drawing a long and hyperbolic bow.

cx - I did not know the details. Bleak hardly begins to describe it. Thanks.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:15 AM on January 27, 2003


That is to say, Kant was not responsible for the total misreading of Hegel that Marxism is.

I'd venture to say that Kant was also not responsible for the total misreading of Kant that Hegelianism is, but then, that might reveal me as a fan of Schopenhauer—which, of course, I am, but I try not to mention it in respectable company. I'd also venture to say that Hegel is responsible for the total misreading of everything that Hegelianism is, but now I'm hitting below the belt.

Great links all the way through, BTW. And it was definitely Euler, not Euclid, who solved the general 7 bridges problem and sparked a study of graph theory. Very cool stuff.
posted by dilettanti at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2003


It's ironic since Kant influenced Hegal and Hegal influenced Marx and this tradition in western philosophy was ultimately what led to Communism and Nazism. It's ironic the guy who started it all his home town was wiped off the map by the "rational metaphysics" forces he set into motion. Fitting and just deserved.

I'm not sure if you're kidding or not, stbalbach, but that's jumping to a lot of conclusions - actually, I'd say pretty much every link in that philosophical genealogy of yours is flawed. True, Hegel influenced Marx, and Marx influenced Communism, but as to the other points:

1) The marxist tradition in western philosophy influencing Nazism: Very few nazis are fond of marxists or marxism - actually, you'll see them blaming marxism (along with the jews) of pretty much every known evil. You probably knew this.

2) Kant influenced Hegel, but not regarding political philosophy, which is what matters when you're talking about Kant digging his own philosophical grave.

3) The political ideas Kant did put forward inspired, on the contrary, things like the UN and the human rights declaration. If you're interested in the political philosophy of Immanuel Kant, his essay 'Perpetual Peace' is a good place to start.

(On preview, what i_am_joe's_spleen and dilettanti said. Great thread this.)
posted by Hjorth at 10:20 AM on January 27, 2003


The phrase that scholars use to describe Immanuel Kant's philosophy is "rational metaphysics." He believed that there are certain problems that could not be solved rationally, like war. History was a intricate network; its interpretation is something that is left up to the individual perceptions of people. To Kant, world peace will come by transcending these perceptions to form an collective consciousness. We would have to dispossess ourselves of our individuality. An interesting note about Kant is that he never left his small village to travel and experience the world. To him, experience was not a best teacher. Experiences to Kant were merely an set of incongruous events. Again, experience is all about false perception according to him. Kant's teachings were a precursor to Marx's philosophies a few decades later. The only difference with Marx is that he added materialist theory to the argument. This theory stated that the class structure which divided humanity was merely a false perception. While I admire these ideals, there is nothing rational about Kant's metaphysics. Humans by their nature are not rational and can't transcend their natural urges. Also, he takes natural law out of the picture. Kant's philosophies kind of lend to the idea that right and wrong are mere perceptions. That is clearly not the case. There is right and wrong. Is it right to kill an innocent man who has caused no injury to you? Was what the Nazi's did to the Jews in the Holocaust right? The question of whether there is right or wrong is kind of obvious. Those are not questions that are left up to the individual to decide. These are universal truths that are clear. It is for this reason I have problems with Kant he said everything is subjective there is no higher Truth. This one man alone laid the seeds for more horror and destruction the world has ever known and we are still dealing with the fallout to this day.

1) The marxist tradition in western philosophy influencing Nazism: Very few nazis are fond of marxists or marxism - actually, you'll see them blaming marxism (along with the jews) of pretty much every known evil. You probably knew this.

Of course. Just as you know that Kant heavily influenced Nietzsche who has been called the proto-Nazi. To say Kant laid the groundwork for the evils of Communism and Nazism is not far off and certainly not an idea that I created on my own.
posted by stbalbach at 7:56 PM on January 27, 2003


I heard he was a real pissant.
posted by Vidiot at 8:08 PM on January 27, 2003


But before it was gobbled up by Russia in the wake of World War II, it was named Konigsberg.

I thought it used to be called Woody Allen.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:36 PM on January 27, 2003


It's ironic the guy who started it all his home town was wiped off the map by the "rational metaphysics" forces he set into motion. Fitting and just deserved.

Ironic, yes; fitting and just deserved, no: no more deserved than would be the destruction of an Austrian town by neo-nazis, no more fitting than Stalin's birthplace in Georgia/Ossetia being wiped off the map by latterday communists.

Continuing stbalbach's line of thought, perhaps we should see Kant's corpse exhumed and posthumously tried for his thoughtcrimes against humanity. And what about Hume, whose work famously woke Kant from his 'dogmatic slumbers'? Should we likewise smirk ironically if Hume's Edinburgh were laid waste by the armies of rational metaphysics?

I think not.
posted by misteraitch at 12:52 AM on January 28, 2003


ParisParamus: you earn a "LOL" for that.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:07 PM on January 28, 2003


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