Researchproject Kaliningrad, Russia
Since the time for collecting information was very limited, the lists are incomplete; it would be impossible anyway to make a complete listing of cultural events of a city. But this agenda can be seen as an attempt to portray the city as a cultural entity. It is obvious that a portrait depicts a moment in time, a split second. The information in the Kalingrad Revisited covers the diverse programs and events for the coming months and so it can be used as a guide.
But more than only a program on paper it offers the reader a possibility to get an insight in the characteristics of the region. Through reading ‘between the lines’ and the analysis of elements related to each other,offer just as much content as the separate issues do. Hopefully a lot of citizens of Kaliningrad will recognize their city, or even better, discover new features in this portrait. For the interested people abroad it can be an important first encounter, in a single glance, of many various, important, special and unique aspects of the true state of art and culture in the extraordinary Kaliningrad region.
Organized and hosted by: Kaliningrad Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts with support of the Federal Agency for Culture and Film and the Ford Foundation
– Kaliningrad Revisited
A CITY CAN BE ERASED
After the second wold war the Prussian city Köningsberg, home of Immanuel Kant and Hannah Arendt, became a part of the USSR and was renamed Kaliningrad by the Soviets (1946). It is still the capital of the Russian province (Oblast) of Kaliningrad. Today, it is positioned as an enclave within the new borders of Europe, clamped between Poland and Lithuania.
During the war, most of the city was destroyed by the British (RAF) bombings in 1945 and then taken over by the Russian army shortly after. Very little of Köningsberg’s architecture survived. Two of the famous Seven Bridges of Köningsberg (or Eulerian enigma), along with the cathedral, all churches, and the universities were destroyed by the air raid, and were never rebuilt. The former German population had fled or was driven out, the new citizens of Kaliningrad were imported from all over Russia. The city’s new history is to be considered as one that started with Stalins attempt to erase anything German, whether object or subject, brick or living being.
Just to mention one of the results of post war settlement program is the fact that very few grandparents are buried in the graveyards of Kaliningrad. The place was tranformed into a Soviet city, the base for the Baltic Fleet, an important strategic point. For foreigners it was a closed city. Only in 1991 the city opened itself for visitors.
Today, Kaliningrad counts about half a million people, the province roughly a million. In 2005, the city celebrated its 750 years anniversary. This, and other more implicit signals, can be found in this cultural agenda; it indicates that a city can be erased, but not history.
Art “bussiness” seems to be completely absent in Kaliningrad. There are no commercial galleries. Main reason is probably the complicated federal laws and regulations regarding the right to sell art. In most European cities, the commercial galleries are an important platform for young as well as established artists. In Kaliningrad several institutions play this role. Most notable of them all are the Kaliningrad Branche of the National Centre of Contemporary Art (NCCA) with an international program of an uncomprimising quality, and the Ambermuseum where a lot of young artists get a chance to show their work on various occasions.
The oldest museum in Kaliningrad is ‘The History and Art Museum’ (1964). It could be considered as the “mother museum” that gave birth to all the museums in Kaliningrad which gradually became independent. ‘The State Art Gallery’, ‘Amber Museum’, ‘The Museum of World Ocean’, just to mention a few. ‘The History and Art Museum’ also look after 11 monuments and soon a lot more will follow. Among them are fortifications, the cathedral and the surrounding sculpture park. Their policy today is to secure the historical defense system (German heritage) for accomodating cultural institutions. That seems like a brilliant and compelling way to reconcileate the history of the city of Koningsbergen and the actual city of Kaliningrad.
Two years ago Kaliningrad’s first mega-cinema opened: Karo.The progamming out of Moscow results in mainly Hollywood productions. One of the four smaller (one screen) cinema’s, Zarya, has a notable programming; strictly quality movies and art movies. Art-director Artem Ryzhkov is trying to get art and film culture in Kaliningrad to a higher level.
The Regional Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestra belongs to the best of Russia. The Lik male chamber choir of sacred and secular music and the piano trio under the Kaliningrad Philharmonic should also be mentioned. Apart from the more or less traditional concert halls, Kaliningrad has a remarkable group of sound artists cooperating in ‘Soundlab’ . Not having their own accomodation, different locations are used as platform (Club Dreadnought, NCCA, etc.)
Kaliningrad is the home of the only German theater in Russia, registered in November 1995. The theater stages performances in German with a Russian translation. The Vergissmeinnicht adult ensemble (choir) and the Glockchen children’s ensemble also make their contribution to the development of German national culture. The Kaliningrad Regional Drama Theater is popular. It opened its first season in October 1947 with a performance of A Guy from Our City (Paren iz nashego goroda) based on a play by Konstantin Simonov. In1960, the company celebrated the opening of its own theater in a restored building that had once housed the Konigsberg New Drama Theater. Today, the theater stages productions from both the classical and contemporary repertoires ( Shakespeare, Brecht, Alexei Tolstoy, Ostrovsky, etc.) The Tilsit Theater company also makes a contribution to the development of theater art in the region. Its performances have won a number of prizes at international and Russian theater festivals. There is a theater department at the State Institute of Dramatic Art (GITIS), which operates in association with the Antrepriza Lik private theater. The Regional Puppet Theater has been delighting children since 1964 with its shows based on Russian, Latvian, German, and English fairy tales.
Although Kaliningrad does not accomodate professional dance education , many courses of all sorts of dance can be found. Especially active in this field is the dancer Svetlana Pakhomova who combines a contemporary dance practice with courses for children and dance events of all kinds. Classical ballet performances are programmed from time to time in the Drama Theatre.
In general art education on university level leads to a matter of course cultural infrastructure. Art students, whether of a theatre, dance, music or art department, will have a strong demand for books, platforms and informal meeting places. In Kalingrad official art education is limited to a basic level. Hence the mentioned infrastructure is absent. To become a professional education the artist basically has to leave the region. Fortunately a lot of the artists come back to Kalingrad and creatively find their ways. Nevertheless, the absence of both an art market and an obvious artistic infrastructure may be the reason for the relative isolation of the different cultural disciplines and the realtive difficult mutual exchange.
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