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Postcards From Kaliningrad

The territory formerly known as East Prussia once belonged to Germany, but it became part of the Soviet Union after World War II. The region was renamed Kaliningrad Oblast, and the German population was forcibly deported. It was repopulated by Soviet citizens. Many reminders of its German past were destroyed. But other traces, such as German buildings and works of art still remain. Here's a look at a collection of old postcards of Kaliningrad along with photos of the scenes as they appear today. (RFE/RL's Olga Serebryanaya)


Sovetsk (fomerly Tilsit). The caption on the postcard reads: “Tilsit, Eastern Prussia. Adolf Hitler Square.” Before it was named for Hitler, the square had been called Anger Platz. Today it is Theatre Square.  The Bronze sculpture of a moose by Berlin’s Ludwig Vordermayer was unveiled on June 29, 1928. The moose quickly became a symbol of Tilsit. In 1947, the sculpture was moved to the city park. A T-34 tank replaced it. Around the tank was a memorial and burial place for the Soviet soldiers who died liberating the town from Nazi German forces. In the 1950s, the sculpture was moved to the zoo in Kaliningrad. In 2007, after lengthy debates between the city of Kaliningrad and Sovetsk, the moose returned to Sovetsk and took a new spot in the park across from the city administration. 
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Sovetsk (fomerly Tilsit). The caption on the postcard reads: “Tilsit, Eastern Prussia. Adolf Hitler Square.” Before it was named for Hitler, the square had been called Anger Platz. Today it is Theatre Square. 

The Bronze sculpture of a moose by Berlin’s Ludwig Vordermayer was unveiled on June 29, 1928. The moose quickly became a symbol of Tilsit. In 1947, the sculpture was moved to the city park. A T-34 tank replaced it. Around the tank was a memorial and burial place for the Soviet soldiers who died liberating the town from Nazi German forces. In the 1950s, the sculpture was moved to the zoo in Kaliningrad. In 2007, after lengthy debates between the city of Kaliningrad and Sovetsk, the moose returned to Sovetsk and took a new spot in the park across from the city administration. 

Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), Lenin street (formerly Hindenburg Strasse) This is how Otto Hagen described the street in 1932: “Hindenburg Strasse, long with heavy traffic, is one of the town's main streets. Large commercial enterprises, factory offices, restaurants, craft shops and the Ostdeutsche Volkszeitung editorial quarters are situated here. The Catholic church, financial administration center and central agricultural administration are also here.”
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Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), Lenin street (formerly Hindenburg Strasse)

This is how Otto Hagen described the street in 1932: “Hindenburg Strasse, long with heavy traffic, is one of the town's main streets. Large commercial enterprises, factory offices, restaurants, craft shops and the Ostdeutsche Volkszeitung editorial quarters are situated here. The Catholic church, financial administration center and central agricultural administration are also here.”

Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), corner of Sportivnaya and Gagarina streets (formerly Belov Strasse and Kazernen Strasse) The water tower was built in 1898 using the advanced design of Otto Intse’s water reservoir system. During the Russian occupation of Insterburg between August and September 1914, Russian engineers, trying to restart the disrupted water supply, caused an explosion instead. After the reconstruction, the town’s water system was restored, but the tower hasn’t been used as intended since the end of 1930s. Today the city TV and radio stations are housed inside it.   
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Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), corner of Sportivnaya and Gagarina streets (formerly Belov Strasse and Kazernen Strasse)

The water tower was built in 1898 using the advanced design of Otto Intse’s water reservoir system. During the Russian occupation of Insterburg between August and September 1914, Russian engineers, trying to restart the disrupted water supply, caused an explosion instead. After the reconstruction, the town’s water system was restored, but the tower hasn’t been used as intended since the end of 1930s. Today the city TV and radio stations are housed inside it. 

 

Yasnoye village (formerly Kaukehmen, after 1938 Kuckerneese) In 1939, the population of Kuckerneese was 4,500 people. In January 1945, Soviet troops took over the town practically without a fight. Because there was little damage to the town, you can still see its pre-war planning and the cobbled streets are perfectly preserved. But the population has shrunk. In 2010 there were just 1,464 residents. 
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Yasnoye village (formerly Kaukehmen, after 1938 Kuckerneese)

In 1939, the population of Kuckerneese was 4,500 people. In January 1945, Soviet troops took over the town practically without a fight. Because there was little damage to the town, you can still see its pre-war planning and the cobbled streets are perfectly preserved. But the population has shrunk. In 2010 there were just 1,464 residents. 

Sovetsk (formerly Tilsit), frontier road bridge across the Neman (formerly Queen Louise Bridge) The bridge, named after the wife of Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III, was built in 1907 to mark the centenary of the Peace of Tilsit with Napoleon. The bridge portal, which looks similar to the triumphal arch, was decorated with a bas-relief of Queen Louise (1776 - 1810). After World War I, it became a border bridge. Customs and a checkpoint were functioning until 1939, when the Memel region -- previously belonging to Lithuania -- became a part of Germany. In October 1944, German troops blew the bridge up during their retreat. In 1947, it was restored but a bas-relief of Queen Louise was taken down. In 1964, symbols of the Soviet state took its place and were not removed until 1995. Today, the bridge is a border bridge once again. Customs and truck parking occupy almost the entire square in front of it.   
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Sovetsk (formerly Tilsit), frontier road bridge across the Neman (formerly Queen Louise Bridge)

The bridge, named after the wife of Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III, was built in 1907 to mark the centenary of the Peace of Tilsit with Napoleon. The bridge portal, which looks similar to the triumphal arch, was decorated with a bas-relief of Queen Louise (1776 - 1810). After World War I, it became a border bridge. Customs and a checkpoint were functioning until 1939, when the Memel region -- previously belonging to Lithuania -- became a part of Germany. In October 1944, German troops blew the bridge up during their retreat. In 1947, it was restored but a bas-relief of Queen Louise was taken down. In 1964, symbols of the Soviet state took its place and were not removed until 1995. Today, the bridge is a border bridge once again. Customs and truck parking occupy almost the entire square in front of it. 

 

Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), town park (formerly Riflemen Valley). Monument to fallen soldiers The park is located in a valley with a small river. It was founded in 1843 by the local riflemen guild, which explains its original name. During Pentecost, it hosted concerts of singing unions and on other days, military bands, various exhibitions, or masquerades. After World War I, the park became one of the most important concert venues in town.  
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Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), town park (formerly Riflemen Valley). Monument to fallen soldiers

The park is located in a valley with a small river. It was founded in 1843 by the local riflemen guild, which explains its original name. During Pentecost, it hosted concerts of singing unions and on other days, military bands, various exhibitions, or masquerades. After World War I, the park became one of the most important concert venues in town.
 

Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), Lenin Square (formerly Alter Markt) The war dramatically changed Chernyakhovsk's bustling central square. Though the rest of town was built mainly in the era of Germany's Second Reich, the square featured buildings from as far back as the 17th century such as Luther’s church, burgher houses, and the Old Town Hall. Luther’s church was burned down during the war and was later used as a warehouse. In 1976, it was demolished completely. The only reminder of it today is the adjacent town park gate, built in the 1920s. The Lenin monument stands where the destroyed houses used to be.   
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Chernyakhovsk (formerly Insterburg), Lenin Square (formerly Alter Markt)

The war dramatically changed Chernyakhovsk's bustling central square. Though the rest of town was built mainly in the era of Germany's Second Reich, the square featured buildings from as far back as the 17th century such as Luther’s church, burgher houses, and the Old Town Hall. Luther’s church was burned down during the war and was later used as a warehouse. In 1976, it was demolished completely. The only reminder of it today is the adjacent town park gate, built in the 1920s. The Lenin monument stands where the destroyed houses used to be. 

 

Insterburg Castle, Chernyakhovsk Founded in 1336. During the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century, the castle hosted a military warehouse, a hospital, and barracks. In 1945, the castle was badly burned during a battle. After the war, the surviving parts housed a military unit. In 1949, the castle citadel was again nearly destroyed by a fire. Only the outer walls remained standing. In the early 1950s, the castle territory was handed over to the repair and construction office, which proceeded to blow up the tower. 
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Insterburg Castle, Chernyakhovsk

Founded in 1336. During the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century, the castle hosted a military warehouse, a hospital, and barracks. In 1945, the castle was badly burned during a battle. After the war, the surviving parts housed a military unit. In 1949, the castle citadel was again nearly destroyed by a fire. Only the outer walls remained standing. In the early 1950s, the castle territory was handed over to the repair and construction office, which proceeded to blow up the tower. 

Neman (formerly Ragnit) The Mennonites’ church in Ragnit was built in 1853. From 1933 until 1945, it was home to the Nazi Party Palace. There is a legend that in its dungeons, Nazis tortured the antifascist, Ernst Thalmann. After the war, the building housed the sports complex of the Neman paper factory.   
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Neman (formerly Ragnit)

The Mennonites’ church in Ragnit was built in 1853. From 1933 until 1945, it was home to the Nazi Party Palace. There is a legend that in its dungeons, Nazis tortured the antifascist, Ernst Thalmann. After the war, the building housed the sports complex of the Neman paper factory. 

 

Krasnolesye village (formerly Rominten and Gross-Rominten) The church, built in 1880, was slowly demolished after World War II. In 2010, the ruins were handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church, which began the process of reconstruction. Reconstruction should be complete by September 2016.
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Krasnolesye village (formerly Rominten and Gross-Rominten)

The church, built in 1880, was slowly demolished after World War II. In 2010, the ruins were handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church, which began the process of reconstruction. Reconstruction should be complete by September 2016.

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