How to Cite
Dementev, I. O. (2020). Soviet-Era Civic Monuments in the Cultural Landscape of Kaliningrad. Heritage of Centuries, (3), 40-61.
“In Granite and Bronze”: the Monumental Heritage of the Soviet Era

Funding data

  • Russian Foundation for Basic Research
    Grant numbers № 19-49-390003 «Историко-культурное наследие как туристско-рекреационный ресурс Калининградской области»

Soviet-Era Civic Monuments in the Cultural Landscape of Kaliningrad

  • © Dementev Ilya O. Cand. Sci. (General History), Assoc. Prof., Institute for the Humanities, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, Kaliningrad, Russian Federation


The article explores the circumstances of the emergence of civic monuments and their role in the cultural landscape of Kaliningrad during the Soviet period (1946–1991). The research was carried out within the framework of memory studies and also used the traditional historical methods of a narrative research approach and comparative analysis. The source base of the article includes normative acts and administrative documents of the authorities, documents of non-governmental organisations, mass-media materials, and egodocuments. Monuments to German politicians remained in Königsberg after World War II, but most of them were destroyed in the first post-war years. The authorities considered the installation of monuments to Soviet politicians to be an important ideological task (Stalin, 1953, moved to another place in 1958, dismantled in 1962; Lenin, 1958; Kalinin, 1959). The article describes the circumstances of the construction of these monuments and other ones (“Mother Russia”, 1974). The former German city also commemorated the prominent figures in German history, above all those who belonged to the revolutionary tradition: the article describes the installation of the busts of Karl Marx (1961) and Ernst Thälmann (1956; 1977). Special attention is payed to the monument to Friedrich Schiller (1910), which became an important object in the urban landscape. The case of Schiller as of a “progressive German” allowed the Soviet authorities to elaborate a complex approach to the commemoration of figures of foreign cultures in the absence of similar symbols of Russian (Soviet) culture. For citizens, this monument became an important part of local iconography, facilitating the later rehabilitation of pre-war heritage. The author concludes that the history of the monumental civic sculpture of Soviet Kaliningrad reveals the paradoxical character of the Soviet politics of memory: figures unrelated to the city’s history were commemorated (except Thälmann); the only monument to a cultural figure was the statue of the German writer Schiller; the fight against German heritage was not effective enough because it did not offer an alternative commemoration (in relation to representatives of other ethnic cultures—Lithuanians or Old Prussians). It is also important that, during the Soviet era, the erection of monuments was the prerogative of the authorities, and, although public initiatives took place at the late stagnation period, the opportunities for their implementation arose only during Perestroika. The history of civic monumental sculpture in Kaliningrad allows us to expand our understanding of the contradictions of Soviet politics of memory.

Keywords: politics of memory, monumental propaganda, cultural heritage, civic monuments, Kaliningrad, Soviet era