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From Koenigsberg to Kaliningrad

Photographer Ekaterina Solovieva catches glimpses of the Russian exclave’s Prussian legacy.

Moscow-born photographer Ekaterina Solovieva has been living in Germany for over a decade. Her work, however, remains focused on the religious traditions and customs of the former Soviet states. Here, she shares her vision of the city of Kaliningrad and its surrounding region. 

As a Germany resident I’m naturally interested in Kaliningrad, its past and present. I’m trying to capture the remaining German and Prussian character, freeze the moments that reflect life before World War II. My grandfather was awarded for the taking of Koenigsberg and I tried to imagine his path, to look at the city and the region through his eyes. Also, I’m trying to understand why everything that happened with the city during the Soviet regime looks so terribly unnatural – awful Khrushchev and Brezhnev-era buildings right in the city center.

My time spent in Germany has left a mark and I keep seeing the old city through the gray concrete high-rises. Despite these historic nuances, the war and migration, Kaliningrad has never been an entirely Russian city and it still isn’t. This is apparent in its population as well. Many residents are Europe-oriented and have close ties with neighboring Poland.

One has to really fall in love with Kaliningrad to take photographs there. My favorite place in the city is Sackheim Gate. There’s an art space with people partial to Koenigsberg, who feel its history and aim to preserve its legacy by holding exhibitions and art projects. Yet, the city surroundings are the most charming: the sound of the mist-covered sea and evening lights on embankment. As you breathe the fresh Hanseatic air, explore ruins of old ports and remain silent at Immanuel Kant’s grave, you begin to find acceptance.

Its complex history and heterogeneous culture makes Kaliningrad a mecca for documentary photographers. If had another lifetime, I would spend it there.