hidden europe 30

Disquiet in Kaliningrad

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: A KD Avia plane at Kaliningrad Airport. The Russian airline stopped operating in September 2009 (photo © hidden europe).


Is it no wonder that citizens of Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad are feeling a little jittery these days? Kaliningrad's inhabitants feel that they are a long way from Moscow, and also increasingly distant from the European Union countries that border onto the Russian exclave.

The anti-government protests in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad during January 2010 and in the Russian seaport of Arkhangelsk in February drew attention to regional policy in Russia — a long-standing flashpoint as oblasts far from Moscow fight for their share of the federal cake. We have written about Kaliningrad and its region several times in hidden europe, most comprehensively in a long feature in issue 21 in July 2008.

Folk in Kaliningrad have good contacts with the two European Union states, Poland and Lithuania, which abut their territory. And well are they aware that living standards in the Kaliningrad exclave fall way below those of their EU neighbours. When Georgy Boos was appointed as governor of the Kaliningrad region five years ago, he promised a new future for the Baltic exclave. But improvement has been slow in coming, and now disgruntled citizens are taking to the streets.

It has been a long and difficult winter in Kaliningrad. Many workers of state-owned enterprises are owed considerable arrears in wages. Hints from the EU of a possible relaxed visa regime, allowing Kaliningrad residents easier travel to their EU neighbours, have come to nothing. Increased charges for public transport and hefty taxes on cars imported from the EU contribute to disaffection in Kaliningrad.

The regional air carrier KD Avia stopped operating last September. KD Avia was a source of considerable local pride in Kaliningrad, for the airline was very much a local venture. Now there is a further twist to the tale with murky allegations that some of the airline’s senior managers may have purposefully driven the carrier into bankruptcy.

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