Kaliningrad airport renaming sparks controversy
German philosopher Immanuel Kant has sparked tensions in Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad over the prospect of naming the airport after him, with civil servants calling him a “traitor” and vandals throwing paint on his tomb.
His statue and a plaque marking where his house once stood have also been vandalised in the last week.
“The name of the German Kant will not tarnish our airport,” said flyers distributed in Kaliningrad.
Kant was born in 1724 and spent much of his life in Prussian Koenigsberg, which was occupied and renamed Kaliningrad by the Soviets at the end of the Second World War.
The philosopher had been leading an online poll to name the enclave’s airport, currently called Khrabrovo after a neighbouring village.
But Kant was called a “Russophobe”, with a Russian naval commander urges service personnel to vote against the Prussian philosopher, saying he “betrayed his motherland”, despite the fact Kant was born in what was then a Germanic kingdom.
The city was a part of eastern Prussia with Polish and Lithuanian communities as well as the German-speaking majority.
Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, whose army captured Koenigsberg in 1758 but abandoned it five years later, has since won the online poll.
Kant is famous for pioneering duty-based or deontological ethics, which teaches that actions are justified if they are “the right thing to do”, regardless of the consequences.
He based his theory on the “categorical imperative”, a system of moral rules.
Kant, during the period of Russian rule, asked the empress to let him teach at his university, but the letter was never delivered.
“He demeaned himself to get a department in the university so that he could teach and write some strange books that none of those present here today have read,” said Vice-Admiral Igor Mukhametshin, head of the Baltic Fleet staff.
There is now a campaign to rename numerous Russian airports, although Kaliningrad’s online poll has proved the most controversial.
Kaliningrad politician Andrei Kolesnik wrote on the pro-Kremlin website Vzglyad that it would be “unpatriotic” to “Germanise” the airport.
Vadim Chaly, head of philosophy at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, said if those objecting to Kant read his work they would see his values were the “normal values of any modern society, including Russian”.
“Kant’s figure is vaguely disliked by the part of Russian society which hasn’t yet figured out their own ideas, let alone Kant’s,” the scholar told the media.
Immanuel Kant’s former house in 1992. Picture credit: Wikimedia