Russian soldier on the Ukrainian border, March 1.
Lithuania, its chequered past during the Nazi and subsequent Soviet domination of the Baltic, and its difficulty in coming to terms with the involvement of its citizens in the Holocaust, is the background to an absorbing new book by veteran broadcaster, Sara Manobla. In Zagare: Litvaks and Lithuanians Confront the Past, Manobla provides personal testimony about how at least one Lithuanian town made a positive effort to reconcile itself to its own history.
On the face of it Lithuania, lying to the north of Poland and Belarus, would seem to have little in common with the Ukraine. Yet a map of the country in Manobla’s book offers an intriguing sidelight on the current crisis down in the Black Sea. Stuck out to the south-west of Lithuania, and including a healthy slab of Baltic coastline, is a chunk of Mother Russia – Kaliningrad – some 800 kilometers from Moscow, and separated from the motherland not only by the whole of Lithuania but by Latvia to the north and Belarus to the south as well. The accepted term for this extraordinary phenomenon is “exclave”.
From the First World War until 1945 Kalinigrad (or Königsberg, as it once was) was an exclave of Germany. In the final stages of the Second World War it was occupied by the Soviet Union, and was subsequently annexed to the USSR under the Potsdam Agreement. Most of its indigenous German population were killed or fled to West Germany; the rest were expelled, Russian settlers were moved in and the population became a Russian majority. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the region was absorbed into the Russian Federation.