Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 85

The governor of Russia’s Kaliningrad region, Leonid Gorbenko, spoke out yesterday in favor of claiming the neighboring Lithuanian city and district of Klaipeda for Russia. Using Klaipeda’s original German name, Memel, Gorbenko argued that the area "should not have been turned over to Lithuania after the dissolution of the USSR, which had gained the area through victory in World War II. The area’s handover [in 1991] to Lithuania was only possible because Russia’s state mechanisms were not yet functioning." Gorbenko announced his intention to raise the issue in Moscow and to urge the Russian government "never to make any concessions on the Memel issue." He was addressing a senior staff conference on the occasion of a visit to Kaliningrad by Konstantin Mozel, Russia’s ambassador to Lithuania. (Interfax, BNS, April 29) Gorbenko had already claimed Memel for Russia last October when elected to his present post. Some Russian nationalist politicians, notably the Duma’s vice-chairman and Russian All-People’s Union leader Sergey Baburin, have also promoted this notion in Moscow and even in contacts with Baltic representatives.

The German-populated Memel and adjacent area was in fact a part of independent Lithuania before the Soviet occupation. It was seized from Germany by Lithuania in 1923, regained by Germany in April 1939, and attached by Moscow to the occupied Lithuanian SSR after ethnic cleansing at the end of World War II. Similarly attached was half of the Kurische Nehrung/Nerunga peninsula, whose other half is in Gorbenko’s Kaliningrad region, the former Koenigsberg. The thesis that Russia is the legitimate heir of Memel parallels that of Russia as allegedly rightful owner of Ukraine’s Crimea, and promotion of one tends to encourage promotion of the other.

Armenia Legalizes Russian Military Bases.