March 01, 2009

Baltic Outpost

There are spots in the former Soviet Union that seem scarcely changed from the old days. The main railroad terminal in Kaliningrad is one of them. With its classical lines, sleek marble

concourse and overly ornate chandeliers, Kaliningrad South station has a nicely retro feel. The trains still rumble off to Minsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

But no longer can Kaliningraders just hop on departing trains without formality. For, with the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia’s Baltic exclave at Kaliningrad finds itself curiously isolated: a fragment of Russia hemmed in by the European Union. True, Kaliningrad has access to Baltic waters, but its land frontiers are with Poland and Lithuania, both territories that today are hardly overflowing with affection for Mother Russia.

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