Kaliningrad occupies an anachronistic space in modern Europe. Entirely cut off from the Russian mainland, the Oblast (and its same-titled capital) derives its name from Mikhail Kalinin, a Bolshevik revolutionary and Stalinist official, who served as the nominal head of state of Russia and the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1946. Formerly East Prussia, the land had been home to half a million people of German descent. Bombed and largely destroyed in the Second World War, Stalin’s Red Army came to claim the ruins in 1945 and, under the Potsdam Agreement, the region became part of the Soviet Union. Tucked between Poland and Lithuania in a corner of the Baltic Sea, remains the little-known Russian exclave about the size of Northern Ireland: Kaliningrad.
I met a group of Kaliningrad millennials (born, like me, in a post-Soviet era), who formed БНДТ - a BMX syndicate. Their passion is riding BMX and ‘БНДТ’ is the brand that they are developing through social media, BMX videos and merchandise. They helped me to explore the unique, Russian exclave and understand the lifestyles and cultures of the people that live in this isolated, port city that will host matches for the Russian Fifa World Cup in 2018.
The people of Kaliningrad are Russian. Surrounded as they are by Europe, but not quite connected, they exist in a separate cultural sphere to those surrounding them. A region’s cultural background has an effect on the specific sub-culture and its production and representation. I believe the young people I photographed, who are members of the first generation of post-Soviet Russians to live in Kaliningrad, play a role in creating a new Russian history and identity.
The new world order around these people affects the lives they live and how/if they differ from any other person who grew up after the fall of communism - like me.