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Cultural Heritage on the Curonian Spit

Europe: Heritage Lived Universität Tübingen - Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftsgeographie

Migration, Interpretation and Transformation of the material cultural heritage on the Curonian Spit in Russia and Lithuania since 1945
Spatial an Historical Context
The Curonian Spit is a 98 km long and at its widest point 3 km large peninsula. It is situated east of Selenogradsk (Зеленоградск / former Cranz) in the region of Kaliningrad and stretches northeast in the direction of Klaipėda (former Memel) in Lithuania. The Curonian Spit was until 1945 part of the province of East Prussia, but the northern half belongs from 1920 until 1939 to the “Memelgebiet” (Memel area) respectively to Lithuania.
Since medieval times different cultural groups settled on the Curonian Spit, including Curonians, Lithuanians and Germans. These groups shared the life on the Spit and shaped together the nowadays landscape. The Curonian Spit is an example for an international and intercultural melting pot on the fringe of the Baltic Sea.
For the culture and history of Germans in Eastern Europe, the Curonian Spit is important in three different ways:
1. It was settled by an ethnic complex and diverse population, containing Curonian, Lithuanian and German people. This population transformed incrementally towards a German self-identification, especially in the second half of the 19th century.
2. Until the Second World War, the Curonian Spit was an important research field for ethnologists and natural scientists, who influenced scientific discourses in the German Reich using the Curonian Spit as an Example (I. a. Question of nationalities, dune structure and coast protection).
3. The Curonian Spit is an important memory space in the German cultural collective memory. Starting with the so-called “Luisenkult” referring to the former Prussian queen Louise (1776 – 1810), it includes also the impression of prominent landscape scenery and represents a “soul-image” (W. von Humboldt).
During the first third of the 20th century, Nida (former Nidden) was the place of a famous artists’ colony. Among others Lovis Corinth, Max Pechstein und Karl-Schmidt-Rotluff lived and painted in this colony, but also the famous writer Thomas Mann commissioned a summerhouse for his family and himself.
Scientific relevance
There is a substantial demand for scientific exploration regarding the material cultural heritage on the Curonian Spit from the time before 1945. Until today, a systematic inventory of the Cultural heritage of this region is missing, even though the Curonian Spit is part of the Unesco world heritage, which implies a special duty to research and conserve this heritage. Further research on this field is also missing.
The rising number of tourists on the Curonian Spit creates a demand for more Information on local cultural heritage. This information is therefore important for a further valorisation in the context of a progressing touristic and cultural usage and is indispensable for the protection and conservation.

Our project
Our project is designed to start filling the gap of needed scientific research on the Curonian Spit. We start with an extensive inventory of the material cultural heritage of the nowadays-existing cultural heritage. Based on the inventory we will carry out empirical studies on the development processes of attributing meanings to the Cultural Heritage. The empirical studies will be a contribution to critical reflexion of the memory Space Curonian Spit in the collective memory of Germany, in which it represents a supposed “German East”.
The division of the Curonian Spit between Russia and Lithuania make an intercultural examination of different developments paths possible. The social interaction with the cultural heritage and based on the cultural heritage in both parts of the Curonian Spit is divergent since 1945. This is an additional scientific value and a rare opportunity for researching the impact of the material cultural heritage.
Finally, with our project we might be able to provide important impulses for the future protection and the sustainable valorisation of the cultural heritage by addressing and involving the two national parks on the peninsula.
Envisaged Results and Formats

A project page on the servers of the University of Tübingen is in work and will soon be published