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// Projects // Insterburg: Menschen machen die Stadt / Chernyakhovsk, Men that Make a Town

Insterburg: Menschen machen die Stadt / Chernyakhovsk, Men that Make a Town

Europe: Exchange and Movement Kamswyker Kreis

Deep in East Prussian plains, Insterburg is one of the few towns that still have historic streetscapes prevailing. Old stones pave the streets, old shop windows carry old albeit fading names, and alley trees spread their shadows generously. It even comes with two castles back from 13th century - only that they all are silent mostly, inable to tell one the stories they know. It could hardly be else, for the original inhabitants were all expelled 1949, and the new settlers since 1947 knew little or no German. How should they know that this particular corner was memorable for Ms. Arnold, the dance teacher, and the gate over there saw competition rider Mr. Woelki´s private parade, that the street one walks was named in honour of the beloved burgomaster Mr. Rosenkrantz, and that "Little Annie from Tharau" was once buried at the river side? These new settlers surely saw the signs around them, and tried to decipher them, and failed. Before long, they believed the signs didn´t want to be read, that they were cryptic, mythic, and terrifying. Badness was seen even in the bust of one Schulze-Delitzsch, a co-op founder, or in the anti-Hitler Confessing church. Not a single historian could reverse this - or was it just because of how they did? For they used to underline the few outstanding heroes, style them into eternal glory - and left all the rest sink deeper into the mud. It ended up in seeing every little detail like a ring to attach a dog leash to, for a torture instrument. Seeing themselves attacked by a supposedly evil environment, people "defended" themselves, and demolished too many a house. Instead of building up, one sank down, or built against an enemy within.

These days, modern history of pre-1991s is suffering the same fate. The names, be it of a poet Mr. Grechishnikov, the major Mr. Krylov, the milkmaid Mrs. Poszharitskaya or the surgeon Mr. Shor, of people that did make the modern Chernyakhovsk rise out of the ruins of 1945, are preserved on books´ pages only. Hardly anyone knows the places where they worked, or walked, what they saw or dreamed of. Yet they too have left their trace in the streets of Insterburg-Chernyakhovsk, together with the countless many others, be it pre-1945 or after. Men over men, no heroes mostly, just noteworthy samplary citizen. Their life and their work shaped the town at all days. Many of them even shared the same locations! Thus, they may be newly old reference points for those interested in the deeper past, and newer one, or in the ideas they carried - reference points that turn into a grid, a basis for new citizenry. Local history can be more than museum stuff, it can be an activity enabler!

“Menschen machen die Stadt”, or "Men that Make a Town" brings names, life dates, and works of people of Insterburg/Chernyakhovsk back into the town streets, links the history tracks: some 400 names of noteworthy Germans and Russians are already listed in our data bank. They will appear on town walls in pairs of name panels, showing the inseparability of town. Whatever silent and shallow, gains depth; lost potentials arise from anonymity and motivate the new beginners, in town care or in enterpreneurship alike. A spot on the map turns an address, a house turns a home, a dweller a keeper. “Menschen machen die Stadt” sees itself as a school of citizenry, everyone is invited to join. The youth will go out collecting the names, the parents will help applying the panels, the seniours will share their stories and collect the glory they deserve - while the guests will be able to discover the multi-layeredness of town they see, and locate the stories they read of.

For the sake of durability and matter-of-factness, the name plates will be made of grey fibre cement boards, A3 portrait size. They will be placed in pairs on locations where a noteworthy citizen lived or worked, and inscripted in both languages, with the project logo half-infilled on each plate. The project motto appears on the bottom, "Namen kehren heim" (Names are coming home). The selection committee is comprised of the Russian township, the old German inhabitants´ union, and the project initiator, who decide unanimously and impartially. Donations are welcomed.

A special chapter of "Menschen machen die Stadt" is devoted to the late Schulze-Delitzsch bust in front of the old Insterburg People´s Bank. There, a silhouette of the bust and its pedestal is to arise over the preserved socle stones, an translate the devotions that lasted in granite. They are: "Was du nicht allein vermagst, dazu verbinde dich mit Anderen, die das Gleiche wollen" and "Tüchtige Bürger machen erst einen tüchtigen Staat, nicht umgekehrt", or "Should you not succeed in reaching something, unite with the other that look for the same", and "Proper citizen make up a proper state, not otherwise".