Theo Zierock is a journalist and documentary photographer. Born in Bolzano, Italy in 1990, he graduated in Political Science and Theory of Photography in 2013 from the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

During his studies he interned at AFP in New York and ran the photographic department of the university newspaper Züricher Studentenzeitung. In 2014 he completed the Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography and was selected for the 27th Eddie Adams Workshop. In 2016 he finished his studies at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. His work has been published in The New York Times, The LA Times, ABC News, La Repubblica, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Telegraph and Al Jazeera. He is currently based in Naples, Italy.

A tale of cultural discontinuity.

First known as East Prussia, then as Western Russia. An area that always felt like an island in a foreign sea. Today Kaliningrad Oblast is a Russian exclave in the far West, detached from the mainland, squeezed in between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. For hundreds of years though this was a German exclave in Eastern Europe.

As the birthplace of German militarism its function has historically been that of a strategic fore post to access the Baltic Sea headed by the Prussian nobility. Until 1944 the region of Königsberg had not seen much of the World War. In August 1944 the British Royal Air Force bombed the city to the ground. Soon after the Soviet troops marched into Prussia, the first German territory to be conquered. In April 1945 the last German soldiers surrendered.

Two million Germans fled in a few months, leaving the area with few inhabitants still living in the destroyed city of Königsberg. By 1949 the original German population was deported in its totality from the territories of Eastern Prussia.

Königsberg was declared dead. Kaliningrad should rise from its ruins.

The newcomers faced decades of harsh labor and hunger periods to rebuild a functioning urban area. To this day Kaliningrad is slowly but constantly growing, absorbing people from all over the former Soviet Union. The city became a post-soviet melting pot of cultures with its heart in Moscow and its gaze directed to Europe.

The silent presence of Kaliningrad Oblast is not casual. Entirely surrounded by NATO nations, it hosts a powerful concentration of Russian military arsenal. As tensions rose during the Ukrainian crisis it became once again Europe’s powder barrel. A military playground destined to showcase the symbolic chess moves of the Russian Federation as an antagonist to the West. Paradoxically this role as a strategic outpost is one of the few signs of cultural continuity in Kaliningrad.