I visited the Russian city of Baltiysk in 2005. As a military area under special administration, it has become accessible to the Russian public only in the past few years. Baltiysk is the home port of the Russian East-Sea Fleet. Foreigners wishing to visit Baltiysk must obtain a special permit. You cross at a checkpoint, the gates opens, and you are there.
In 1945 the East-Prussian town of Pillau was the last German outpost to be conquered by the Red Army. With the Potsdam Agreement, Pillau and the northern parts of East Prussia came under Soviet rule, and in 1946 Pillau was renamed "Baltiysk" - Baltic Town. By then much of the German population had already fled, and Stalin deported the rest within days. Most of the new inhabitants were Soviet military personnel, with only a few civilian settlers, people had lost all of their belongings during the war and were now "transplanted" to East Prussia. This "new population" suddenly found itself living in conditions and in an atmosphere of a foreign civilization, which it did not understand.
Today the town is a symbiosis of Soviet urban architecture, with blocks of residential housing, German buildings from the 19th and 20th century, and a fortress from the 14th century. The majority of the town dwellers are navy officers and career soldiers, and their families, as well as conscripts doing their military service at this navy outpost.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the northern part of East Prussia has become an enclave surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, which are new EU member-states. The nearest Russian border is approximately 600km. away. I tried to approach the unique atmosphere of Baltiysk, that mixture of history, the army and everyday life, and to explain it in visual terms. The military people cannot and do not want to settle in this town. Almost all of them hope that they will be transferred elsewhere, and many count on that to happen. They are in state of "constant expectation" (I would actually call it tension) and regard Baltiysk only as a halfway house, a stopover in their lives...
Baltiysk is a world apart and sufficient unto itself - an "intermezzo" on historical soil.