Myth of Russia in German Culture

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At the same time, in the 1970s and 1980s, the fear of Soviet Russia still persisted. There was no threat analysis, but there was hysteria and intentional provoking of negative attitudes towards the USSR. At the same time, the number of western Germans who felt threatened by the Soviet Union was gradually declining. In 1969, according to the polls, only 30% of West German residents thought about the threat, most were willing to accept the fact that some German territories became parts of the USSR and Poland in 1945. In 1989 only 10% of Germans felt the threat from the Soviet Union. 80% did not feel it at all (the results of the survey by Mannheim research group).

In the 1970s – 1980s, the data fluctuated depending on political competition. The aggravation of the East-West conflict in 1979, caused by the missile arms, Afghanistan and Poland events made the Germans leave Russian people alone and switch to the American claims to world domination.

The expanding relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the USSR meant closer interpersonal contacts. The FRG grew more interested in the Soviet Union. The so-called eastern studies now objectively assessed the social, political and cultural development of Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union.

In the media of this period there is a differentiation of opinions as compared to the times of the Cold War. Outstanding Soviet writers, artists, and scientists were of course considered as figures of the European and world level. German tourists began to discover the USSR, although there were still few Soviet tourists visiting Germany.

In June 1989 Gorbachev’s visit to West Germany was his triumph. This cannot be explained by Gorbachev’s personal charm alone. This was the result of a long process of rejecting the image of the enemy in the FRG and reconsidering the image of the alien.


After the USSR collapsed and the new Russian state emerged national stereotypes no longer played an important role. That was extremely rare in the 20th century. But it does not mean that stereotypes and prejudices have disappeared. They were fueled by the imperial nostalgia of Russian politics, democracy with strong authoritarian elements, the adverse effect of the transition phase and the negative image of “the new Russians” abroad. German historians up to 2014 wonder if the times were gone when Russian soul was perceived as a distorting mirror of their identity and was considered a compensation for lack of self-confidence and realizing their superiority. And they are the ones who answer their own question: probably, yes, however, since the mid-1990s a tendency was reinforced to perceive the Russians one-sidedly.

Unlike early German-Russian relations, Germany could try to build a bridge between East and West and develop close cooperation with Russia without leaving the European context.

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