Myth of Russia in German Culture

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It was important to integrate Russia into the European process of reaching mutual understanding. Such attitudes were voiced by some politicians and political scientists in 2012. 2014, however, reduced to zero any attempts to reach mutual understanding. In this respect sensible Germans’ question is all the more relevant: is it possible for nations to have a friendship like the one people have based on similar and partly different interests and possible common values? Even though the question remains open, many German citizens believe that positive, stable relationships can only be built if they are based on successful attempts to understand another nation, to perceive them in all their complexity and multidimensional nature, not on deep-rooted completely distorted stereotypes about them. Not a single person can be really understood if their nation and culture are not taken into account or just not known.

The premise of perceiving another nation realistically and with no prejudice is the ability of people of a certain nation to view themselves as something special. Peter Brandt is convinced that the Germans, as any other nation, have to have a good look at themselves realistically and from different angles, in the past and in the present. Their self-awareness should be critical, but not self-deprecating. Anyhow the scientist believes that the Germans belong to a national cultural society that was marked greatly by history. Even though they do not admit it, other cultures see them as bearers of unique features. Ignoring this phenomenon hinders communication.

Since 2014 among the uniformity of opinions about Russia reigning in Germany works by Mathias Bröckers and Paul Schreyer («Wir sind die guten. Ansichten eines Putinverstehers oder wie uns die Medien manipulieren», 2014) and also by Gabriele Krone-Schmalz (Understanding Russia: The Battle for Ukraine and the Arrogance of the West, 2015) have particularly stood out. Journalism professor, who used to work as a journalist in Moscow, stands her ground concerning Russia. In her book, she wonders why the phase of getting back on track with Russia was followed by the cold war.  The author believes that it was because Russia was not treated with “due respect”. For a long time Russia was perceived as a residual property of an insolvent debtor or a failed firm. [6:12].

In her dissertation she also worked on the images of “own” and “alien”, which resulted in her sensitivity to the language and to double standards. The author emphasizes that there are whole business sectors that make money out of cross-cultural training courses where participants study how people feel and are perceived in other communities in order to reach something together. Misunderstanding turns into an obstacle if it is the links and contexts that are misunderstood. However, when dealing with Russia, their partners for some reason lose all their cross-cultural communication skills. In her book Understanding Russia the author wants to point out to the Germans that to communicate with Russia successfully they need to know the country’s history and specific features, not some general assessments.

Here is one of the examples of misunderstanding the Russian context in the West. When Vladimir Putin says that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a great tragedy after World War II, one needs to take it seriously. He views the situation from Russia’s perspective, and does not pursue some imperial ambitions or demonstrate some obsolete line of thought, as they see it in the West.

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