Myth of Russia in German Culture

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In 2014, Elmar Schenkel published his next article Russia in May 2014. He visited Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod, saw the military parade on May 9, participated in the march of the Immortal Regiment, and was particularly impressed by the political discussions concerning the events in Ukraine and Crimea. Newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published his notes, spicing them up with a scornful title A Rogue among the Countries. That is how foreigners called Russia in the time of Dostoevsky. The author had to accept the editorial changes. He was pleased that the main idea of ​​his article about the need to have a dialogue with Russia, to treat it as an equal partner was preserved [13:16]. Obviously, the author’s arguments were difficult to argue with.

Some other Schenkel’s important associations with Russia are destiny, mysticism, clairvoyants, and prediction. The author compares Russia with India, where just like in Russia, on every corner you can meet fortune tellers, most of them being homeless or beggars. The writer’s very first impression is the gap between the rich and the poor. He is shocked that the Russian man does not live but survives in the current economic situation. Nevertheless, he does not lose faith that better times will come. E. Shenkel and M. Ershova are both amazed by the optimism of the Russian people, who believe they can pull through it all. From Europeans’ point of view, the Russian man has mastered the art of survival in perfection. Their magic formula is to sneer at their misfortunes and poverty.

For M. Ershova Russia is a country that has been through totalitarianism, a cult of personality, terror, concentration camps. E. Sсhenkel talks about the Soviet time, reflecting on false propaganda. He compares totalitarian systems to divas who do not want their wrinkles to be seen in photographs. At the same time, writers also note bright moments in this difficult time for the Russian people. In Soviet times the underground ticket cost five cents, the ruble was more expensive than the dollar, and people felt safe in the streets even at night.

Elmar Schenkel tries to unravel mysterious Russian soul, which he compares to the sounds of balalaika. He is amazed by numerous superstitions of Russian people, which are another peculiarity of the national character which are so hard for others to understand. The Russians do not put empty bottles on the table. They despise the void. Everything should be full here: tables, people, souls and lives. People believe in signs here. If a knife falls from the table, a man will come to the house, if a fork falls – a woman. While in Russia, the writer, to his great surprise, on more than one occasion saw with his own eyes that these predictions came true [14: 164]. He, as well as M. Ershova, admires Russian hospitality. No other country embraced him so heartily.

The image of Russia, created by Elmar Schenkel, includes such semantic elements as World War II, Russian soul, vastness, Siberia, Altai, disorder, chaos, Afghanistan, disabled soldiers, superstitions, melancholy, people’s optimism, hospitality, dacha, Russian bath, vodka, Russian cuisine, sounds of balalaika, friendship, Russian mysticism, fate, heroism, incomprehensibility, the Nicholas Roerich Museum, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam, Yesenin, Florensky, admiration for great poets, movement, interaction between different cultures.

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