Myth of Russia in German Culture

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Unlike C. Goehrke, a number of scientists (for example, Peter Brandt) in their latest studies on Russia and the Russians seek a comprehensive examination of the image of the country. They analyze the stereotypes that existed in Germany long ago and compare them to how various German social classes perceive Russia today. However, a significant number of Germans still view the Russians the way they were described in 1908 by a German geographer E. von Seydlitz. However naive the Russian character offered by the scientist of the early 20th century may be, much of it remains plausible and relevant to modern Germans: the Russian soul is characterized by a rapid change from vivacity and joy to sorrow. It is no stranger to cunning and politeness. Harsh weather conditions, according to the author of the book, nurtured in the Russians undemanding nature, patience, propensity to obey and fatalism. With the exception of a strong Cossack tribe, they have lost their vitality. Owing to harsh winters the Russians mastered the art of crafting and trade, developed gumption, but also became prone to passivity and alcohol abuse. The Russian tribes, according to the researcher, are half Asians. Their spirit and mind are not independent. Blind faith is mistaken by the Russians as striving for the truth.  Russian people are no strangers to tuft-hunting and bribery. Untidiness is also a typically Asian feature of the Russian population [3: 211]. On the other hand, the Russian soul is marked by national pride, wisdom, sensitivity and depth. In the original language the following features were given: Kriecherei (flattery), Bestechlichkeit (bribery), Unreinlichkeit (untidiness), Sinnigkeit (sensibility), Gemütstiefe (depth of mind), Nationalstolz (national pride), Munterkeit cheerfulness (cheerfulness), Schwermut (sadness), Verschmitztheit (cunningness), Höflichkeit (courtesy). It seems that most of Russian citizens could confirm that the features the geographer listed in 1908 describing the Russians, could in part be attributed to the Germans who are no strangers to blind faith and submission themselves.

Throughout the history of the German myth about Russia there were different periods: Russophobia was followed by Russophilia and vice versa. However, the basic concepts that emerged at different stages of its existence remain unchanged and resurface in various German texts even today.

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