Myth of Russia in German Culture

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An unusual interpretation of the image of Russia in the context of the Russian revolution of 1917 and its results can be seen in the work of an Austrian author Joseph Roth who wrote essays and reports for German newspapers (Frankfurter Zeitung, Neue Berliner Zeitung). Already in the 1920s he attributes such characteristics as standard, monotonous, and mass nature to Russia which was beginning to evolve into the Soviet Union. He is disappointed by the generic contents of the newspapers, slogans, and posters. He is impressed by the amount of red color – the color of revolution – in everyday life [5: 159]. The writer points out that in Russia the Communist Party plays the role of God Almighty and is itself divided into a number of smaller gods. The concept of Russia in J. Roth’s reports and travel notes includes such semantic elements as ideology, propaganda, public organizations, Komsomol, disciplinary dictatorship, collectivism, illiteracy eradication, atheism, imposed public opinion, proletariat, the Red Army, Lenin, new economic policy, emigrants, intellectual and revolutionary theater, Meyerhold.

Another topic for discussion is the image of Russia in Hitler’s Germany. As we know, when planning the campaign against Russia (Operation Barbarossa) in World War II originally the intention was to bring the people enslaved by Stalin, including the Russians to the German side by encouraging them to join the anti-communist crusade. In the end, these ideas transformed into the attitudes suggesting a ruthless expansionist and colonization policy, Germanization and death of millions of people. German historians say that “the campaign against Russia has become the single most important moment in the whole history of Russo-German relations” (Besatzungs-, Kolonial- und Germanisierungspolitik ist tiefster Einschnitt in den Beziehungen zwischen den Deutschen und den Russen überhaupt). This campaign was a racist and ideological war of extermination in form and substance and it sparked even more hatred towards the invaders than during World War I. The army took an active part in criminal acts. The military commanders had plans of a merciless and total extermination of the enemy. It could already be seen in May 1941 before the attack. The commander of the 4th Panzer Group general Erich Hoepner made an entry in classified documents on the eternal struggle between the Germans and the Slavs, on the protection of the European culture against Muscovite and Asian overpopulation, and on fighting back Jewish Bolshevism by defeating Russia (…ewiger Kampf der Germanen gegen die Slaven, Verteidigung europäischer Kultur gegen moskowitisch-asiatische Überschwemmung, Abwehr des jüdischen Bolschewismus). In 1941 we could see that the political elite and the military command had fully convergent views on the war.

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