Myth of Russia in German Culture

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An unexpected tenacious resistance of the Red Army caused the fall of the Nazis’ perceptions of the Russians as kind, simple, and servile people. This became the basis for shaping a new image of the enemy. In the winter of 1941–1942 a negative image of Asian hordes and Bolshevik beasts appears. After the turning point of the war the descriptions of the Russians gained even more colors. The defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad refuted the ideas about the incapacity of the Soviet system and the weakness of Russian people. The Germans started to feel sympathy towards Russian citizens who were no longer simple and illiterate as they were thought to be. Even among the military there were attempts to show understanding for the Russians but the sense of superiority of industrially developed Germany over “emerging” Russia was still present.

After the German defeat in the Kursk salient many feared that they might retaliate. At the end of the war East Germany was overwhelmed by the images of horror which were instilled by Goebbels’s propaganda. German historians have a hard time answering the question “Why did the image of frightening Russians appear even before 1945?” For another question “Why were the government, the army and the people the same thing in the Russian minds before 1945?” according to a German historian Peter Brandt there is no definite answer. However, the answer is self-evident. Information war against Russia is not the result of the media work of the last decades. It started a long time ago.

After World War II all parties in Berlin accepted a single standpoint against any positive attitudes towards a power which overthrew the fascism. As a Christian Democrat Jakob Kaiser put it, “the Germans should become a bridge between East and West instead of fueling a conflict among the winners”. In the Central Committee of Berlin and East German social democracy Otto Grotewohl saw the rise in pro-East attitudes promoted by writer Ernst Niekisch who had a liking for Russia. He expected the Western Powers to reach a capitalist forced truce and hoped for a mutual understanding between the German labor movement and the USSR. At the same time, according to a German diplomat Rudolf Nadolny the civilians’ and Social Democrats’ intentions to maintain the traditional Russo-German cooperation were sporadic and isolated.

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