The development of German attitudes towards Russia
in Germany’s Russia problem
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Chapter 2 examines some of the main trends in German thinking about Russia over the centuries. Stereotypes matter because they reproduce themselves through generations and influence relations between states. A turbulent history has shaped conflicting views of Russians among Germans, contributing to the contradictory relationship between them. Germans have oscillated between viewing Russians as Asiatic and barbaric on one hand, and pure and unspoilt by western influence on the other. Similarly, Germans have thought of Russia as both uncultured and cultured, regressive and progressive and as a partner and an enemy. For a nation that prizes rationality, these irreconcilable views buried deep in the national psyche create discomfort when thinking about Russia. It is harder, for German policymakers than for their British or American counterparts, for example, to discuss how to live with a confrontational Russia when their instincts are to avoid confrontation. Germans lack the detachment of others who have been less intimately involved with Russia and have not experienced a romantic fixation with it. As part of their historical conditioning, Germans have an emotional connection with Russia, one that can easily obstruct clear thinking about it. It is perhaps ironic that in Russia, Germans have a reputation for being logical thinker and a lacking emotion.

Germany’s Russia problem

The struggle for balance in Europe

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