There are some obvious explanations for the bond between Germans and Russians: economic interests, a deeply rooted anti-Americanism in both countries on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. But those are only superficial answers – dig a little deeper, and you’ll find two other explanations: Romanticism and the war.
The war explanation is inextricably linked to German guilt. As a country that committed monstrous crimes against the Russians, we sometimes feel the need to be especially generous, even in dealing with Russia’s human rights violations. As a result, many Germans feel that Berlin should temper its criticism of Russia and take a moderate position in the Ukraine crisis. It was Germany, after all, that invaded the Soviet Union, killing 25 million people with its racist war of extermination. Hans-Henning Schröder, a Russia expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs describes this as Russophilia and says it is a way of compensating for Germany’s Nazi past. …
Then, of course, there are Germans’ romantic ideas about Russia. … “The east is a place of longing for the Germans,” says [political theorist Herfried] Münkler. The expanse and seeming infinity of Russian space has always been the subject of a German obsession for a simpler life, closer to nature and liberated from the constraints of civilization. The millions of Germans that were expelled from Eastern Europe and forced to move to the West after 1945 fostered that feeling. To them, it represented unspoiled nature and their lost homeland.
Update from a reader:
Oh my god this is such terrible horseshit. This article is full of distortions and prejudiced cliches about Germans. The fact it’s written by a German doesn’t mean anything. We are masters of self flagellation.
I am a German who’s lived in the UK for many years, but I still follow politics in my home country religiously. What has happened with regards to Ukraine and German media coverage and the reaction of the general population has been deeply divided. The neoconservative transatlantic aligned media (mostly Springer) created a Term “Putinversteher” (a person that understands Putin) to discredit everybody with a nuanced view on the subject matter.
Do you know when was the last time that happened? The same media elements in Germany did the same thing during the run up to the Iraq War. They accused every opponent (and the vast majority of Germans was opposed to that disastrous adventure for very good reasons) of being deeply anti-American, if not anti-Semitic, and deeply troubled by WWII defeat, which is why they all secretly wanted to stick it to the Yanks out of spite yadda yadda yadda.
Yes, that is exactly how Germans were maligned back then. The same people who did the smearing back then are unapologetically doing the smearing now. But luckily the German majority again doesn’t buy into the bullshit explanations that are being offered. What those Germans I talked to think can be summarized in few bullet points, and none of them are anywhere near of being pro-Putin:
– They want Germany to do politics purely based in Germany’s and not in John McCain’s or Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland’s (and all the other Western clowns handing out cookies on Maidan square).
– They don’t understand what on earth the Ukraine has to do with the EU at a time that the EU is in deep crisis. Who are these incompetent politicians engaging in these terribly shortsighted idealistic adventures and who authorized them to act in such way in our name?
– They see the hypocrisy of the West when for example John Kerry says “in the 21st Century you cannot simply invade another country on trumped up charges.” Hello?
Actually the sentiment is best described by this phenomenal analysis of Western foreign policy bluster by Stephen Walt.
I quarrel with my countrymen and -women over many issues all the time. But we can’t be reduced to this simplistic explaining of the “romantic German mind longing for the east” “stockholm syndrome” and similar crap that Spiegel Online seems to offer to interested foreigners.