“Friendships for life”: This is how East Germans see Russia

Katrin Fischer is 53 years old and comes from Plauen, where she spent her childhood and youth. At that time, Plauen was also a Russian garrison town. There were only a few direct meetings, all of which were organized and made an effort, Fischer recalls.

In addition, there was the institutionalized German-Soviet friendship: “Well, we later became quite normal members of this German-Soviet friendship, which was a little red ID card, and I think it cost ten pfennig a month for membership, and you got these sweets, like consumer stamps, and they put them in, and that was it. “

Pen pals to Russia

Then there were pen pals. Katrin Fischer received a contact address in Moscow for a girl of about the same age: “And I also know that I spoke Russian regularly for two-three-four years, and she in German, which we wrote back and forth. We just got together “classically exchanged as girls. Where we live what we like, perhaps from falling in love for the first time, as classic pen pals.”

In this way, the GDR tried to soften the occupation picture of the Russian armed forces in its own country and, at least in the younger generation, to eradicate old enemy images or not to continue them at all. This character continues to have an effect on many East German citizens to this day, says Antje Hermenau.

Socialist view of America

It comes as no surprise to the Leipzig-born and longtime ex-green politician now working to promote small and medium-sized businesses in Dresden. You used to build everything, work together: “And then you made friends for life, of course there were marriages between Russians and Germans here in East Germany and in Russia, depending on where they wanted to live, and that’s a different bond.”

Added to this was the ideological superstructure, the socialist view of the leading power in the Western world, the United States. Here, too, there were different levels, as Hermenau distinguishes: “Of course there is still, and one must not forget, the reading we had in school back in the GDR era, that Americans as imperialists always have a tendency to fight to break the fence. ”

The East Germans have distrust of the United States

As for the current war in Ukraine, many East Germans still see the cause of the massive US support for Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, Hermenau explains. This is also confirmed by Dresden political scientist Hans Vorländer: “What we know from the last few months is a survey from January, ie before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which says that in East Germany there was a higher percentage of answers to the question, “who was responsible for the tightening of the relationship must be held accountable, the American side is quoted rather than the Russian, and then there is a difference in the assessment of responsibility between West and East Germans.”

And that is why the dissertation claims that parts of the former GDR population feel particularly attached to Russia because they both experienced the collapse of the systems and a painful transformation to an equal degree. This results in a better understanding of each other. Dresden political scientist Prof. Hans Vorländer contradicts this statement decisively: “No, this victim story is of course not tenable at all, and it may also be an attempt by people who have previously been close to the system to create a certain closeness.”

Russians then: liberators, occupiers or conquerors?

It is undisputed, however, that the old Federal Republic of Germany had been clearly oriented towards the West since the Adenauer era, while the GDR had a thoroughly ambivalent relationship with the Russian occupying power. The question of whether the Russians were liberators, occupiers, or conquerors at the time should emerge in a new light in light of the current global political situation.

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