Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse

Opinion polls in Germany as well as comments by East German politicians have repeatedly suggested that the views about Russia differ significantly in East and West Germany. The public and politicians in East Germany appear to have a more positive view of Russia. Accordingly, they appear to wish for more cooperation between Germany and Russia, to want to reject or weaken current EU sanctions, and to see Russia as less of a concrete security risk for Germany and the EU. The political system and the Russian president Vladimir Putin also appear to meet with less criticism in East Germany than in the West. Public discourse is rife with speculations about the possible causes of the affinity to Russia in East Germany. These largely centre on the positive image of Russia that is supposed to have been forged during the GDR period as well as on the feeling of a bond or a kind of nostalgia. However, in view of the diversity of experiences with ‘Moscow’ and ‘the Russians’ during the GDR period, such explanations seem to fall short.

This project attempts to comprehend this dimension in its scope and significance for today’s attitudes. How direct was the contact with the Soviet Union and the Soviet system in the former GDR? What personal contacts with Russia are still in place today? Is it not possible that the affinity to Russia also reflects something entirely different that is only partially related to Russia? How for instance are personal experiences of the German transformation processes after 1989 linked to current assessments of Russia? The aim of this project is to examine the different views of Russia in East and West Germany and to draw out the lines of reasoning underpinning them. The project combines quantitative data collection with focus groups in different locations in East and West Germany in order to gain insights into the argumentation patterns behind the Russia affinities in East and West Germany.