The German View on Russian Collectivism, Militarism and National Pride

Some of the biggest peculiarities that a German will notice when dealing with Russian culture are the ones that used to be their own. Collectivism, militarism and national pride are of course to be found in many countries. But in order to understand the history of Russian-German relations from past to present, a closer look at these aspects is necessary. There are good reasons why collectivism, militarism and national pride have been perpetuated in Russian culture and in Soviet culture in general. And there are good reasons why they are not so strongly pronounced in German culture, which becomes clear, even if we only look at Russia's and Germany's most recent history. 


A typical German view is that this should not be celebrated, it was a loss, which is true from a human perspective. But this is when the victims are celebrated, they didnt lose their lives for no reason, but for protecting Russians

 

In the Western world, Germany has been regarded as the sole aggressor and cause of the biggest war in human history, while it is the Russian government that has continuously stressed that Germany cannot be blamed alone). It is not surprising that today many Germans much rather favor a pacifist approach and reject militarist ideals. 


There was hardly anything related to World War II that the Germans could associate with pride, but they associated everything related to World War II with militarism and nationalism. Hence, in Germany, the stress on militarism and nationalism is often viewed from a much more critical standpoint. Their historical experience constantly reminds them of ideological blindness in a millitary and nationalist context, and it reminds them of an unprecedented loss of lives.

 

From a Russian perspective, however, militarism is not only seen as a taken for granted necessity, but as a heroic means of protection. The perpetutation of Russian collectivism is strongly connected to the Russian's collective history of suffering, which in turn is strongly connected to the widespread glorification of militarism in Russia. Since almost half of the victims of World War II were Russians, almost every Russian family can strongly and personally relate to the nationalistic, militaristic and traditional aspects of their cultural history, be it in form of literature, art or music, where militarism is mostly depicted in the context of protection and redemption, because the loss of Russian lives stopped through Russian military means, the tragedies stopped through the military actions of the Red Army. The outcome of World War II solidified Russian national pride and Russian collectivism in a context of Russian militarism, and the fighting soldiers became the main source of national pride, uniting the Russian people once more. 


The Germans have constantly been reminded of what the outcome of their collectivist ideal during the rule of Hitler was. Under these circumstances, how could collectivism not have been replaced by individualism in Germany? In German everyday life, expressions of pride have shifted from a nationalist poltical level to a social level, particularly in the context of sports. It is one of the few contexts, in which a German does not have to fear to raise his national flag without being stigmatized as a Nazi. Displaying national pride is still an unofficial taboo in Germany. Moreover, since the Soviet Union remained victorious in World War II, it was not subject to foreign cultural influence to the extent that Germany was. After its darkest chapter of Nazi-Germany came to an end, Germany even embraced American influence on their culture. German people can identify much more with modern American and German pop culturewhile rejecting their past political ideals. This has of course reduced German unity into a non-military and largely unpolitical level.

 

There was one event its modern history, in which Germany did feel unity and pride on a political level. It coincides with a time, in which Russia completely neglected its principles of political and cultural protection. In 1989, while German people were euphorically screaming "Wahnsinn" as the Berlin Wall fell, the Russian people experienced strong Western influence in the form of the Perestroika. The Soviets finally opened themselves up to the West, undergoing a process of democratization. The Soviet Union was finally more liberal and their policies more transparent. And then the Soviet Union no longer existed. The foreign influence that had benefited Germany's society and economy for years, lead to unprecedented social and economic problems in Russia in the early nineties. This is also why words such as 'democracy' and 'freedom' do not really impress the Russian people. The Perestroika turned into the "Katastroika", a term coined by the Soviet philosopher Alexander Sinowjew. In these times, Germany had everything to be proud of and Russia had nothing to be proud of. Germany experienced prestige in a non-military context, while Russia learnt the hard way that it had to heavily rely on military, cultural and economic protection.


In the post-Soviet era, the "Russian bear" felt reinforced in his view all more, as the NATO - contrary to the agreements that were made - continuously expanded to the East, a decisive aspect with respect to the current Ukrainian crisis. Considering the fact that Russia and Ukraine were on the same page in World War II and share a common history of protecting themselves from foreign threats, Ukraine has also perpetuated its collectivist, militarist and nationalist tendencies. But the Ukrainians are divided on the question of which direction the country should be heading, while the Russians are today politically united like they have never been in modern Russian history. As we look at Russia today, we see a people with new confidence and new hope. 

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Travel Projects

I.    Around the World (2010)                                                           

II.   Stairway to Heaven (2011)

III.  Travelution (2012)

IV.  Era of Epicness (2013)

V.   Emergency Exits (2014)

VI.  The Slippery Path of Uncertainty (2015)

VII. Age of Turbulence (2016)

VIII. Against All Odds (2017)

IX.  Evasive Maneuvers (2018)

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XI. ??? (2020)