Political and National-Cultural Aspects of the Prussian Myth in the Context of Russia-Germany Relations of the 20th Century

Elena Prikazchikova

Abstract


Referring to a large number of Soviet, Russian and German memoirs, fiction and journalistic texts, the author studies the main ways of formation and development of the Prussian myth that is connected with the German province of East Prussia and its people during World War II and the postwar period. The author explores the historical, national and psychological reasons that underlie the idea of Prussia and Prussians as the most vivid image of the Alien or the Enemy in Soviet people’s consciousness during the Great Patriotic War. Heavily relying on propaganda, the negative mythology of Prussia imposed that it be perceived as the den of the fascist beast, a place that generated antihuman theories and annexationist plans, and, secondly, a land that was originally Russian and then occupied by the Livonian Order. It is such ideas that formed the official state policy of the expulsion of the Prussian spirit that took place during the first three post-war decades in Kaliningrad Region. Additionally, Soviet and post-Soviet memoir or autobiographical literature (D. Shcheglov, A. Nevsky, P. Mikhin, Yu. Zhukova) formed the idea of a close connection of a number of nation-specific traits of the Germans with centuries-old Prussian militarism. This is how the Russia-Germany relations conflict was formed between Russian chaos and German cosmos, and was reflected not only in the Russian but also German egodocuments of the World War II. Among the main variations of the Prussian myth, there is one that consists in the idea of Prussia as of German Arcadia, an agricultural paradise (M. Muller, H. Rauschenbach, A. Surminski) lost as a result of the War. Another – German – variation of the Prussian myth is the idea of Prussia and its dwellers as the main loss Germany had to go through in the course of World War II. The authors of egodocuments that reflect this point of view (H. Gerlach, G. Köpp, M. Wieck) describe their lives as part of the historical tragedy of East Prussia and Germany as a whole. It is such memoirs that are most frequently used by Western European historians (M. Hastings, G. Böddeker, N. M. Naimark) to create an impression of the Soviet Army’s extremely violent behaviour in East Prussia. A third variation of the Prussian myth created by Germans may be called soteriological and depicts this eastern German land as a saviour bearing the brunt from the East and granting its inhabitants a chance to find a way out of the country and go to the West over the Baltic Sea. In these ideas formulated both by professional writers (G. Grass, E. Jünger) and memoirists (E. Tannehill, G. Nitsch) the image of the Red Army and Russians often regarded as an uncontrollable force, the personification of chaos plays an important role. At the end of the article, referring to a vast number of egodocuments written by both Russians (Ya. Terentyev, E. F. Agapov, G. A. Melikhov, A. E. Kashpur, P. Kh. Kharitonov) and Germans (R. Klaussen), the author outlines ways out of the space of war and into the space of multicultural European consciousness that includes both Germany and Russia.


Keywords


Prussian myth; World War II; memoir and biographical sources; Russia-Germany relations.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.2.103

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