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


  • Elena Prikazchikova Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg




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.

Author Biography

Elena Prikazchikova, Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg



Agapov, E. F. (n.d.). Interv′yu [An Interview], available at: http://iremember.ru/memoirs/razvedchiki/agapov-evgeniy-fedorovich/ (accessed: 20.03.2015).
Anninskij, L. (2012). Raneny′e dushi i mertvy′e tela [Wounded Souls and Dead Bodies]. In Vojna/Krieg: 1941–1945 : Proizvedeniya russkih i nemeczkih pisatelej (pp. 5–19). Moscow, PROZAiK.
Beevor, A. (2002). Berlin. The Downfall 1945. 528 p. London, Viking.
Belikov, V. (2006). Vojna. Vpechatlenie derevenskogo podrostka [War. Impressions of a Rural Teenager]. In Belikov, V., Ovsyannikov, N. & Utenkov, A. Do svidaniya, mal′chiki. My′ ne by′li svolochami (pp. 468–585). Moscow, E′ksmo.
Berdyaev, N. (1918). Sud′ba Rossii: Opy′ty′ po psihologii vojny′ i nacional′nosti [The Destiny of Russia: Notes on the Psychology of War and Nationality]. 240 p. Moscow, Izdanie G. A. Lemana i S. I. Saharova.
Böddeker, G. (1980). Die Flüchtlinge: Die Vertreibung der Deutchen im Osten. 480 p. München, Berlin, F. A. Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH.
Bolotov, A. T. (1986). Zhizn′ i priklyucheniya A. Bolotova, pisanny′e im samim dlya svoih potomkov [The Life and Adventures of A. Bolotov Written by Him for His Progeny]. 767 p. Moscow, Sovremennik.
Bujda, Yu. (n.d.). Prusskaya nevesta [A Russian Bride], available at: http://bookz.ru/authors/urii-buida/vse-prop_953/1-vse-prop_953.html (accessed: 20.03.2015). Dyukov, A., Makeev, D., Py′halov, I., Rossov, O., Petrov, I., Asmolov, K. & Mendkovich,
N. (2008). (Dyukov, A., ed., comp.). Velikaya obolgannaya vojna-2: Nam ne za chto kayat′sya! sbornik [The Great Slandered War-2: We Have Nothing to Repent]. (A Collection). 432 p. Moscow, Yauza, E′ksmo.
E′renburg, I. ( n.d.). Voennaya publicistika 1941–1945 gg. v gazete «Izvestiya» [War Articles of 1941–1945 in Izvestiya Newspaper], available at: http://www.shpl.ru/readers/special_interests/gazeta_izvestiya_polnyj_elektronnyj_arhiv_19172010/ (accessed: 04.04.2015).
Gerlach, H. (1970). Nighmare in Red. 239 p. London, Creation House.
Gorlanov, N. (2007). Krestnicza Gitlera prosit russkih prostit′ nemeczkij narod [Hitler’s Goddaughter Asks Russians to Forgive the German People]. In Novosti Samarskogo regiona, May 2, available at: http://www.portal-credo.ru:12000/site/?act=monitor&id=10471 (accessed: 21.03.2015).
Gosudarstvenny′j arhiv Kaliningradskoj oblasti. Stock 19. List 1. Dossier 10. Leaf 223 (Iz radioperedachi «Budushhee Kaliningrada». 20.09.1947 g.) [State Archive of Kaliningrad Region. Stock 19. List 1. Dossier 10. Leaf 223 (From Radio Programme The Future of Kaliningrad. 20.09.1947)]; Dossier 22. Leaf 20 (Iz peredachi «Kyonigsbergskaya pobeda». 7.04.1948 g. Avtor – Prahov) [From the Programme Koenigsberg Victory. 7.04.1948. Authored by Prakhov]; Leaf 33 (Iz radioperedachi «Drevnyaya slavyanskaya zemlya vozvrashhena zakonny′m hozyaevam». 10.04.1948 g.) [From Radio Programme The Ancient Slavic Land Returns to Its Original Owners].
Grass, G. (2006). Beim Häuten der Zwiebel. 480 p. Göttingen, Steidl Verlag.
Haffner, S. (1979). Preußen ohne Legende. 536 p. Siedler, Stern-Magazine.
Haritonov, P. H. (n.d.). Interv′yu [An Interview], available at: http://iremember.ru/memoirs/artilleristi/andreev-petr-kharitonovich/?sphrase_id=7428 (accessed: 04.04.2015).
Hastings, M. (2005). Armageddon. The battle for Germany 1944–1945. 660 p. London, Pan book.
Hoffmann, J. (1998). Stalins Vernichtungskrieg 1941–1945. 400 p. München.
Jünger, E. (1958). Jahre der Okkupation (april 1945 – dezember 1948). 310 p. Stuttgart, Ernst Klett.
Kantor, Yu. (2010). Obrusenie Prussii [The Russification of Prussia], Vremya novostej, 2, January 13, available at: http://www.vremya.ru/print/245113.html (accessed: 03.04.2015).
Kashpur, A. E. (n.d.). Interv′yu [An Interview], available at: http://iremember.ru/memoirs/svyazisti/kashpur-aleksandr-efimovich (accessed: 03.04.2015).
Klaussen, R. (2005). I slezy′ obratyatsya v brillianty′ [And Tears Will Turn to Diamonds]. 109 p. Kiev, Fares.
Koenen, G. (2005). Der Russland-Komplex. Die Deutschen und der Osten. 1900–1945. 528 p. München, C. Y. Beck Verlag.
Kopelev, L. (1990). Hranit′ vechno [Keep in Perpetuity]. 688 p. Moscow, Vsya Moskva.
Köpp, G. (2010). Warum war ich bloß ein Mädchen? Das Trauma einer Flucht 1945. Mit einem Nachwort von Dr. Birgit Beck-Heppner. 160 p. Herbig.
Kostyashov, Yu. (2003). Izgnanie prusskogo duha [The Exorcism of the Prussian Spirit]. In Kostyashov, Yu. Izgnanie prusskogo duha; Mattes E′. Zapreshhennoe vospominanie. 162 p. Kaliningrad, KGU.
Lazhechnikov, I. (2013). Pohodny′e zapiski russkogo oficera [The War Notes of a Russian Officer]. 208 p. Moscow, Kuchkovo pole, Evrobond.
Litvin, G. A. (n.d.). Slomanny′e kry′l′ya Lyuftvaffe [The Broken Wings of the Luftwaffe], available at: http://rudolf.webservis.ru/72ag_books/history/slomannie_luftwaffe/ (accessed: 03.04.2015).
Maubah, F. (2010). Skazki, igry′, rolevoj obmen: detskoe osvoenie voennogo nasiliya (1939–1945) [Fairytales. Games, Role Play: Children’s Adoption of War Violence (1939-1945)]. In Vtoraya mirovaya vojna v detskih «ramkah pamyati»: sbornik nauchny′h statej (pp. 147–177). Krasnodar.
Melikov, G. A. (n.d.). Interv′yu [An Interview], available at: http://iremember.ru/memoirs/pekhotintsi/melikov-georgiy-aleksandrovich/ (accessed: 03.04.2015).
Mihalkov, S. V. & Mihalkov, M. V. (2005). Dva brata – dve sud′by′: Memuary′ [Two Brothers – Two Destinies: Memoirs]. 447 p. Moscow, Centrpoligraf.
Mihin, P. A. (2006). «Artilleristy′, Stalin dal prikaz!»: My′ umirali, chtoby′ pobedit′ [“Artillerists, Stalin has issued an order!”: We Died to Win ]. 576 p. Moscow, Yauza, E′ksmo.
Molok, A. I. (1945). Nemeczkij voenny′j razboj v Evrope (X–XX veka) [German Military Banditry in Europe (10-20th Centuries)]. 272 p. Leningrad, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel′stvo politicheskoj literatury′.
Mueller, M. G. (2008). Lost Years. Memories of my forgotten homeland. 129 p. LMSEDIT, Cornwall Ontario.
Naimark, N. M. (1995). The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949. 586 p. Cambridge, Mass., London, Harvard University Press.
Nevskij, A. V. (2005). Moi dela voenny′e [My Military Affairs]. In Muhin, Yu. Po povestke i po prizy′vu: Nekadrovy′e soldaty′ Velikoj Otechestvennoj (pp. 95–158). Moscow, Yauza, E′ksmo.
Nikonov, N. (1988). Vestalka: roman [The Vestal: A Novel]. 544 p. Sverdlovsk, Sredne-Ural′skoe knizhnoe izdatel′stvo.
Nikulin, N. N. (2008). Vospominaniya o vojne [Memoirs of War]. 244 p. Saint Petersburg, Izdatel′stvo Gosudarstvennogo E′rmitazha.
Nitsch, G. (2008). Weeds Like Us. 465 p. Bloomington, IN, Authorhouse.
Padenie Kenigsberga [The Fall of Koenigsberg]. (1945). Pravda, April 13, 15, available at: http://www.shpl.ru/readers/special_interests/gazeta_pravda_polnyj_elektronnyj_ arhiv_19122009 (accessed: 04.04.2015).
Polyan, P. (2001). Ne po svoej vole : Istoriya i geografiya prinuditel′ny′h migracij v SSSR [Against the Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migration in the USSR].328 p. Moscow, OGI-Memorial.
Rabichev, L. (2010). Vojna vse spishet: Vospominaniya oficera-svyazista 31-j armii. 1941–1945 [The War Will Write Everything Off: Memoirs of a Signaler Officer of the 31st Army, 1941–1945]. 273 p. Moscow, Centropoligraf.
Rauschenbach, H. (2004). Von Pillkallen nach Schadrinsk. 200 p. Leipzig, Rautenberg.
Rzhevskaya, E. M. (1986). Berlin, maj 1945: Zapiski voennogo perevodchika. Rasskazy′ [Berlin, May 1945: Notes of a Military Interpreter. Stories]. 320 p. Moscow, Moskovskij rabochij.
Samuel, W. E. (2000). German Boy. A child in war. 424 p. University Press of Mississipi.
Satyukov, S. (2010). «Nezakonnorozhdenny′e!»: deti krasnoarmejcev i nemeczkih zhenshhin posle 1945 goda [Illegitimate Children of Red Army Soldiers and German Women after 1945]. In Vtoraya mirovaya vojna v detskih «ramkah pamyati»: sbornik nauchny′h statej (pp. 317–339). Krasnodar.
Schreiber, M. (2006). Welt aus Schmerz und Stille, Der Spiegel, 35, pp. 152–158.
Schubart, W. (1947). Europa und die Seele des Ostens. 317 p. Luzezn, Vita Nova Vlg.
Scorzeny, O. (1995). My commando operations. The Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Daring Commando. 468 p. Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Semiryaga, M. I. (1995). Kak my′ upravlyali Germaniej [How We Ruled Germany]. 400 p. Moscow, ROSSPE’N.
Senyavskaya, E. S. (2006). Protivniki Rossii v vojnah XX veka. E′volyuciya «obraza vraga» v soznanii armii i obshhestva [Russia’s Enemies in the 20th Century Wars: The Evolution of the Image of Enemy in the Consciousness of Army and Society]. 288p. Moscow, ROSSPE’N.
Senyavskaya, E. S. (n.d.). Krasnaya armiya v Evrope v 1945 godu: Stary′e i novy′e stereotipy′ vospriyatiya v Rossii i na Zapade [The Red Army in Europe in 1945: Old and New Stereotypes of the Perception of Russia], available at: http://rugraz.net/index.php/ru/istoricheskoe-dostoinstvo/velikaja-otechestvennaja/1169-e-senknigajavskaja-krasnajaarmija-v-jevrope-v-1945-godu-staryje-i-novyje-stereotipy-vosprijatija-v-rossii-i-na-zapade (accessed: 03.04.2015).
Shheglov, Dm. (1967). Tri tire. Upolnomochenny′j voennogo soveta [Three Dashes. The Authorized Representative of the Military Council]. 584 p. Moscow, Sovetskij pisatel′.
Shubart, V. (2003). Evropa i dusha Vostoka [Europe and the Soul of the East]. 480 p. Moscow, E′ksmo.
Smith, A. D. (2008). Cultural Foundations of Nations: Hierarchy, Covenant and Republic. 245 p. London, Blackwell Publishing.
Sumlenny′j, S. (2010). Nemeczkaya sistema: Iz chego sdelana Germaniya i kak ona rabotaet [The German System: What Germany Is Made of and How It Functions]. 456 p. Moscow, Gruppa E’kspert.
Surminski, A. (1978). Aus dem Nest gefallen: Geschichten aus Kalischken. 119 p. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.
Surminski, A. (2003). Jokehnen oder Wie lange fährt man von Ostpreußen nach Deutschland. 496 p. Ullstein Tb.
Tannehill, E. (2006). Abandoned and forgotten. An Orphan Girl’s Tale of Survival During World War II. 431 p. Tucson, Arizona, Wheatmark.
Terent′ev , Ya. (2002). Zapiski proshagavshego pol-Evropy′ [The Notes of a Man That Has Walked across Half of Europe]. 200 p. Saint Petersburg, Giperion.
Vezhbiczkaya, A. (1999). Semanticheskie universalii i opisanie yazy′kov [Semantic Universals and the Description of Languages]. 792 p. Moscow, Yazy′ki russkoj kul′tury′.
Vil′gel′m II, imperator Germanii, korol′ Prussii [Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, King of Prussia]. (1911). In Voennaya e′nciklopediya (in 18 vols.). (Vol. 6, pp. 376–377). Saint Petersburg, Tovarishhestvo I. Sy′tina.
Vostochnaya Prussiya glazami sovetskih pereselencev: Pervy′e gody′ Kaliningradskoj oblasti v vospominaniyah i dokumentah [Eastern Prussia in the Eyes of Soviet Immigrants: The First Years of Kaliningrad Region in Memoirs and Documents]. (2003). (2nd ed.). 336 p. Kaliningrad, KGU.
Wieck, M. (2005). Zeugnis vom untergang Königsbergs. Ein “Geltungsjude” Berichtet. 404 p. München, C. H. Beck Verlag.
Zdravomy′slov, A. G. (2003). Nemcy′ o russkih na poroge novogo ty′syacheletiya. Besedy′ v Germanii : 22 e′kspertny′h interv′yu s predstavitelyami nemeckoj intellektual′noj e′lity′ o Rossii – ee nastoyashhem, proshlom i budushhem – kontent-analiz i kommentarii [Germans about Russians at the Turn of the New Mellennium. Conversations in Germany: 22 Expert Interviews with the Representatives of the German Intellectual Elite about Russia – Its Present, Past and Future – Content Analysis and Commentaries]. 544 p. Moscow, ROSSPE’N.
Zhukova, Yu. K. (2006). Devushka so snajperskoj vintovkoj: Vospominaniya vy′pusknicy′ Central′noj zhenskoj shkoly′ snajperskoj podgotovki. 1944–1945 gg. [A Girl with a Sniper Rifle: Memoirs of a Graduate of the Central Women’s School of Sniper Training]. 222 p. Moscow, Centrpoligraf.

How to Cite

Prikazchikova, E. (2015). Political and National-Cultural Aspects of the Prussian Myth in the Context of Russia-Germany Relations of the 20th Century. Quaestio Rossica, (2), 172–198. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.2.103



Vox redactoris