Mortal Embrace: Germans and (Soviet) Russians in the First Half of the 20th Century

By Beyrau, Dietrich | Kritika, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Mortal Embrace: Germans and (Soviet) Russians in the First Half of the 20th Century


Beyrau, Dietrich, Kritika


Historical Debates Surrounding the German-Russian Relationship

This special issue of Kritika spotlights episodes from the primarily confrontational relationship between Germany and (Soviet) Russia in the first half of the 20th century. The multifaceted historiography to which it has given rise has significance beyond the specific context of the relationship itself, because the two countries' history and their ties with each other are paradigmatic cases of aberrant developments and threats from within that face modern societies. (1)

After World War II, there were two approaches--both of them decisively influenced by the Cold War but potent nonetheless--to the causes and phenomena of National Socialism and Stalinism. From the field of political science arose totalitarianism theory, which considered totalitarian dictatorships as variants of modern mass society. (2) From another perspective, drawing on theories of modernization, historians and historically oriented social scientists created master narratives determined by developmental determinants that today might be subsumed under the heading of path dependence. (3) Through the decades, both approaches grew internally differentiated and experienced periods of rejection. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they enjoyed a renaissance in a form enriched by cultural history. Beyond theories of totalitarianism, however, comparing the two systems remains a challenge. (4) Moreover, although rejected since the late 1980s, the thesis of a German Sonderweg continues to exercise great attraction in regard to particular spheres of activity, such as the continuities of German antisemitism (5) or militaristic organizational culture. (6)

The older theories of the German Sonderweg were entirely fixated on comparing Germany's development with the West--that is, France, Great Britain, and the United States. (7) Only since the late 1980s was this one-sided orientation questioned through the so-called Historikerstreit. Its initiator, Ernst Noite, launched a debate about the supposed causal nexus between Bolshevism and National Socialism--to use a catchphrase, the nexus between Gulag and Holocaust. The ensuing debates about the singularity of the Holocaust were marked by a lack of interest (as well as knowledge) among both West German historians and the wider public about events east of Germany's borders and German involvement in what occurred there. (8) That Germany had interacted economically, politically, and culturally not only with the West but with the East as well was never problematized in the Sonderweg discussions. Ernst Nolte's work on intellectual and political history forms an exception to the extent that his studies on fascism, and even more his monograph on the "European civil war," addressed Germany's relationship with Western as well as Eastern Europe. (This also revealed, however, the pitfalls of a narrowly intellectual- or political-history approach, which seemed a little old-fashioned even then.) (9) The Historikerstreit raised, avant la lettre, questions about mutual influences, about interactions, and about adaptations and transfers and transnationality that Ernst Nolte mostly answered wrongly or not at all.

The history of German-Russian and German-Soviet relations and interactions actually has a considerable historiography of its own, but in the historiographic mainstream it has always been received with only limited interest for "the East." (10) The reasons are manifold and cannot be discussed here. (11) The vast literature that could be cited includes, for the 20th century, the historiography on the debates and conflicts within the Second International and the communist and socialist movements after 1918, (12) on Berlin as "Europe's Eastern Station," (12) the role of the "fellow travelers" in the interwar period, (14) the commitment of German historians and social scientists to the creation of a "new order," (15) the history of prisoners of war in World War I (16) and, especially, World War II, (17) the German occupation in both world wars, (18) and lastly the "Russians in Germany. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mortal Embrace: Germans and (Soviet) Russians in the First Half of the 20th Century
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.