Germany–Russia relations

Germany–Russia relations

German-Russian relations have a long history. Since the end of the cold war, Germany and Russia rebuilt their "Strategic Partnership" which bonded the two countries for many centuries.

However, current political issues like the democratization of Russian society, characterize a relationship with many open questions.


Early history

The earliest contact between Germans and Slavs in unknown. Substantive contact goes back to the Teutonic Knights' campaigns in the Baltics.

Russia before the mid 1700s was aloof from Western European politics while Germany was divided into the small states under the nominal leadership of the Holy Roman Emperor.

After the Great Northern War, however, Russia's power spread into the Baltic.

Prussia and Russia

The creation of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701 and the proclamation of the Russian Empire in 1721 created two powerful new states that began to interact.

They fought on opposite side during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), but the war saw both grow in power. Russia defeated Sweden and Prussia defeated her Western enemies. They again were on opposite side during the Seven Year's War and fought the battles of Gross-Jägersdorf and Kay. However when the new Tsar Peter III came to power he signed the Treaty of Saint Petersburg and made peace with Prussia, allowing Prussia's Fredrick the Great to concentrate on other enemies.

Prussia and Russia then cooperated to carve up Poland-Lithuania between them.

Both Russia and Prussia had absolute monarchies that reacted sharply against the French Revolution and were part of the coalition against the new French regime during the French Revolutionary Wars and later the Napoleonic Wars. Prussia was shaken by the Revolutions of 1848 but was able to withstand the revolutionaries' call to war against Russia. Prussia did go to war with Denmark, however and was only stopped by British and Russian pressure.

Prussia's successes in the Wars of German Unification owed much to Russia's lack of involvement. The creation of the German Empire, however, greatly changed the reations between the two countries.

The German and Russian empires

Earlier on it seemed as if the two great empires would be strong allies, and formed the League of the Three Emperors with Austria to control Central and Eastern Europe, maintain peace, and support reactionary policies. However Prussian minister-president Leo von Caprivi failed to renew the agreement and instead created the German-Austrial alliance in 1879. Germany feared Russia's rapid industrialization and Russia feared Germany's already established industrial power. Russia and Germany were now enemies.

The ultimate result of this was the bloody Eastern Front during the Great War which saw both countries bleed the other dry. Russia succumbed first and fell to the Russian Revolutions. Germany was partially responsible by helping Lenin to return to Russia.

The interwar years

After the peace treaties that ended the Great War, the newly created states of the Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union both found themselves outcasts in the international system and gravitated toward each other. The rise of Hitler and the creation of the Nazi state with its virulent anti-Slav and anti-Communist rhetoric strained relations. However the two totalitarian states were able to agree to invade and repartition Poland and the Baltics. Relations were tense but Soviet dictator Stalin did not expect Hitler to invade in the Soviet Union in 1941.

The result was the horrendous ideological and race war on the Eastern Front during the Second World War (called the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union). This was probably the bloodiest conflict in human history.

After the War: the Soviet Union and the Two Germanies

The defeat of Germany by the Soviets and the Western allies eventually led to the occupation and partition of Germany and the expulsions of many ethnic-Germans from Soviet-conquered areas.

The creation of West Germany and East Germany complicated relations. West Germany initially tried to claim that it was the only German state and the East was illegitimate and under the Hallstein Doctrine refused to have relation with any socialist state except the Soviet Union itself. This policy eventually gave way to "Ostpolitik", an under which West Germany recognized the East.

Eventually the Soviet Union gave up on trying to support the unpopular East German government. After the Revolutions of 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany was allowed to reunite. Soon after, the Soviet Union was broken apart.

Federal Republic of Germany and the Russian Federation

Relations between the two nations since the fall of communism have been generally good but not always without tension. German chancellor Gerhard Schröder placed high value on relations with Russia and worked for the completion of the Nordsteam gas pipeline between them. His successor Angela Merkel has been more critical and clashed with Russian president Vladimir Putin over human rights and other issues.

Germans in Russia

The main aim of the German government's policy on ethnic German Russians is to encourage them to stay in Russia.

Russians in Germany

Since German reunification Berlin is home to a fast growing Russian community.

Current issues

Germany has a strong interest in integrating the Russian Federation into the European and global economy and supports the process of democratic transition in Russia.

Germany's and Russia's economic strengths and interests complement each other which make a cooperation between the two countries very logical. However political disparities eventually overshadow an even closer relation.


*Germany and Russia have frequent exchange of visits on the political, economic and cultural agenda. Russia regards Germany as its leading European partner, and is surely its largest and most important trading partner.
*many former East Germans have a good knowledge about Russia. And German language is in a firm second place (behind English) at Russian schools. On 11 April 2005, a "Joint Declaration on a Strategic Partnership in Education, Research and Innovation" was signed by Chancellor Schröder and President Putin. This accord aims at stepping up bilateral cooperation in the education sector, particularly in training specialist and executive personnel.
*Germany has a heavy industry with the size and capacity to modernize infrastructure in Russia. Russia in turn has vast natural resources which are of significant interest to the German economy.
*A major success in environment policy is Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on 27 October 2004, which will also bring economic benefits.
*Germany was a strong supporter for Russia's participation in the Group of 8.
*Dresdner Bank of Germany has close ties to Gazprom, by far Russia's largest industrial company.
* Germany alongside with France and Russia opposed Ukrainian and Georgian invitation to NATO during NATO's Bucharest summit in 2008. In result the NATO didn't invite Ukraine and Georgia to MAP.


*Freedom of the press in Russia
*Relations in the energy sphere
*Construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline underneath the Baltic Sea directly connecting the two countries will start in 2008. The project is causing tensions with neighboring countries.

ee also

Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin
World War I
World War II
*Soviet-German relations before 1941
*GDR and the Cold war

External links

* [ Petersberger Dialogue] (in German and Russian only)
* [ Bergedorfer Round Table]

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