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Germans formed the nobility and gentry of the Baltic provinces acquired by Russia under Peter the Great. (This is one reason why the city of St. Petersburg has a Germanic name). Under Catherine the Great (born a German princess), a large number of Germans emigrated to a region around part of the Volga River, becoming known as the Volga Germans. Between 1795 (the third partition of Poland) and 1919 (the re-creation of Poland), Russia shared a border with Prussia/Germany. And then, you have all the Russians who moved from the Soviet Union to East Germany, and who are now citizens of a united Germany. Meanwhile in West Germany, the laws made it relatively easy for Russians to gain citizenship there too, provided that they were able to proof German descent (like e.g. the aforementioned Volga Germans). The situation in today's united Germany is similar.

It is therefore not surprising that German characters appear a fair bit in Russian literature, especially from the earlier periods.

These characters are often portrayed in the stereotypical German manner - humourless and efficient - but there are exceptions.

After this time, World War One and the Great Patriotic War tends to colour Russian perceptions of Germans, as can be seen by Communist propaganda. Whereas Americans may be depicted as fat capitalists, Germans don't even get to be human. Surprisingly (or maybe not), this was strictly limited to wartime media, and even in WWII official propaganda encouraged differentiating between Those Wacky Nazis and Germans as a people. [1]

Unrelated to Commie Nazis.

Examples of German Russians include:


Literature

  • Crime and Punishment
  • The doctor from The Revisor, who can't even speak Russian.
  • Andrey Karlovich Stolz from Oblomov (a very positive example).
  • Ivan Arnol'dovich Bormental from Mikhai Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog (positive example too).
  • Erast Fandorin, his surname being a corruption of von Dorn. Somewhat similar to the name of the 18th century writer Denis Fonvizin, originally von Wiesen.
  • In Alexander Pushkin's novel The Captain's Daughter there is an old general, a German in Russian service, who speaks with a thick German accent, presumably for comic effect. When Catherine II appears in the story, her dialogue is rendered in proper, unaccented Russian.
    • Truth In Literature. The first thing Catherine did after coming to Russia is learning proper Russian.
    • A joke persists, nevertheless, that she managed to misspell щи (shchi, a kind of soup); the punchline asks how it is possible to make eight spelling errors in a two-letter word. (In German, this word would be transliterated Schtschi.)
    • Hermann, Villain Protagonist in The Queen of Spades.
  • Several of the important characters in the Book/mini-series Centennial are of this stock (having imigrated to the US in the late 19th century). Truth in Television, this troper's Grandmother grew up on the great plains and was of this stock (Prussian-Russian).
  • The Commissar by Sven Hassel. The protagonists pose as a special unit of Volga Germans when sneaking behind Soviet lines.
  • Von Koren from The Duel by Anton Chekhov.

Television

  • In the German police series Tatort, Münster Kommissar Frank Thiel's assistant Nadezhda Krusenstern is from a German-Russian family that emigrated to Germany after 1990.

Real Life

  • Alexander Herzen.
    • And for that matter, Peter III (Duke of Holstein-Gottorp before ascending to the Russian throne) and Catherine the Great (born in Stettin, wife of the former, had him murdered and took the throne herself).
      • Ironically, one may argue that she had a better claim to the throne. Holstein-Gottorps were connected to real Romanovs very distantly, while the princely house of Anhalt came directly from the Grand Prince of Tver. In other words, from a cadet branch of the previous Rurikid dinasty.
      • By that logic, half the Russian old nobility probably had a better claim to the throne. But between Peter the Great and Paul I, succession did not go by consanguinity; the czars had the right to name their own successors regardless of it. Thus Peter the Great was followed by his widow, Catherine I (born Marfa Skavronskaya, a commoner). Peter III was a grandson of Peter the Great (son of his daughter Anna).
  • Alfred Rosenberg, leading Nazi executed at Nuremberg, was a Baltic German.
  • Heinz Erhardt, one of Germany's greatest comedians, also was a Baltic German, born in Riga.

Notes

  1. YMMV on that. Official Soviet policy seemed to go back and forth, but there were some widely-published-by-the-official-Soviet-propaganda-ministry "gems" (for varying values of "gem") as this one from Ilya Eherenburg from 1942 (emphasis added): "Slavers - they would like to enslave our people. They take some Russians home, mistreat them, make them lose their wits by hunger, to the point that they eat grass and worms, and then a repulsive German with a stinking cigar can philosophise: "Are these perhaps human beings?" We know everything. We remember everything. We have understood: Germans are not human beings. Henceforth the word German means to us the most terrible curse. From now on the word German will trigger your rifle. We shall not speak any more. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day. If you think that instead of you, the man next to you will kill him, you have not understood the threat. If you do not kill the German, he will kill you. If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German before combat. If you leave a German alive, the German will hang a Russian and rape a Russian woman. If you kill one German, kill another - there is nothing more amusing for us than a heap of German corpses. Do not count days; do not count miles. Count only the number of Germans you have killed. Kill the German - this is your old mother's prayer. Kill the German - this is what your children beseech you to do. Kill the German - this is the cry of your Russian earth. Do not waver. Do not let up. Kill." To be fair, Eherenburg took flak from some Soviet officers on that and was denounced in Pravda just as the war was ending, possibly to try and downplay the excruciatingly bad PR that the USSR took on their mistreatment of the Germans in Berlin and elswhere.
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