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La Prusse n'est pas un État qui possède une armée, c'est une armée qui a conquis une nation.[1]
Honoré-Gabriel comte Mirabeau

Prussia (Preußen in German), named after the duchy and former Ordenstaat but born of the margravate and electorate of Brandenburg (coincidentally by merging with said Ordenstaat, by then secularized), became the dominant state in Germany (having more than half of Germany's land area and population) by the time it was unified (by Prussia, incidentally) in 1871. From 1701 until the end of World War One in 1918, it was known as "The Kingdom of Prussia", and post World War One, "The Free State of Prussia". Because "republic" sounded too French. After World War II Prussia simply ceased to exist after being ethnic cleansed by an oddly similar sounding state [2] as part of its Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Any one you meet today of Prussian decent is either an immigrant or a descendant of an exile.

For Hollywood though, Prussia, or rather, the Prussian stereotype, lives on into The Present Day as an alternative to Oktoberfest (which, incidentally, is Bavarian). The Prussians/Germans are depicted as all having bullet-shaped heads, crew cuts, Pickelhaube helmets, impressive mustaches, monocles, duelling scars, "corpse discipline" (the kind of discipline that would make a corpse jump up and stand to attention), "und veys hof makink hyu tok". Not to mention Nice Hats.

Ironically some member of the old conservative, aristocratic Prussian officer class (who despised Nazism) were heavily involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, but it doesn't stop Hollywood from confusing the two.

Also ironically, the stereotype is to a certain extent a German invention, specifically, a southern and western (and often Roman Catholic, as opposed to the Lutheran north) German one [3]. The traits of militarism, arrogant aristocrats, duels, and "veys hof makink hyu tohk" (German has many strong dialects, so the silly Prussian accent can be invoked in German as well as English) were ascribed to the Prussian northerners by Bavarian, Rhenish, and Swabian (not to mention Austrian) southerners for a long time before the lands which form modern Germany were unified under northern leadership and the archetype went international.

Wilhelm II, pictured, Kaiser (Emperor) of Germany and King of Prussia from 1888 to 1918 is probably the most famous Prussian in popular imagination, mostly for being the "bad guy" of WWI. Well, he did show up in The Simpsons once.

Another notable Prussian was Otto Von Bismarck, a real-life Magnificent Bastard with a Magnificent Hat to prove it. He is at Number 9 on Germany's list of its top 200, because we all love a Magnificent Bastard. Despite his being deceased. This is undoubtably part of his plan. Just what part, we may never know.

Earlier on, Prussia's dominance was built in the eighteenth century on its trademark militarism, which was summarised by Count Mirabeau as "some countries possess armies, but Prussia is an army that happens to possess a country." This reached its Crowning Moment of Awesome in the Seven Years War, when Prussia essentially stood alone (though subsidied by Great Britain) against Austria, Saxony, Russia, France and Sweden. All at once. And not only survived, but kept all of its pre-war territory. That's why Frederick II is called the Great. Notably the country was completely smashed flat by Napoleon in 1806, but made a Back From the Brink rally, kicked ass at the Battle of the Nations and Waterloo (despite turning up late) and was set on the road to domination of Germany.

See Prussian Kings for more info regarding Prussia's kings. Compare and contrast Imperial Germany. Also related to Fatherland.

Examples of Prussia include:


Anime and Manga

Literature

  • The planet on which the plot of Poul Anderson's "Among Thieves" is set is very clearly Prussia IN SPACE - inhabited by Germanic warriors led by a Junker-like aristocracy. The story's protagonist, a wily Chessmaster who is clearly modeled on Bismark, manages to outwit and destroy the story's true villains - a culture of ruthless sadistic cannibals who delight in genocide - and gets the reader's full-hearted applause.

Comic Books

  • DC Comics has Baron Bedlam, an agent of Darkseid who fits the stereotype to a T. Why an alien "god" from another galaxy models himself after a bygone Earth culture is anybody's guess. (Note the character was created by Jack Kirby, who had a penchant for creating anachronistic characters.)

Commercials

  • The latest Citroen ad (that's right, a French car), "Unmistakeably German- Made in France" invokes this one in spades. "Ride of the Valkyries", fencing, blond bloke and the Brandenburg Gate.

Film

Newspaper Comics

  • Famous sports cartoonist Bill Gallo of the New York Daily News memorably renamed infamous Yankee owner George Steinbrenner as Prussian General von Steingrabber, complete with a thick accent and a pointy helmet. It became so popular that Steinbrenner posed as his Prussian alterego for a photoshoot.

MMORPGs

  • City of Heroes Big Bad and resident xanatos Nemesis is actually from Prussia. He uses only the most state of the art steampunk technology and even dresses his Evil Minions in Prussian military gear. Since he's a very high level villain, it can be quite humbling to have your team wiped by a bunch of guys looking like they belong to a marching band.

Tabletop Games

  • The Neu Swabian League, a supranational alliance of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland that's one of the Full Thrust superpowers, is Prussia IN SPACE complete with an emblem that's the Imperial Eagle given a sci-fi makeover. In an aversion of Prussia's usual portrayal, they are as close to "good guys" as you're getting in a Grey and Grey Morality setting.
  • In the tabletop RPG Castle Falkenstein, Prussia is the Evil Empire. Bismarck is basically The Dragon to the setting's Big Bad, The Adversary, Lord of the Unseelie.
  • The Chaos Dwarfs in Warhammer use mostly Mesopotamian imagery, with elaborate helmets, ziggurat temples, Persian style beards and bull-like monsters. But on second look, they are a rigidly disciplined race with advanced industry and love of firepower, especially heavy artillery. And many of their helmets have spikes on top. You can even find an old model of an artillery sergeant wearing a monocle.
    • The Reikland, political capital of the Empire, is strongly based on Prussia, keeping with the Germanic theme of the Empire.

Video Games

Web Comics

Notes

  1. Prussia is not a state that possesses an army, but an army that has conquered a state.
  2. technically not, that state was called USSR
  3. ironically, Prussian occupied a great deal of Western Germany after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 -- but the Westerners referred to themselves as „Muß-Preußen" -- "Have-To-Be-Prussians"
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