Unifying separate countries offers varied unique opportunities for growth but also gives way to complex challenges. For this module, write a one page paper explaining why the unification of Germany into one country (combining East and West Germany) proved to be more of a burden to the German people than expected. Base comments on what you’ve learned so far in your lecture notes and other sources you find helpful. Cite sources in proper APA format.
Module 03 – German and Russian Political Relations
Acronyms for Germany
Germany specializes in acronyms – for political parties, groups, labor unions, even East and West Germany. For easy reference, click here to print a copy of the German acronym table.
Germany is faced with many challenges in the 21st century. Please pay close attention to the following questions:
- Why did it take Germany so long to unify, and how did that delay affect German behavior once it did come together under Prussia?
- Why did Germany’s first attempt at democracy give way to Hitler (1889 – 1945) and his Nazi regime, which was responsible for the deaths of millions?
- How did the division of Germany and other events after World War II help create the remarkably prosperous and stable democratic Federal Republic of Germany in the West but also the stagnant and repressive German Democratic Republic in the East?
Germany Today – Moving Beyond Memory
People today who remember, are still influenced by their World War II experience. Veterans and war movies may not be as ubiquitous on television as they once were, but cable channels bring us nearly everything. As the last members of America’s “greatest generation” die, they still influence the impressions held by baby boomers and their children. The fascination with the evil image of Adolph Hitler can still be found in junior high school history classes and some fringe political groups.
The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. provides a chilling experience for those too young to recall the death camps. If that were not enough, most of us have memories of the Berlin Wall. Some of us have friends who, as children went on family “picnics” in Berlin before 1961, packing only what would fit in the picnic basket to take into an exile of freedom in the West. These are powerful images. They may be helpful in partially explaining how Germany got to where it is today. On the other hand, they are not too helpful in explaining how Germany functions today. Somehow, if we are going to deal with the reality of a working, liberal democracy in Europe’s largest, richest state, we will have to get beyond the images that fill our collective cultural memories.
Change in Political Culture
Political culture is probably one of the most appropriate ways to approach a study of Germany. The anthropologist’s vision of culture is of a rather stable, slowly evolving nearly organic entity. However, the last century of German political history offers an example of political culture that has changed dramatically three or four times (depending on how you wish to classify changes). It’s also worth noting that at the present time, the change has led to remarkably positive results.
Leadership for a New Germany
Leadership is another element of politics that can be enlightened by the German example. If we can point to De Gaulle in France as a pivotal figure of modern French politics, we must count several post-war leaders in Germany as similarly critically important. Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl are in the first rank, but Willy Brandt and a number of other important figures stand just behind them.
The economic miracle of rebuilding West Germany, thanks in large part to the Cold War-inspired Marshall Fund investments, must be part of the story as well. It certainly plays a part in understanding the different paths followed by West and East Germany toward 1989. Here’s a place to attempt to measure the consequences of economic success on political stability. As messy as that may be (because of the differences in the functioning of the states in East and West Germany) it’s worth a look. The East Germany state may have been repressive and authoritarian, but the strivings of individual souls within that political culture had a lot in common with that of the West. How else does one explain the flood of refugees before the Berlin Wall was built, or the hundreds of escape attempts in the first years of that wall’s existence, or of the huge rallies and marches, led by religious leaders, in the late 1980s demanding democracy from some of the world’s most undemocratic Communist leaders?
The economic and leadership issues were jointly relevant to politics in Germany in 2005. The slowing of economic growth and the perceived lack of leadership by Chancellor Schröder led to his party’s losses in local elections in the spring of that year. He called for elections to be held in September. Elections were held, and Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader and also a woman who grew up in East Germany, became the new leader of Germany.
Finally, in Germany, we see not only the interventionist state that has offered a progressive social welfare program since the late nineteenth century, but we see corporatist arrangements between the government, businesses, and unions that appear to have led to social stability, high economic productivity, some of the world’s highest wages, and social benefits nearly unrivaled anywhere in the world. How do political scientists explain those factors in a world of global pressures, economic liberalization, and European Union?
As always, be sure to catch up on today’s news of this module’s country – Germany. Try searching your college online library for international news on Germany.
Module 03 – German and Russian Political Relations
As you study politics in Russia for this module, note the following key questions:
- How and why did the Soviet Union Collapse?
- How did its legacy affect the way Russia has evolved?
- How will Russia adapt to its new international role in which it remains a major power in some military arenas but is increasingly buffeted by global economic forces beyond its control?
Leadership in Russia
Perhaps more than any country in our study of comparative politics, individual political figures matter in contemporary Russia. Historically, you can use the names of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin to tell the story of modern Russia. There may be more names to take into account than there are for China (Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Zemin, Hu Joint), but the Soviet Union had a 30-year head start on communism. As you look at the current Russian leadership there are a few questions to consider:
- Will Putin and his administration be able to continue to strengthen and stabilize the Russian state?
- Can Putin build stronger and more broadly accepted institutions if the economy continues to flounder?
The Ethnic Factor
Knowing the importance of personal leadership provides some clues about how the Russian government and politics work today, but there are other forces at work too. Ethnic politics may often be overshadowed by economic crisis, but it seems ready to burst into open conflict in many places. Chechnya is only the most violent example. In addition, Russian nationalism is still a strong force, as is the desire for the custodial aspects of Communism. In the spring of 2005, Putin expressed the power of these sentiments when he lamented the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Economic and Political Fate
The transition away from a command economy is a difficult one, and Russia is suffering during the transition. Exacerbating the problem is the role played by the so-called “Russian mafia.” Whether organized criminals are as organized in Russia as in other places, the level of illegal activity appears high, and the links to legitimate business and political activity seem powerful.
From the perspective of the Western industrialized democracies, a viable political party system seems to be a key to the success of democratic regimes. The personalized “floating parties” of Russia don’t look like the successful systems of the West. Neither does Putin’s personalized vehicle for attracting votes.
Internal forces are not the only ones at work. If environmentalists are correct, Mother Nature is going to come calling on the Russians soon and demand an accounting. The disaster around the Aral Sea may be the next site of nature’s “demand for payment.” Russia’s neighbors may well be stand-ins for Mother Nature. Norway is already demanding changes in the nickel smelter on its northern border with Russia.
Globalization and Russia – the Demands
There is less foreign investment in Russia as a whole than in most countries. Hence, if global forces aren’t making environmental demands, there are economic ones. And those demands will probably require more than cash. They will require more restructuring. Controversy seems to follow most of them, so you will be able to find examples reported in the media regularly. Western cultural influences, from missionaries to New York advertising firms, appear everywhere, especially in European Russia. Foreign political and economic advisors as well as academics from the U.S. work for government bureaus and politicians. The International Monetary Fund demands market reforms and offers loans to prop up the economy and the government. But what demands can be met? What demands will be met? Putin’s response has been to try to strengthen the state. Critics have argued that he’s weakening democracy in the process. At the same time, rising oil prices during the Iraq war have reduced economic pressures on the Putin government. Some international loans have been paid back ahead of schedule.
It is widely known that popular sentiment was never given much thought in the Soviet Union. The USSR has been described as a state without a demand structure in any part of its culture. If that’s true, how will all the nations of Russia respond to the attempts to create a market economy and democratic political system? The Summer Institute of Linguistics lists 99 languages spoken in Russia. See Ethnologue, 15th edition (http://www.ethnologue.com) Can we expect any unity to come from so much diversity?
As always, be sure to catch up on today’s news of this module’s country – Russia. Try searching in your college online library for international news on Russian politics and government.
Hauss, C. (2015). Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges, 9th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://ambassadored.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781305161757/