Perceptions of Germany in Russia: Evidence from Narrative Interviews with Moscow University Students
This paper presents an analysis of focus groups and narrative interviews conducted with Moscow university students regarding their perceptions of Germany. It focuses on narratives about German culture, economic strength, history, Europeanness, migration, and Russian-German relations. The paper also discusses which sources participants draw on for their narrative construction, whether narratives converge or diverge among participants, and possible reasons for this convergence or divergence. In each case, the analysis focuses on the kind of image created of Germany and how this relates to the Russian self-image, thereby contributing to an understanding of the degree to which Germany constitutes an Other for Russian national identity. The paper argues that Russians see Germany as a positive Other with a close cultural connection to them, a status which is perceived as threatened by the recent refugee influx and Germany’s ties to the US, since both Muslim migrants and the US are strongly regarded as negative Others in Russia. It thereby contributes to the debate about both the dividing lines and the connections between East and West in Europe and the impact of political transformations and changing international relations on issues of national identity.
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