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Useful Notes / German Russians

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Right up until 1943, Germans were found right across Eastern Europe - and not just as Order Police or Wehrmacht troopers. They lived there as naturalised citizens. One consequence is that when reading accounts of the North-Eastern (Polish/Baltic) and South-Eastern (Belorussian/Ukrainian) Fronts of the First World War it is nigh-impossible to tell which side a general is on based just on his name. For instance, on the one side you might have General Paul von Hindenburg and on the other, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (or, as was the case during the disastrous—for the Russians—invasion of East Prussia by the Russians in 1914, German general Hermann von Francois—a descendant of French Huguenots who settled in Prussia, itself worthy of a trope—opposing his Russian counterpart, Paul von Rennenkampf, a Baltic German).

Much of this ethnic mix-up dates back to the time of Peter the Great, who recruited a great many German artisans and nobles to as part of his plans for modernizing Russia. They also formed the nobility and gentry of the Baltic provinces which he conquered from the Swedish Empire (This is one reason why the city of St. Petersburg has a Germanic namenote ). (Incidentally, the Baltic Germans predate the rise of the Russian Empire by centuries—many German merchants, mercenaries, and crusaders settled in the Baltic regions from the High Middle Ages on). Since the direct line of Romanovs was finished on Peter's daughter Elisabeth Petrovna, Russian throne was occupied by descendants of his other daughters married into Germany, who were effectively ethnic Germans (Catherine the Great was (also) born as a German princess); with their encouragement, a large number of Germans emigrated to St. Petersburg and made colonies in other parts of Russia, including a region around part of the Volga River (becoming known as the Volga Germans) and, later on, modern Southern Ukraine (Novorossiya). 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 prove 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, the First World War 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 are imperialistic brutes and monsters. Surprisingly (or maybe not), this was strictly limited to wartime media, and even in the Second World War official propaganda encouraged differentiating between Nazis and Germans as a people—as Stalin said in 1945, as his armies were marching into heart of Germany, "Hitlers come and go, but the German people go on forever." Germany's Vernichtungskrieg to totally annihilate the Soviet peoples disinclined Soviet citizens to actually go along with that, however, as in their anger many found it difficult to remind themselves that there was a difference between the inherently genocidal Nazis and the genocidal-for-now ordinary Germans note 

Unrelated to Commie Nazis.


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  • Jung Freud from Gunbuster is hinted to be one as she's from the USSR, but has a German name.
  • KikoRiki:
    • Pin is a character of the German origin in the Russian setting who speaks with a very prominent and stereotypical Herr Doktor accent.
    • Carlin is a more subtle example, since there is no indication of his ethnicity, but one of the episodes reveals that the original name of his family was "von Carlin".

    Fan Works 
  • Mello from Death Note is said to be this in some fanworks, based on his real name Mihael Keehl, although no one is sure of his exact ethnic background.

  • Hoffman, an old bum from the Peterburg's graveyard in Brother (1997).

  • An old one, going as far back as The Napoleonic Wars, inquires:
    — Why could Napoleon never conquer Russia?
    — Don't you know? A Frenchman could never be a Russian Tsar! The Russian Tsar could only be German!note 
  • Another one, less politically correct:
    Russia and Germany has nothing to divide. Except Poland.
  • And yet another, this time slightly risqué:
    When the court historians informed Alexander III that he's most probably descended not from Peter III, but from on of Catherine the Great's numerous lovers, Count Saltykov,note  he proclaimed:
    — Thank God, we're Russians!
    When the competing bunch of historians refuted that claim, The Tsar bellowed:
    — Thank God, we're lawful!note 

  • Crime and Punishment has the Marmeladov landlady Amalia Ivanovna Lippewechsel with her Funetik Aksent and generally petty and obnoxious personality.
  • 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". His friends mock him for never gambling, instead spending his nights watching them play cards for hours, and call him a typical German when he says that he doesn't want to risk the little money he has.
  • Several of the important characters in the Book/mini-series Centennial are of this stock (having immigrated to the US in the late 19th century).
  • 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.
  • In the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn novel August, 1914, the protagonist wonders what the nationality of the Russian Army invading East Prussia really is, noting that it is led by a bunch of generals with German names like von Rennenkampf.
    • Of course, their antagonist, the commander of the German forces opposing them, was von François, a descendant of French Huguenots in German service.
    • When the protagonist comes face to face with General von François, the German asks whether the former is in fact Russian (with implication that the latter thinks he might be (ethnic) German).
  • In Runaways in Novorossiya, a novel by Danilevsky, many characters are German businessmen.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Wolfgang Bogdanow from Sense8 has a German name, but a very stereotypical Russian last name. Also his relatives have Russian names like Anton, Sergei and Irina, and his uncle is in the The Mafiya. The funeral he attends is also Russian Orthodox. Since he lives in the former East Berlin, where there is a sizable community from Russia and the former Soviet Union who now have German citizenship, it makes sense.


    Video Games 
  • Azur Lane features Anthropomorphic Personifications of various World War II warships serving alternate universe versions of their original nations, with the Soviet Union represented as the Northern Parliament. One of the Northern Parliament's shipgirls happens to be Tallinn, whose real life counterpart was originally a German Admiral Hipper-class ship named Lützow that was sold to the Soviets during the brief period when the Nazis and Soviets weren't at war with each other. As such, her Meaningful Appearance combines a Russian-style uniform with a physical appearance similar to that of fellow Admiral Hipper-class shipgirl Prinz Eugen (most noticeably the single streak of red hair) to signify her status as an originally Iron Blood (aka German) girl working for the Northern Parliament. This also makes her a Token Enemy Minority, as the Northern Parliament and Iron Blood are at war like the real USSR and Nazi Germany.

    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).
      • 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).
    • When you get down to it, due to the Romanovs marrying German nobility almost exclusively, Nicholas II was only something like 1/256th Russian.
  • 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.
  • Poet, satirist and artist Robert Gernhardt was born in Reval (Talinn).
  • Alisa Freindlich, Soviet and Russian actress.
  • Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg.
  • Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp, the formalist who invented Propp's Functions of Folktales was born to a German family, studied Russian and German philology and was a college teacher of German.
  • Olga Leonardovna Knipper-Chekhova, actress and wife of Anton Chekhov was from a German family settled in Russia
    • Her niece Olga Chekhova (she was married to Chekhov's nephew Mikhail, an actor) was an actress herself, spent in Germany most of her life. She had good relationships with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, but she was also rumored to be a Soviet spy.
    • Lev Knipper was Olga Knipper's nephew and Olga Chekova's younger brother. He was a gifted composer, who famously wrote Polyushko Pole (also know as Meadowlands), one of the most popular Russian folk song.
  • Alexander Schmorell from the German anti-Nazi student group known as White Rose. Schmorell was born in Orenburg, Russia to an ethnic German father and a Russian mother. After the Russian Revolution, his family moved to Germany and he grew up considering himself as both German and Russian. He was even baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church and now glorified as a Passion bearer outside of Russia.
  • German pop-star Helene Fischer was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia by a family of ethnic Germans who moved to Germany after the end of the USSR. Her paternal grandparents were Volga Germans deported to Siberia in 1941 as stated by Stalin during the Great Patriotic War.
  • Swiss optician Theodor Schwabe, who settled in Moscow in the mid-19th century, is commonly credited with jumpstarting the Russian optical industry, and his workshop, after more than a century and half of transfers, mergers, acquisitions, and restructurings is now known as a Urals Optical-Mechanical Plant and is a core of the Russian precision mechanics conglomerate named after the man himself, the Schwabe Holding. This enormous company is active in fields as diverse as aircraft engines, robotics, baby incubators and other medical technology, not to mention their core business — optics.