by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 14
April 2022
Reaction
10:35

The pro-Putin protests giving Germany a headache

Nearly 1000 demonstrators paraded Russian flags through Berlin
by Katja Hoyer
Pro-Russian protesters in Berlin

On the day that the horrific images of the Russian atrocities in Bucha went around the world, a different set of pictures also made for uncomfortable headlines in Germany: around 400 vehicles paraded Russian flags through Berlin.

Ostensibly, the 900 demonstrators had draped their vehicles in the Russian tricolour and took to the streets of the German capital in order to draw attention to what they perceive as growing hostility towards Russians in Germany. But the reality is that the community they claim to speak for is diverse and deeply conflicted about the war in Ukraine.

It is a surprisingly little known fact (outside of Germany at least) that there are well over two million Russian native speakers in Germany. The estimated overall figure for people with Russian roots in the country ranges between three and six million. The great majority have emigrated since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but many have roots that go back to the Cold War or the Second World War.

This vast community has always been a broad mix of people. There are the so-called Russia Germans, who see themselves as ethnic Germans born in the territory of the Soviet Union and there are Russian Jews with family links in Germany. Both of these groups often want to be seen as Germans rather than Russians. They usually speak German and integrate quickly.

But there are also Russian intellectuals who have fled persecution, family members of Russian Germans and economic migrants — groups that have tended to retain a Russian identity. In addition, there are also many immigrants from other Eastern European nations, including Ukraine (145,500 Ukrainians already lived in Germany in 2020, now the numbers are much higher due to the influx of refugees).

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the loyalties of this vast and diverse community have come under intense scrutiny. After Berlin Mayor Franzistka Giffey had condemned the “motorcade of shame” in her city, a similar spectacle with 190 cars played out in the south-German city of Stuttgart last weekend. The local Minister President Winfried Kretschmann said that he couldn’t prevent such unpalatable events as they had been legally registered, but he found them “difficult to stomach in the current situation.”

As Germany has come under enormous international pressure to do more to help Ukraine in its struggle against the increasingly savage onslaught by Russian forces, images of Russian flags being paraded through German streets are not a great look. But the reality is that the instigators are only a one fraction of a vast group of people with Russian backgrounds — and many of them are egged on directly by Moscow.

Bernd Fabrittius, Federal Commissioner for Ethnic German Resettlers, says that “there are individual activists on the Russian side who deliberately create a narrative that Russians and Russia Germans are not safe in Germany any longer since the outbreak of war. Among their number are, for example,  the “German-Russian Brotherhood”, a subsidiary of Putin’s ‘Night Wolves’” (the latter is a motorcycle club with close ties to Putin and a history of nationalist activism).

While it can’t be denied that there is a vociferous pro-Putin segment among the Russian community in Germany, the opposite is true as well. I recently spoke to my old Russian teacher from East Germany again who told me her Russian daughter-in-law had just taken in a Ukrainian cousin plus her friend and her daughter. This is a typical example of the close family links of this community to both Russia and Ukraine. Most see the conflict as a ‘Brother’s War’ and just want it to end.

Moscow’s clash with Europe is mirrored in Germany’s Russian community. The motorcades of the last couple of weeks won’t be the last time we see the conflict spill out into German streets.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
9 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
7 months ago

Ah yes, ‘diversity is our strength’.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Richard Hopkins
Richard Hopkins
7 months ago

As George Orwell wrote, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
7 months ago

There was much consternation about a similar motorcade in Ireland recently. It made it into international news. The poor Guardian newspaper got very upset over it. Turns out, it was only ten cars (with flags) taking a spin on the motorway around Dublin. Ten cars out of a population of nearly five million people. It would have been better to ignore it. Whoever they were, they were awful eejits.

Last edited 7 months ago by Lennon Ó Náraigh
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago

Like the handful of trans activists in this country that have successfully infiltrated the culture and changed government, education and health policy. They’re awful eejits too.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
7 months ago

Who ‘see themselves as ethnicity Germans’? Does the author think such a view is a fantasy? Despite the cleansing of Germans from Soviet occupied Europe. by the late 1979s some 3.5% of the USSR was German, and carried ID cards to prove it. While another 3.5% were Jewish. Does Hoyer dispute this? Or just careless journalism?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

I thought he was talking about Germans of Russian ethnic origin?

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
7 months ago

She.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
7 months ago

WRT Bucha, have you seen the video footage of Ukranian soldiers dragging bodies TOWARDS their locations as shown in the “massacre footage”.

Hmmmm