Berlin and Vienna: Reassessing their Relationship in German Culture

in German Politics and Society
Author: Frank Trommler
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This article is a discussion of the relationship of Berlin and Vienna as cultural capitals. It acknowledges the distinctive Austrian cultural and intellectual traditions yet is based on the realization that the unique achievements and traditions as well as the public standing of these two cities can only be fully understood within the larger confines of German culture where they constituted a polarity, effectively confirming its diverse and regional character. Discussing this polarity necessarily leads beyond the strictly national definitions of culture that became part of German politics, especially under Nazi rule. And it leads beyond the stereotypes about the competition between Prussia and Austria, between the Wilhelmine Reich and the Habsburg Monarchy, a political competition whose significance for cultural identities was arguably smaller than what historians projected. Though not eclipsing other city rivalries such as those between Berlin and Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, Vienna and Budapest, the polarity of Vienna and Berlin seems to have become a crucial ingredient in labeling German culture multifaceted and blessed with alternatives.

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