In the past, Russians have often seen Germany as European—positively connoted—but not as Western—a negatively connoted concept. Recent developments including the Ukraine crisis have put the special partnership between Germany and Russia into question, and Russian perceptions of Germany have become more negative. Have these developments shifted narratives so that Russians now see Germany as part of the West? This article presents results of interviews conducted with Russian students on their perceptions of Germany. While they describe Germany and Europe as dominated by the West, interview participants also narrate Germany as naturally connected with Russia: they expect it to shake off the influence of the West and return to its former close relationship. Thus, recent developments have indeed changed Russian perceptions. Germany is seen as Western in spite of itself, unable to follow its own interests, which are assumed to lie in closer cooperation with Russia.
Maren Rohe is a recent PhD graduate from the University of Birmingham's Institute for German Studies (igs). Currently an independent researcher, she was a Teaching Fellow in Politics at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. Her PhD research investigated perceptions of Germany in Poland and Russia, using focus groups and in-depth interviews conducted with university students in Warsaw and Moscow, as well as media articles. She holds a ba in European Studies from Maastricht University and an ma in Euroculture (double degree) from the University of Göttingen and Jagiellonian University Kraków.