Similar to most of my classmates in this thread, I do not know much about Germany and its complicated history. In AP World History, I learned about Germany taking part in World War I (but not much about its role in that war), its transformation into the Weimar Republic, and, of course, Nazi Germany and the huge part it played in World War II. But after that? My knowledge of the division of Germany into East and West basically consists of the fact that the Berlin Wall existed and was eventually toppled in 1989. So, practically nothing.
I was initially surprised that there was still so much inequality and tension between eastern and western Germany today, thirty years after reunification, but I quickly realized that I should not have. Reunification never goes smoothly—just take a look at the news anytime and one could see how the relationship between Hong Kong and China is going. And although thirty decades seem to me to be a pretty long period of time—probably because I was not even alive thirty years ago—it is not even a blip in the context of history and nations. The United States have been unified for more than a hundred and fifty years, and even today, there are still deep ideological differences between the North and South.
I think President Steinmeier generally tried to be positive about the reunification. He repeatedly congratulated the German people, saying that they should be “rightfully” proud of their achievement. And, honestly, they should be. The reunification of Germany was largely done peacefully through non-violent initiatives and demonstrations. This was worlds better than a lot of other reunifications I could think of; most of those were achieved through violence and war.
But President Steinmeier was also right about there still being work to be done. At this point, the divide between two parts of Germany has simmered into subtle and systemic discrimination against the “Ossi,” who are by and large underrepresented in national matters, such as sports teams and politics. Many former East Germans also feel like they were forced to adapt to West German society, and that their counterparts do not respect their culture.
To that end, I think that there needs to be some sort of dialogue going on between east and west, particularly between individuals. It is one thing to read about eastern or western Germans in an article or a book, but that does not really replace real, live conversation (whether that be email, social media, or face-to-face), as it is difficult to connect to a person or a group when you have never interacted with them in any significant way. And this does not just apply to Germany. I especially feel that Americans would greatly benefit from this too, especially because ever since the COVID-19 crisis began—or even since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, or even earlier than that—the United States have begun to feel increasingly like several floundering parts of a broken and disparate whole.
As for the topics, I am rather interested in Russian-German relations today, especially after the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his treatment in Berlin. Obviously, East Germany used to be very close to Soviet Russia, but I was wondering if there is a difference of views toward Russia between eastern and western Germany today. How do Germans view Navalny’s poisoning? How will this affect relations between Germany and Russia?