National identity in divided and unified Germany : continuity and change

Detta är en avhandling från Örebro : Örebro universitetsbibliotek

Sammanfattning: This dissertation deals with the construction, maintenance and change of national identities in divided and unified Germany. Following World War II, Germany was divided in two parts. For a period of more than 40 years, two German states developed in separation from each other, and because of the horrors of the recent past, both states badly needed to develop new national self-images. Using a four-fold model of ‘national identity’, this study starts out by outlining these different processes of identity formation and nation-building. In the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the communist regime desperately tried to foster a distinct socialist GDR identity among the East Germans. In the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the successful economic and political development led to the emergence of a new, post-war national identity. The Berlin Wall was opened on November 9, 1989, and Germany was formally reunified not even a year later, on October 3, 1990. The past decade has shown, however, that Germany has had difficulties in becoming ‘informally’ unified. Drawing on large scale public opinion surveys, this dissertation examines if differences between East Germans and West Germans today are primarily ascribable to the different historical experiences, or rather an outcome of the uneasy unification process. The findings of this study indicate that the East German nation-building project essentially was a failure, since it did not create support for the GDR as a political system. At the same time, the unique experience of living in the GDR shaped a certain ‘East German identity’ and political culture, different from the kind of German identity and political culture that emerged in the FRG. But the findings of this study also suggest that an East German identity in unified Germany should not be reduced to a lingering ‘legacy of the past’. It is, at the same time, an outcome of the unification process itself. A new East German self-awareness has developed as a result of the hardships and challenges posed by the uneasy transformation from a state socialist political system to a liberal democratic system. Consequently, when it comes to the German national identity issue, ‘inner unification’ remains to be seen.

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