The Germans and Gorbachev

Abgeschlossenes Projekt

Employees (IfZ):  Prof. Dr. Hermann Wentker

This project, which began in 2012, researches the perception of Mikhail Gorbachev and the changes in the Soviet Union from the perspective of divided Germany. As head of party and state, Gorbachev was a driving force behind political change in Europe. While he originally only sought to bring about reforms in the Soviet Union and among its allies in order to preserve its status as a superpower in the future, his pronouncements and reform measures would soon have an unintended, extensive impact not only on his own country and bloc but also on the West.

This study centers on the processes of change in West and East Germany between the mid-1980s and early 1990s with regard to the perception of Gorbachev and the Soviet Union as well as to the relations between the two German societies and the new Soviet leader. This is therefore a double and intertwined project involving the history of perception and history of relations, with the relations between the two German states playing a central role. West Germans particularly viewed the events in the Soviet Union from the perspective of how it would affect the GDR; to East Germans the West German view was also of significance due to the communicative space shared by both German societies despite the country’s division. A wide variety of sources are used here to analyze the “Gorbachev discourse” in the two German states and in unified Germany until 1991: this includes the publications of West German journalists and experts on the Soviet Union as well as press materials, survey results, official government documents (when available), the documents of political parties, documents from former GDR archives, and those of the Stasi Records Agency (BStU) in particular, as well as the samizdat publications of GDR opposition groups.

Publications within the project

Hermann Wentker

Die Deutschen und Gorbatschow.

Berlin 2020


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