BERLIN - There will always be enduring stereotypes. Ask a German about Russians and you’ll hear that they are sociable party animals and serious vodka drinkers – the vodka thing being a cliché that is now three hundred years old.
But what do Germans really think of Russians? A poll conducted by Forsa, the German social research and statistical analysis institute, says that four-fifths of Germans actually have a very positive image of Russians. Eighty-eight percent consider them to be hospitable, and 78% say Russians are courageous.
However, 45% believe their fellow citizens probably evaluate Russians negatively, based on the big social differences in Russia and the limits put on democracy.
Regarding economic relations between Germany and Russia, though, there is a consensus: 90% of Germans polled consider these relations to be of great importance.
Another survey conducted by German energy giant E.on shows the importance of personal contacts and more in-depth knowledge in forming realistic ideas about other countries and their people.
E.on is the largest German investor in Russia, and its questionnaire polled both German and Russian employees, as well as partner firms and artists. The results show that Germans and Russians have a high level of interest in each others’ people, as well as in cultural and social possibilities.
All those polled in the E.on survey said they wanted to learn more about the other country. Germans, for example, stated that Siberia's Lake Baikal, the world’s largest reservoir of fresh water, was on their “must-see” list of places to visit. Many also said they wanted to experience the “White Nights” of St. Petersburg within the next few years.
German participants also said it was important for them to know Russian art better, including writers like Mikhail Lermontov, Mikhail Bulgakov and Alexander Grin and composers like Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninov. In this context, the Bolshoi Theater and the Tretjakov Gallery were among the places people said they wanted to visit when they went to Moscow.
The results also showed that most of those polled -- from both countries, but especially in Russia -- believed that getting to know people and building trust were essential for successful collaboration. Germans and Russians both said that they considered that the present level of joint activity was both productive and highly educational.
Many mentioned that the combination of the German appetite for functionality combined with the Russian gift for improvisation led to successes. Great importance was attached to German helpfulness and Russian generosity and openness.
What Germans liked less, though, was dealing with the Russian bureaucracy. Russians, meanwhile, said they would welcome a little more humor and flexibility from Germans.
Gleb Blas, an artist born in 1980 in Kiev and who now lives in Münster, Germany, sums it up with all the requisite irony when he says that the Germans are the ones who “plan too far ahead,” while the Russians start planning “when it’s already too late.”