a Thomas Oppermann (Thomas Oppermann), Vice-President of the Bundestag (SPD):

75 years ago the unconditional surrender of the German Reich marked the end not only of the Second world war in Europe, but also the most terrible and bloody battles between Russians and Germans in the entire history of relations between the two countries.

In only one of the last major battle on the Seelow heights, located less than an hour’s drive East of Berlin, from 16 to 19 April 1945, killed at least 33 thousand Soviet and 12 thousand German soldiers.

8 may 1945, Germany lay in ruins. Nazi Germany finally lost the war. The day of the surrender of the German Wehrmacht, however, was also the day of liberation from the cruel Nazi rule. And then it took four decades to German President Richard von weizsäcker (Richard von Weizsäcker) clearly and on behalf of the majority of Germans has recognized this historical fact.

No other nation involved in world war II, did not suffer such casualties as the Soviet Union. Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and all the other Nations attacked by Germany, the Soviet Union, according to historians, lost 20 to 27 million soldiers and civilians. Someone calls even the figure of 40 million.

There is no doubt that the German attack on the Soviet Union was a grave war crime. Historian Hannes Heer (Hannes Heer) called “a war of extermination on the part of the Wehrmacht” “the most barbaric Chapter of German and Austrian history along with Auschwitz”. And according to his colleagues Ernst Nolte (Ernst Nolte), it was “the worst aggressive, parabolically and devastating war in modern history”.

How deep injuries she left, according to a recent study of political attitudes of Russian youth, conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung). Most of the young people is the main historic event called the Second world war, which this “ranking” significantly ahead of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

<a href = "Ice age" began in 2014

The trenches remaining in Russia after the German attack, was cemented during the cold war. Despite the policy of détente of the German Chancellor Willy Brandt (Willy Brandt), the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, German Chancellor for the first time were invited to the Victory Parade in Moscow in 2005. Then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (Gerhard Schröder) called it “a great honor and a proof of confidence to the German people”. Vladimir Putin said in his turn: “Today Russia and Germany are close to each other as never before.”

Today, 15 years later, the German-Russian relationship, unfortunately, is not in the best condition. Both the Russians and the Europeans (in casinos��and the Germans) are very far from implementing great ideas by creating a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which presented Vladimir Putin in September 2001, the Bundestag. And NATO expansion to the East, Russia is perceived as an infringement of their interests in the security sphere.

In 2014, our relationship began the “ice age”. The illegal annexation of Crimea has led to serious conflict between Russia and the West and to the mutual sanctions. On German-Russian relations, successfully developing in the Wake of euphoria after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the cold war, was dealt a severe blow.

The 75th anniversary of the end of the war — a signal that we need a new attempt to improve relations between Russia and Germany.

However, a new convergence is hardly possible without an end to the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine that was held in the Christmas of 2019, was the first glimmer of hope. But the annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk from Russia continues to aggravate Russia’s relations with Ukraine and the West. Negotiations in the “Norman format” in which France and Germany for six years playing the role of mediator, moving with great difficulty.

In addition, Russia and Germany seriously disagree on such important issues as freedom of Assembly, freedom of speech and art. Opposition parties in Russia do not have any significant freedoms and real opportunities for participation in government.

Nothing will change in this respect, and the new Russian Constitution. Sort of the lumen is the production of “the Decameron” on the stage of the Deutsches theater in Berlin, which in March had finally managed to bring to life the Director Kirill Serebrennikov, which represents a critical opposition to the art. However, it is still forbidden to leave limits of Moscow, but the court revoked his house arrest, and he conducted rehearsals with actors, specially arrived for this purpose in the Russian capital.

Putin has always explained the “crackdown” and the creation in Russia of the so-called “managed democracy” that considers it his duty to give the country a new stability. Indeed, for many Russians of the 1990-ies were a decade of uncertainty: hyperinflation led to the surge of poverty, after several coup attempts the country was on the brink of civil war, and the oligarchs had enriched themselves at the expense of privatized enterprises.

All this has left deep scars and led to the fact that, according to opinion polls, many Russians and now the dream of a “strong state”. But the country has already become strong enough, Putin could give his fellow citizens the pain��e freedom, not fearing for the notorious “stability”.

However, we in the West can and should contribute to the improvement of relations with Russia. Very alarming results of a research Fund named Ernst Ebert-Stiftung, according to which only 52% of young people in Russia believe that its relations with the West will ever be able to become really friendly. So we need to urgently work towards strengthening mutual trust. And in that sense further NATO enlargement to the East would be counterproductive.

Twenty years of “managed democracy” in Russia, definitely, left a deep mark: the population’s interest in politics is small, almost 60% of citizens are not interested in her. Many Russians are apathetic and disappointed. State institutions, they almost do not trust. Only 26% of citizens trust the government, 16% for political parties and 24% — the State Duma. The President, despite the severely low rating trusts a relatively large number of people in the country — 42%.

However, among well-educated young Russians to the West, the interest is still great- and it is to him we must turn. It was and remains a good idea to introduce visa-free regime for young Russians. This simplification of travel could play an important role in building bridges between the younger generation of citizens of our countries, 75 years after the end of the war.

When we made peace with our Western neighbors, a crucial role was played by the German-French youth network. What prevents to repeat this successful experience and to create a similar German-Russian youth network? I am convinced that we need a more intensive exchange at the level of civil society, in particular the creation of a scholarship program for students as well as the development of partnerships between cities of both countries (currently their number amounts to 120) and universities.

75 years ago the Russians and the Germans were enemies and fought against each other. But throughout history they have often been partners. Mutual cultural exchange has reached the highest level in the late XIX — early XX century: the classics of German literature, Schiller, Goethe, and Hegel were very popular in Russia. In Germany, the great success enjoyed the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy, avant-garde art of Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich.

I would really like to get this new mutual interest, the mutual inspiration between Germans and Russians appeared again. Because Russians and Germans are not enemies, and the partnership and friendship would benefit both, and others. Last but not least why Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the friendly relations with Russia are among the strategic interests of Germany. 75 years after the end of the war and 30 years after the fall of the Berlin��hell wall it is time to strengthen good relations with Russia.

a Data materialy contain estimates of the solely foreign media and do not reflect the views of the publisher.