In 1990, politicians in the Federal Republic promised continuity in domestic and foreign policy. From the perspective of 2010, we see that a good deal more has changed for the Republic and its citizens than anyone could have predicted two decades ago. Unification came extraordinarily quickly and changed virtually every aspect of life for citizens of the former GDR. The political, economic, and social reforms affecting Germany as a whole were pushed through rather hesitantly in comparison, but their long-term effects have been no less significant. At the same time, Germany's international standing and the scope of its foreign policy have gradually grown.
These years have often been perceived as a time of crisis. This perception, however, runs contrary to the fact that, despite difficulties, the citizens of East and West Germany have managed to forge common ground without shaking the fundamental democratic order. Germany has secured a place on the international stage as a responsible and cooperative nation in Europe and the world, and it has been successful in diffusing anxieties about a new German supremacy in Europe. Significant progress has been made in the normalization of the Federal Republic's international status, and the relationship of German citizens to their state is characterized by a new national consciousness that combines distinct layers of criticism and pride, love of one’s homeland, and international openness.
The disappearance of the Bonn Republic and the arrival of the new Federal Republic was not an abrupt process; rather, it was an evolutionary adaptation to new national and international conditions along a continuum. The characteristics of the Bonn Republic are easier to define in retrospect than those of the current Berlin Republic (33). The past two decades have been a time of transition, one that set in just when people had found their bearings in the old Federal Republic. For that reason, too, many political decisions were primarily a response to changes in national and international circumstances and not part of any strategy – the constant attempt to reconcile change and continuity notwithstanding.
Helga A. Welsh and Konrad H. Jarausch
Translation: Anna Brailovsky
(33) Roland Czada, “Nach 1989. Reflexionen zur Rede von der ‘Berliner Republik,’” in Roland Czada and Hellmut Wollmann, eds., Von der Bonner zur Berliner Republik. 10 Jahre Deutsche Einheit. Special issue of Leviathan 19/1999, pp. 13-45; Gunter Hofmann, Abschiede, Anfänge. Die Bundesrepublik – eine Anatomie (Munich, 2002); Hans Jörg Hennecke, Die dritte Republik. Aufbruch und Ernüchterung (Munich, 2002); Werner Süß, ed., Deutschland in den neunziger Jahren. Politik und Gesellschaft zwischen Wiedervereinigung und Globalisierung (Opladen, 2002); Winand Gellner and John D. Robertson, eds., The Berlin Republic. German Unification and a Decade of Changes (London and Portland, OR, 2003); James Sperling, eds., Germany at Fifty-Five. Berlin ist nicht Bonn? (Manchester, UK, and New York, 2004).