Skip to Content

The Weight of Culture: Investigating the Relationship Between Stereotypes and Foreign Policy Through the Case Study of Heidelberg, Germany 1871-1917

The frames, stereotypes and myths that together construct visions of “cultures” as unitary and monolithic groups of individuals simultaneously formulate and constrain the range of possible actions that a member of any particular culture can choose from. This paper aims to shed light on this process, by utilizing qualitative case-study analysis to examine dominant stereotypical representations of Germans and Russians between the unification of Germany in 1871 and the October Revolution in 1917, focusing on the city of Heidelberg as a nexus of Russo-German intercultural interactions at the time. Through a constructivist lens, the paper examines private writings by contemporary German and Russian residents of Heidelberg to track and analyze changes in prevailing narratives of what makes a German “German” or a Russian “Russian,” then maps the observed changes to corresponding shifts in German and Russian foreign policy behavior. Ultimately, this research demonstrates that perceptions of culture can have a significant impact on decision-making, particularly in the foreign policy space.