GERMAN and RUSSIAN CITIES
Partnerships between German
and Russian cities in time of war
By City Mayors Research*
ON THIS PAGE: City partnerships must stand for human rights ||| Major German cities with Russian partnerships ||| Ukraine helpline
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City partnerships must
stand for human rights
April 2022: There is a consensus among German cities that partnership and twinned cities should always stand up together for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. With Russia’s attack on Ukraine, German local authorities now question whether their hitherto cordial and productive relationships with their Russian counterparts can and should be maintained. Separate research by City Mayors, the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the Swiss Daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung found that roughly one third of German towns and cities with Russian partnerships have suspended the arrangements, another third is reviewing the partnerships, while the remaining third broadly believes that by maintaining contacts cities can provide an alternative narrative to Russia’s official propaganda.
Some 82 German cities are twinned with cities in Russia. Many partnerships were formed in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union. But some go back to the 1980s or even earlier. The first post-war German-Russian partnership was formed in 1957 between Hamburg and St Petersburg, then named Petrograd. Dresden, in Communist East Germany (GDR), established a partnership with St Petersburg in 1961. The most recent partnership was formed in 2012 between Baden-Baden, in the Black Forest, and Sochi on the Black Sea. The German international spa has attracted noble, wealthy and prominent Russians since 1793 when the future Czar Alexander I married the 14-year old princess Luise von Baden.
The German news magazine Der Spiegel questioned 61 German cities about their partnerships with Russian communities and found that 17 local authorities had decided to formally suspend their relationships. Some German cities have frozen and cancelled joint events and projects.
A number of German mayors have also written to their Russian contacts asking them to denounce the aggression by the Russian military. Frank Metrup, the Mayor of Karlsruhe has asked his counterpart, the Mayor of Krasnador, for an unambiguous statement of condemnation. “In order to maintain our previously close relationship we do need a clear and tough statement that Russia’s military action in Ukraine must cease immediately,” the Mayor wrote in his letter.
But research carried out by City Mayors among the most prominent German cities with Russian city-to-city partnerships also found a number of administrations showing reluctance to break off long-established relationships with their Russian partners. Frank Nopper, the Mayor of Stuttgart, said: “City partnerships and cooperation are of great importance in peace time but even more important during times of war.” Other German mayors disagree. “Realistically, partnerships between cities do not influence national politics, particularly not in an authoritarian state like Russia.”
The Mayor of Münster and current President of the German Association of Cities (Deutscher Städtetag) advised against ending partnership arrangements with Russian cities: “I strongly advise against ending town twinning with Russian cities now, because here the connections are between people and not at state level. In this sense, city twinning can send signals of peace and have a de-escalating effect.”
Major German cities with
*Research conducted in April 2022
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