Exhibition celebrates millennium of Russian-German ties

Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:20pm EST
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By Gareth Jones

BERLIN (Reuters) - From beeswax and birch bark to war booty and gas pipelines, an exhibition now showing in Berlin chronicles the long, colorful and sometimes tragic history of relations between Germany and Russia, Europe's two most populous nations.

The "Russians and Germans" exhibition at the Neues Museum focuses on cultural and trade contacts between the two peoples stretching back to the 10th century and largely skirts the political controversies that still dog their relationship.

"The aim of the exhibition is to emphasize the continuity of intensive relations in the areas of politics, economy and culture," said Steffen Zarutzki of the agency that operates Berlin's state museums.

"It has been very successful and has drawn plenty of visitors, about a quarter of them Russian speakers."

The exhibition, sponsored by Germany's biggest energy group E.ON, is one of the main cultural events in a "year of Russia" in Germany that runs until 2013 and is paralleled by a "year of Germany" in Russia.

It comprises some 600 works of art, including paintings, books, costumes and weapons loaned by Russian museums. Arranged chronologically, it starts with the mediaeval Baltic merchants of the Hanseatic League and ends after the fall of the Berlin Wall and withdrawal of Soviet troops from German soil.

In one of the first rooms, a large wooden panel dating from the 14th century shows bearded Russians in tall hats and smocks collecting beeswax and hunting squirrels and sable for their furs and then presenting the products to German merchants.

Germans paid for the furs, wax, timber and grains with wines, metals and luxury goods - an exchange not unlike today's trade flows which see Russia selling natural resources such as gas and oil to buy German cars and other consumer goods.   Continued...

People stand in front of a portrait of Peter the Great at the Russians and Germans exhibition at the New Museum in Berlin, December 2, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter