Textbook Diplomacy: East German Student Exchange and the GDR's Bid For Global Legitimacy, 1951-1990
This project examines the diplomatic and cultural dimensions of international university student exchange in the former German Democratic Republic during the Cold War, and the role played by cultural foreign relations in defining the DDR's push to achieve international recognition as a legitimate state. By investigating East Germany's pursuit of global identification as a center for higher education between 1955 and 1989, and the unique experience offered by student exchange programs, this work sheds light on how soft-power politics and cultural diplomacy were used alongside traditional diplomacy to bolster the international political legitimacy of the East German `nation'.Courting the approval of the international community was an uphill battle for the DDR from the outset of the Cold War, as its existence was deemed artificial by the western world, and the question of Germany's eventual reunification became subsumed into the broader power struggle between the US and USSR. Many scholars of both History and International Affairs have argued that the question of how to deal with a divided Germany constituted the lynchpin of Cold War foreign policy-making, and both East and West had a strong interest in seeing their respective visions of Germany realized. Yet not much consensus has been reached regarding how decisively and successfully the West's war against the DDR was actually waged.Initially faced with an isolation campaign led by West Germany, East Germany had few chances to overcome its international seclusion on strictly political grounds, and was forced to seek other means by which it could achieve and uphold a prominent international role. Even after the Ostpolitik initiatives of the late 1960's helped ease diplomatic tensions between East Germany and the rest of the world, the DDR's legitimacy as a state remained in question, and its role in the international community ill-defined. This was partly due to its subservience to the Soviet Union in matters of foreign affairs; but it was also due to the DDR's lack of any internationally discernible cultural or national identity - and in particular, distinguishable from that of Western Germany.Centered on the question of how East Germany consequently pursued the quest for international legitimacy through soft-power methods, the investigation proceeds on three primary levels: as a study of Cold War-era international relations, as a political history of the East German cultural policy, and as an inquiry into the nature of East German self-identity. At its core, it is a study of diplomatic history, with particular attention paid to the international role the DDR sought to create for itself through bonds forged by student exchange. Combining this with both political and cultural approaches, the project emphasizes the importance of non-traditional diplomacy in East Germany's bid to achieve respected international status, and provides a fuller picture of the multifaceted nature of East Germany's place in the history of Cold War-era international relations.
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