This is very confusing to me. The word "Prussian" means a lot of different things and has a lot of connotations (such as imperialism, militarism, ...), while simultaneously describing a geographical region that was part of Germany before 1945, and also a political state which has almost nothing to do with the region...

Since Prussia started out as a very small state and conquered pretty much all northern Germany with a combination of force and political malice, and then united Germany within their uncontested leadership, it is hard to have any idea who really identified themselves as "Prussian".

I have a fictional book (made for German language learners) that takes place in inter-war Bavaria, there is someplace a joke about people arriving late, and their professor answer them:

Pünklichkeit ist eine Preussische Tradition

(German for : Arrival on time is a Prussian tradition)

This particular quote really made me scratch my head because this book was only about Bavaria, which on paper has nothing to do with Prussa, so why would the guy give a damn about so-called "Prussian tradition" ?

So who used to consider themselves "Prussian"? Did people that were in political Prussia, but not geographical Prussia, ever feel "Prussian", or did they always continue to consider themselves Rheinlanders, Hessians, Hanoverians, etc, etc... ?

In the case where someone was part of Prussia, but did not feel "Prussian", is there a case where they claimed they were illegally occupied by Prussia ?

Last but not least: Is there still people who consider themselves "Prussian" today (especially refugees from annexed eastern Germany and their descendants ?)

  • Arriving late for tea on the veranda is a Southern tradition, even by people never having been below the Mason/Dixon... and yet they are still Southern at heart and American as well. Not being concerned with the clock and punctuality is generally a warm weather lifestyle (think Southern, Mexican siesta, Mediterranean laid back... Northerners (Prussian) would be more punctual, and so that state of mind would be recognized as a "Prussian" attitude. (...would be my uninformed guess) ... i.e. a Bavarian might consider punctuality a Prussian lifestyle. – CGCampbell Apr 18 '16 at 13:54
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    @MarkC.Wallace I do not think the professor was Prussian, although I don't think this was especially noticed. – Bregalad Apr 18 '16 at 14:47
  • For one specific example, the family of Baron von Richthofen most certainly did regard themselves as both Prussian and "junker". – Pieter Geerkens Jun 4 '16 at 17:38

"Prussia" is an area on the East Baltic, conquered by the Teutonic knights, who assimilated the local "Prussian" people. In part because they were on the frontier between Germany and Slavic lands, they became a particularly militaristic group. Imagine if American soldiers in Iraq annexed the country and intermarried with the locals to create a mllitaristic breed of American "Iraqicans" through natural selection.

Prussia merged with Brandenburg in the modern East Germany in the 16th century when the Duchess of Prussia married the Elector of Brandenburg. Because of this fact, Brandenburghers often considered themselves "Prussian" even though technically they are not.

The combined entity then acquired many other lands, some to the west, as far as the Rhineland, and some in the intervening area between Brandenburg and Prussia. On the whole, the western, Rhinelanders tended not to consider themselves "Prussian," while the eastern people (between Germany and Poland) often did. Basically the closer you got to the original Prussia, the more likely people were to think of themselves as "Prussian." Most Germans identify themselves as "Prussian" or NOT. Which is why this might matter to a "Bavarian."

Some people consider themselves "Prussian" even today, especially people who were refugees from (East) Prussia after World War II. I once dated a woman whose mother is American and whose father was "Prussian" who considers herself "Prussian."

  • @Bregalad: My response is that people are more likely to consider themselves Prussian based on geography rather than class. The reason class comes into play is because class distinctions become sharper the further east you go, so the more class conscious people tend to be the more "eastern" Germans. My source is this woman I dated in college almost 40 years ago (I'm that old.) – Tom Au Apr 18 '16 at 14:19
  • No problem for being old, as long as there is the wisdom that comes with it. Thanks for the edit, it's much better now. So my understanding is that 1. Western Ger. - nobody considers themselves prussian, 2. Middle Germ. (former GDR) only the upper class consider themselves prussian 3. Eastern Ger. (today Poland + Brandebourg/Berlin) everyones considers themselves prussian, except those who consider themselves Polish, Lithuanian, etc... Is that correct ? – Bregalad Apr 18 '16 at 14:49
  • @Bregalad: That's pretty much what I was taught. – Tom Au Apr 18 '16 at 16:36
  • How do you know your date considered herself as Prussian? – Ole Petersen Apr 20 '16 at 11:49
  • @OlePetersen: Because she told me.We talked quite a bit about our respective backgrounds. – Tom Au Apr 20 '16 at 16:04

It might be helpful here to remember that the German unification was accomplished by Prussia in 1871. During the interwar period after WWI this was still in living memory.

Prior to unification, Prussia had slowly taken over nearly all of northern Germany. The rulers of the new German Nation were the same Hohenzollern family that ruled Prussia, and their chief advisers were the same kinds of folks who had avised them when it was just "Prussia" they were running.

So when talking about how things in Germany were run, for a few decades after unification it was a useful conceit to refer to this ruling class as Prussian.

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Note that Bavaria is that large unconquered state in the South East. So for a Bavarian, talking about Prussians would also be a way of separating themselves from the northern Germans who were running things. I believe Bavarians like to view themselves as more laid-back than other Germans, and are mostly renowned for their food and beer.

  • Tempted to draw parallels here with how southerners talk about "Washington", or perhaps other Brits talk about "London", but the OQ appears to be Swiss, so I'm not sure it would clarify things for them. – T.E.D. Apr 18 '16 at 14:21
  • No, a parallel with another country would not help much in my case, and in my country the regional differences are largely based on languages / perhaps a comparison with France would be the most relevant, where southern people also have their specificities absent from the rest of France. However northern France was never a separate political entity than southern France. – Bregalad Apr 18 '16 at 14:42
  • That must be a post-1866 map since it shows as part of Prussia both Schleswig-Holstein and the territories conquered/amalgamated in after the Six Week War. A better map would be one covering the period 1815-1865, as 1866 is really a very intermediate step in the German Unification. that occurred during the 6 years 1865-1870. ie en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-AustroPrussianWar-annexed.svg from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austro-Prussian_War – Pieter Geerkens Apr 18 '16 at 17:59
  • @PieterGeerkens - Yes, its effectively the last map on which Prussia as its own Kingdom. Pretty much any map I could have chosen would have been "intermediate", but I specifically wanted to show what Prussia directly owned at the foundation of Germany, since their primacy in the new unit was kinda the point of my answer. – T.E.D. Apr 18 '16 at 18:40
  • @T.E.D.: But choosing a map of a 5-year interregnum instead of from a 50 year interregnum seems really weird. Especially since the older map clearly delineates what is Brandenburg/Prussia/Posen/Pomerania/Silesia from that which is post-1815 acquisition along the Rhine and Saar. – Pieter Geerkens Apr 18 '16 at 18:44

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