This paper was the product of a month-long study abroad program in Berlin designed to allow students to investigate an issue related to migration and urban space that interested them.
Berlin’s geographic location and history have a marked impact on its relationship with migrants from around the world. In regards to Eastern Europe, half of the city was part of the Eastern Bloc and heavily Soviet-influenced until 1989, when the nation reunified. In the twenty-seven years since, Berlin has become the heart of one of the West’s favorite democracies, and a universal standard for an international city of music, art, and culture. The speed of this transition, whether it is embedded in the culture of the city or just the perception held by outsiders, has a significant impact on the lives of Eastern Europeans in the city, specifically Russians who are considered by many as the “perpetrators” of the communist movement.
This paper seeks to analyze the principles of urban space that shape the Russian community in Berlin and how those principles are informed by Berlin’s history and the way that Berliners perceive the Russian community. By analyzing both neighborhoods with concentrated Russian heritage and Russian restaurants as an expression of culture, the positionality of the Russian community as a potentially misunderstood but largely-accepted ethnic group in an internationally-minded city becomes present.