Banner Viadrina

Markus Pieper

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PhD Topic:
Town twinning and party partnerships in the German Democratic Republic and the People's Republic of Poland. The example of the cooperation between the cities of Dresden and Wrocław with a view toward today’s relationships.

Town twinning is primarily known from the Western European context, and here mostly as "municipal foreign policy" between West Germany and France after the Second World War. But this form of cooperation between cities also existed, after the 1950s, in the socialist dictatorships of the Eastern Bloc. This dissertation examines city and communal partnerships between the GDR and Poland, with focus on the 1959 founded cooperation between Dresden and Wrocław. It includes the most important formats, basic conditions, political functions and the possibilities for uncontrolled contacts of the people. The analysis respects all phases of the relations from the 1950s, and including, the high phase of East German-Polish relations in the 1970s, its political misuse at the time of the Solidarność movement and the martial law in Poland in 1980–83 until the collapse of the socialist dictatorships in 1989/90. An outlook on German-Polish town partnerships today reveals continuities and discontinuities before and after the system change. 

The regional perspective of twinned towns provides a different view on  East German–Polish relations. On the one hand, the partnerships opened up unimaginably broad contact opportunities for East German and Polish people. This included contacts between simple cadres and lower administrative employees in times of otherwise hermetically controlled and closed borders. On the other hand, city partnerships functioned as a transmission belt line for state policy and, among other things also, served the GDR state security system in the 1980s as a way to send spies to Poland. The analysis shows that town twinning did not exist as an independent form of cooperation in communist dictatorships, but that they were organized as an integral part of the cooperation between the ruling SED and PZPR parties. As town twinning researches have been generally focused on democratic states, this analysis describes Eastern European partnerships, for the first time, as a new type of "socialist partnerships". 

Biographical data: Master's degree in Eastern European Contemporary History, Political Science and Journalism in Oldenburg, Berlin (Freie Universität) and Warsaw. 2003–08 research assistant at the Ettersberg Foundation for the comparative study of European dictatorships and their overcoming in Weimar. 2008–12 Referee and head of the subject area for public events at the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records in Berlin. Since October 2012 at the Federal Foundation for the Study on the Communist Dictatorship in East Germany in Berlin: first as head of the Memory Work department, 2014–17 Project Director "International Dissident Dictionary" and since October 2017 Head of the Memorial Sites and Remembrance department. 

Department: Cultural Sciences

Supervisor: Prof. Dagmara Jajeśniak-Quast