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Global GDR? Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Decolonization in the German Democratic Republic, 1960—1989

Bodie, George; (2020) Global GDR? Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Decolonization in the German Democratic Republic, 1960—1989. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In the two decades following its demise, the GDR—in both historical and popular representation—was largely depicted as an isolated, autarchic entity. A recent wave of research into the global Cold War has begun to challenge this assertion, highlighting the GDR’s links to the extra-European world. Such perspectives nevertheless retain some of the older tropes of the isolationist narrative, viewing the GDR’s engagement with these countries through the narrow lens of a search for legitimacy among its own population. This thesis seeks to expand the scope, viewing the GDR’s relations with what was viewed as a “proto-socialist” world in Africa, Asia and Latin America not a simplistic, historically-fixed policy directed toward a domestic audience, but rather as part of an active political project to reshape global relations. GDR elites viewed their state as fundamentally unviable without international integration: once the project for a united Germany was abandoned in the 1960s, the GDR’s global ambitions took on paramount importance. Rather than an attempt to build legitimacy, this turn was rather imagined through the lens of sovereignty; legitimacy was not a concept in GDR elite’s political arsenal, but they did worry about their nation’s sovereignty, and sought to buttress it through engagement with the proto-socialist world. This thesis examines such engagement from five different vantage-points: looking at how the ideological basis for the project was constructed by foreign policy elites; how the GDR sought to create foreign adherents to the project through educational exchange; how the proto-socialist world—specifically Cuba—became a site for socialist leisure; how citizens engaged with domestic solidarity campaigns which sought to turn them into active participants in the project; and how the proto-socialist world was depicted on television. In doing so, it will show how early hopes for a global socialist world in the 1960s metamorphized as the Cold War progressed, fragmenting into an archipelagic network of increasingly isolated states by the 1980s.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Global GDR? Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Decolonization in the German Democratic Republic, 1960—1989
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10095183
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