GERMAN and RUSSIAN CITIES

Partnerships between German
and Russian cities in time of war

By City Mayors Research*

ON THIS PAGE: City partnerships must stand for human rights ||| Major German cities with Russian partnerships ||| Ukraine helpline

ON OTHER PAGES: News from Ukrainian cities and mayors ||| Ukrainian war diary ||| Ukraine refugees in Europe



City partnerships must
stand for human rights

April 2022: There is a consensus among German cities that partnership and twinned cities should always stand up together for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. With Russia’s attack on Ukraine, German local authorities now question whether their hitherto cordial and productive relationships with their Russian counterparts can and should be maintained. Separate research by City Mayors, the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the Swiss Daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung found that roughly one third of German towns and cities with Russian partnerships have suspended the arrangements, another third is reviewing the partnerships, while the remaining third broadly believes that by maintaining contacts cities can provide an alternative narrative to Russia’s official propaganda.

Some 82 German cities are twinned with cities in Russia. Many partnerships were formed in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union. But some go back to the 1980s or even earlier. The first post-war German-Russian partnership was formed in 1957 between Hamburg and St Petersburg, then named Petrograd. Dresden, in Communist East Germany (GDR), established a partnership with St Petersburg in 1961. The most recent partnership was formed in 2012 between Baden-Baden, in the Black Forest, and Sochi on the Black Sea. The German international spa has attracted noble, wealthy and prominent Russians since 1793 when the future Czar Alexander I married the 14-year old princess Luise von Baden.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel questioned 61 German cities about their partnerships with Russian communities and found that 17 local authorities had decided to formally suspend their relationships. Some German cities have frozen and cancelled joint events and projects.

A number of German mayors have also written to their Russian contacts asking them to denounce the aggression by the Russian military. Frank Metrup, the Mayor of Karlsruhe has asked his counterpart, the Mayor of Krasnador, for an unambiguous statement of condemnation. “In order to maintain our previously close relationship we do need a clear and tough statement that Russia’s military action in Ukraine must cease immediately,” the Mayor wrote in his letter.

But research carried out by City Mayors among the most prominent German cities with Russian city-to-city partnerships also found a number of administrations showing reluctance to break off long-established relationships with their Russian partners. Frank Nopper, the Mayor of Stuttgart, said: “City partnerships and cooperation are of great importance in peace time but even more important during times of war.” Other German mayors disagree. “Realistically, partnerships between cities do not influence national politics, particularly not in an authoritarian state like Russia.”

The Mayor of Münster and current President of the German Association of Cities (Deutscher Städtetag) advised against ending partnership arrangements with Russian cities: “I strongly advise against ending town twinning with Russian cities now, because here the connections are between people and not at state level. In this sense, city twinning can send signals of peace and have a de-escalating effect.”


Major German cities with
Russian partnerships


German city
(Population)
State
Russian city
(Population)
Region
Partnership
since
2022
Partnership status
Aachen
(246,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Kostroma
(272,000)
Western Russia
2005
Partnership supended
Baden-Baden
(57,000)
Baden-Württemberg
Sochi
(366,000)
Southern Russia
2012
Partnership suspended
Berlin
(3.6 million)
Berlin
Moscow
(12 million)
Capital
1991
Partnership under review
Bielefeld
(335,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Veliky Novgorod
(221,000)
North-West Russia
1987
Partnership under review
Braunschweig (252,000)
Lower Saxony
Kazan
(1.2 million)
Tartastan
1988
No change
Bremerhaven
(115,000)
Bremen;
Kaliningrad
(439,000)
Baltic Coast
1992
Partnership under review
Celle
(90,000)
Lower Saxony
Tyumen
(623,000)
Siberia
1994
No change
Chemnitz
(249,000)
Saxony
Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad)
(1.1 million)
Southern Russia
1988
No change but all joint projects cancelled
Dortmund
(588,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Rostov-on-Don
(1.1 million)
Western Russia
1978
No change
Dresden
(545,000)
Saxony
St Petersburg
(5.0 million)
Baltic Sea
1961
Under review; Dresden Mayor Hilbert asks St Petersburg governor to condemn the war.
Düsseldorf
(614,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Moscow
(12 million)
Capital
1992
Partnership cancelled.
Emden
(50,000)
Lower Saxony
Archangelsk (Archangel)
(352,000)
Northern Russia
1991
Partnership suspended
Erlangen
(109,000)
Bavaria
Vladimir
(248,000)
Central Russia
1983
No change but official contacts reduced to minimum.
Essen
(585,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Nizhny Novgorod
(1.26 million)
Volga, Western Russia
1991
No change
Ettlingen
(40,000)
Baden-Württemberg
Gatchina
(97,000)
North-West Russia, south of St Petersburg
1992
Partnership suspended. 30-year partnership jubilee called off.
Fulda
(69,000)
Hesse
Sergiyev Posad
(110,000)
Central Russia, north-east of Moscow
1991
No change
Gelsenkirchen
(261,000); North-Rhine Westphalia
Shakhty
(240,000)
Southern Russia
1989
Under review; Shakhty Mayor Irina Alexandrowna Schtschukowa did not respond to Gelsenkirchen Mayor Karin Welge's invitation to condemn the war.
Halle
(237,000)
Anhalt-Saxony
Ufa
(1.1 million)
Volga District
1997
Partnership suspended.
Hamburg
(1.9 million); Hamburg
St Petersburg
(5.0 million)
Baltic Sea
1957
Partnership suspended
Hanover
(533,000); Lower Saxony
Ivanovo
Central Russia
1991
No change
Herne
(156,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Belgorod
(356,000)
Central Russia
1990
Partnership suspended
Jena
(110,000)
Thuringia
Vladimir
(347,000)
Central Russia
2008
Cooperation suspended
Karlsruhe
(309,000)
Baden-Württemberg
Krasnodar
(774,000)
Southern Russia
1998
Partnership suspended
Kassel
(200,000)
Hesse
Yaroslavl
(600,000)
Central Russia
1988
Partnership suspended.
Kiel
(248,000)
Schleswig-Holstein
Kaliningrad Sovetsk
(42,000)
North-West Russia
1992
Partnership suspended
Köln / Cologne
(1.1 million)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Volgograd
(1.1 million)
Southern Russia
1988
Partnership suspended
Krefeld
(226,0000
North-Rhine Westphalia
Ulyanovsk
(615,000)
Volga District
1993
Partnership suspended
Münster
(311,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Ryazan
(527,000)
Central Russia
1989
No change
Neuss
(156,000)
North-Rhine Westphalia
Pskov
(206,000)
North-West Russia
1990
Partnership suspended
Oldenburg
(165,000)
Lower Saxony
Makhachkala
(577,000)
Republic of Dagestan
1989
Partnership has been dormant for a number of years
Osnabrück
(164,000)
Lower Saxony
Tver
(408,000)
Central Russia
1991
No change
Salzgitter
(102,000)
Lower Saxony
Stary Oskol
(222,000)
Central Russia
1987
No change
Speyer
(51,000)
Rhineland-Palatinate
Kursk
(427,000)
Central Russia
1989
No change but until further notice no official contacts.
Stuttgart
(625,000)
Baden-Württemberg
Samara
(1.2 million)
Volga District
1992
No change. Mayor Frank Nopper: “City partnerships and cooperation are of great importance in peace time but even more important during times of war.”
Tübingen
(92,000)
Baden-Württemberg
Petrozavodsk (268,000)
North-West Russia
1989
No change
Wolfsburg
(125,000)
Lower Saxony
Toljatt
(720,000)
Volga District
1991
No change

*Research conducted in April 2022

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