From Erfurt to Helsinki: Perceptions of East and West Germans on the inner-German border during Ostpolitik 1970–1975. A semiotic analysis of letters to the editor in GDR and FRG newspapers

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This master thesis features a semiotic analysis of letters to the editor (LTE) of newspapers from East- and West Germany. The goal of this thesis is to reinterpret the inner-German border between the separate states. It does so in the light of their rapprochement efforts that took place under a new foreign policy called Ostpolitik, put into practice between 1970-1975 by the West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. Core of the analysis is a comparison between the geopolitical codes both countries adhered to and the popular representations of the border and/or Ostpolitik as forwarded in letters to the editor of East and West German newspapers. The comparison shows that a concurrence existed between the popular representations of the border and the geopolitical code the GDR adhered to. This has to be attributed to the newspapers in the GDR being part of the politically staged public sphere. For the FRG, a divergence existed between the geopolitical code and the popular representations from the LTEs. This means that a part of the public sphere in the FRG did not concede with the Ostpolitik geopolitical code. Thus, the thesis explains the operation of the Habermasian public sphere in a socialist and democratic country.
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