Prussian virtues  

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The term Prussian virtues refers to an unfixed canon of several virtues dating from the Enlightenment. Prussian virtues and the Prussian value system have influenced aspects of wider German culture.



These virtues derive from King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, the "soldierTemplate:Ndashking" and frugal "bourgeois" reformer of Prussian administration, as well as from his son, King Friedrich II. The father saw himself as moral role model, while the son saw himself as an exemplar of reason for the religiously, ethnically, and linguistically diverse Prussian state.

The Prussian "era of reform", from the military loss to Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battles of Jena and Auerstedt, until the Congress of Vienna in 1815, was also an important influence. These included reform of community boundaries, the army, schools, universities, and taxes, as well as the enfranchisement of Jews.

Examples of Prussian virtues

  • Austerity or Thrift (German: Sparsamkeit)
  • Bravery without self-pity (German: Tapferkeit ohne Wehleidigkeit) "Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen." Translation: "Learn to suffer without complaining about it."
  • Cosmopolitanism (German: Weltoffenheit)
  • Courage (German: Mut)
  • Determination (German: Zielstrebigkeit)
  • Discipline (German: Disziplin)
  • Frankness or Probity (German: Redlichkeit)
  • Godliness, coupled with religious tolerance (German: Gottesfurcht bei religiöser Toleranz) "Jeder soll nach seiner Façon selig werden." Translation: "Everyone shall be blessed according to their own belief."
  • Humility or Modesty (German: Bescheidenheit)
  • Incorruptibility (German: Unbestechlichkeit)
  • Industriousness or Diligence (German: Fleiß)
  • Loyalty (German: Treue)
  • Obedience (German: Gehorsam) "Seid gehorsam, doch nicht ohne Freimut." Translation: Be obedient, but not without frankness.
  • Punctuality (German: Pünktlichkeit)
  • Reliability (German: Zuverlässigkeit)
  • Restraint (German: Zurückhaltung)
  • Self-denial (German: Selbstverleugnung) The German author and soldier Walter Flex (1887-1917) wrote "Wer je auf Preußens Fahne schwört, hat nichts mehr, was ihm selbst gehört." Translation: "He who swears on Prussia's flag has nothing left that belongs to himself."
  • Self-effacement (German: Zurückhaltung) "Mehr sein als scheinen!" Translation: "Be better than you appear to be!"
  • Sense of duty or Conscientiousness (German: Pflichtbewusstsein)
  • Sense of justice (German: Gerechtigkeitssinn) Jedem das Seine or Suum cuique
  • Sense of order (German: Ordnungssinn)
  • Sincerity (German: Aufrichtigkeit)
  • Straightness or Straightforwardness (German: Geradlinigkeit)
  • Subordination (German: Unterordnung)
  • Toughness (German: Härte) "Gegen sich mehr noch als gegen andere." Translation: "Be harder against yourself than you are against others."

In poetry

The Prussian virtues may be summarized by the opening lines of the poem "Template:Lang" ("The Old Farmer to His Son") by Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty (1748–1776). The text reads as follows: "Template:Lang" Translation: "Use always fidelity and honesty / Up to your cold grave; / And stray not one inch / From the ways of the Lord."

The poem was set to music by Mozart to a melody adapted from the aria "Template:Lang" from his 1791 opera The Magic Flute. It was played daily by the carillon of the Potsdam Garrison Church where Frederick the Great was initially buried.

Leftist criticism

Prussian virtues have been criticised by the middle-class bourgeoisie, for example, for its distance from natural sciences, art, and the state economy; militarism; and opposition to democracy. Labour movements opposed Prussian virtues, specifically those of respect for, or a sense of, law and order and "blind" obedience. Amongst the German student protests of 1968, Prussian virtues were regarded with suspicion, given the previous loyalty and obedience to the Nazi government.

In modern-day Germany, Prussian virtues are occasionally referred to and receive mixed criticism. In 1982, amid the controversy surrounding the NATO Double-Track Decision, in response to Social Democratic Party of Germany Chancellor of Germany Helmut Schmidt's call for a return to such virtues, Saarbrücken's SPD mayor Oskar Lafontaine commented that these were "perfectly suited to run a concentration camp". In 2006, the Prime Minister of Brandenburg Matthias Platzeck called for a return to Prussian, citing "good basic virtues, such as honesty, reliability, and diligence.

See also

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