BRD (Germany)

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BRD (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland [ˈbʊndəsʁepuˌbliːk ˈdɔʏtʃlant] (listen); English: FRG/Federal Republic of Germany) is an unofficial abbreviation for the Federal Republic of Germany, informally known in English as West Germany until 1990, and just Germany since reunification. It was occasionally used in the Federal Republic itself during the early Cold War;[1][2] it was commonly used between 1968 and 1990 by the ruling party of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), resulting in a strong deprecation of its use in West Germany. The East German regime had previously used the term "German Federal Republic" (German: Deutsche Bundesrepublik), which it abbreviated as "DBR", to refer to West Germany. The most widely used abbreviation for West Germany in the country itself was its ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code "DE", which has remained the country code of reunified Germany.

While the English equivalent FRG was used as an IOC country code and a FIFA trigramme, the use of BRD was strongly discouraged by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany itself from the 1970s, because it was considered to be a derogatory communist term following its widespread use in East Germany since 1968; thus the term was regarded as a possible expression of an extremist, anti-constitutional and anti-democratic sentiment by West German authorities.[1][3] The term was not banned by law, but its use was discouraged or forbidden in schools in West Germany from the 1970s, and treated as an error.[4] As a result of its use by East Germany and the war on the abbreviation by the West German government, far-left terrorists such as the Red Army Faction tended to use the term as a way to attack West Germany; additionally the term "BRD" has been used by some far-right groups for the same purpose. After German reunification, the country is usually referred to simply as Germany (Deutschland), and hence the need for abbreviations is greatly diminished; if an abbreviation is used at all, the uncontroversial standard abbreviation "DE" for "Deutschland" is often used. However, since the end of the Cold War the term "BRD" has lost some of its potency as an insult intended to attack the Federal Republic of Germany, as it was used by East Germany and far-left terrorists such as the Red Army Faction, and the term "BRD" has been listed in the German dictionary Duden as an "unofficial abbreviation" for the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1990s,[5] and is occasionally used by national newspapers across the political spectrum.[6][7]


Allied occupation zones in post-war Germany: British (green), Soviet (red), American (orange), French (blue)


The official name was and is Bundesrepublik Deutschland ("Federal Republic of Germany"). The name, even though in the beginning referring only to the republic established in the Trizone, was to reflect a name for all of Germany, therefore it was particularly to include the term Deutschland ("Germany"). This corresponded to the spirit of the then West German constitution, the Basic Law, allowing all states or Länder, then under Allied control, to join the new Federal Republic. In 1949 the original eleven states in the Trizone and West Berlin did so.[8] However the latter was prevented by Allied objection on account of the city being a quadripartite allied occupation area. The Saarland joined with effect from 1 January 1957, while the "new states" of the East did so with effect from 3 October 1990, including reunited Berlin.

Therefore, the term Germany had an importance as part of the official name, which is reflected in the naming conventions which developed in the Cold War. Starting in June 1949 the abbreviation was sometimes used in the Federal Republic of Germany without any special connotations. The initialism BRD began to enter into such regular usage in West German scientific and ministerial circles, that it was added to the western edition of the German language dictionary Duden in 1967.[9] The German Democratic Republic at first used the name Westdeutschland or "West Germany" (abbreviated "WD") for the Federal Republic of Germany,[10] but since the 1950s the East German government insisted on calling West Germany Deutsche Bundesrepublik or "German Federal Republic" (abbreviated "DBR"),[11] because they also considered East Germany part of Germany, and thus would not permit the West German government to use the name "Germany".[12]

Use in East Germany[edit]

This changed in 1968 with the new constitution of the German Democratic Republic. The communists no longer strove for German reunification, and the name BRD was introduced as a propaganda counter-term to the term DDR, trying to express the equality of the states.[13] The West would speak of the sogenannte DDR[14] or "so-called 'DDR'"[15] when intending to belittle East German statehood.

At that time, the initialism BRD had been adopted by Neues Deutschland, the ruling Socialist Unity Party's daily newspaper,[16] while East German official sources adopted that initialism as standard in 1973.[17]

The East German decision to abandon the idea of a single German nation was accompanied by omitting the terms Deutschland ("Germany") and deutsch ("German") in a number of terms, for example:

East German team at the opening ceremony of the 1972 Summer Olympics

However, the ruling party's full name, Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or "Socialist Unity Party of Germany" remained unchanged, as did that of its newspaper Neues Deutschland ("New Germany") .

DDR international vehicle registration oval, used between 1974 and 1990

Therefore, using the abbreviation BRD fitted perfectly into the official East German policy of downplaying the concept of a united Germany. In 1974, the GDR had replaced the vehicle registration code D, hitherto shared with the Federal Republic, for DDR and demanded that West Germany recognise the division by likewise accepting BRD.[25] This was rejected by the West, where some motorists displayed bumper stickers with the slogan BRD - Nein Danke! ("BRD? No Thanks!").[26] Thus in the West the initialism became even more objectionable and using it was often considered either unreflecting or even expressing naïve Communist sympathies.[1]

As a result, the initialism reached only occasional frequency in West German parlance. In order to be precise West Germans increasingly used the terms Bundesrepublik or Bundesgebiet ("Federal Republic", or "Federal Territory") to refer to the country and Bundesbürger ("Federal Citizen[s]") as to its citizens, with the pertaining adjective bundesdeutsch (federally German).

Opposition to use in West Germany[edit]

To distance themselves from the term BRD, until German reunification, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and media sometimes used the abbreviations BR Deutschland,[27] BR-Dt.,[28] BRDt., [29] BR Dtld.[30] or simply Dtld.[31] After the newly established states of the German Democratic Republic acceded to the Federal Republic, Deutschland ("Germany") has always been used as the official short name.

Walter Hallstein

West Germany had always claimed to be the Germany, and did not like the comparison to DDR, or two separate German states. This claim was also reflected in the Hallstein Doctrine determining its foreign and interior policy until the early 1970s. Named after Walter Hallstein, State secretary at the Foreign Office, this was a key doctrine in the foreign policy of West Germany after 1955, which prescribed that the Federal Republic of Germany would not establish or maintain diplomatic relations with any state that recognised the GDR.[32] Although this changed after 1973, with the Federal Republic no longer asserting an exclusive mandate over the whole of Germany, West Germany only established de facto diplomatic relations with East Germany. Under the terms of the Basic Treaty in 1972, Bonn and East Berlin exchanged "permanent missions",[33] headed by "permanent representatives",[34] rather than de jure embassies headed by ambassadors. Similarly, relations with the GDR were not conducted through the Foreign Office, but through a separate Federal Ministry for Intra-German Relations, to which the East German mission was accredited.[35]

In 1965 the Federal Minister of All-German Affairs (later Intra-German Relations)[36] issued the Directives for the appellation of Germany recommending that the use of BRD be avoided.[17] On 31 May 1974 the heads of the federal and state governments recommended that the full name should always be used in official publications. In November 1979 the federal government informed the Bundestag that the West German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF agreed not to use the initialism.[17]

Under the West German federal system, the states were generally responsible for school education, and by the 1970s, some of them had either already recommended omitting the initialism, or, in the case of Bavaria, forbidden it.[37] Similarly, a decree by the educational authorities in the state of Schleswig-Holstein of 4 October 1976 declared the term to be nicht wünschenswert or "undesirable".[4] The conference of all the states ministers for school education decided on 12 February 1981 to not print the initialism in books, maps, and atlases for schools.[17] with pupils being required to write Bundesrepublik Deutschland in full and use of the term being deemed an error.[37] The different usages were so ingrained that one could deduce a person's or source's political leaning from the name used for West Germany, with far-left movements in the country using BRD.[38]

However, as the Association for the German Language found, this debate on the initialism had little influence on changing the West German parlance with the usage of the initialism - in any event limited - unaffected by the debate.[17]

Naming difficulties over Berlin and East Germany[edit]

Map of divided Berlin, indicating by the broken line at Berlin's western border the territorial redeployment decided by the Allies

A similar ideological question was the question whether to use "Berlin (West)" (the officially preferred name) or "West Berlin", and even whether to write "West Berlin" in German as two hyphenated words - West-Berlin - or as one word - Westberlin.[39]

Most Westerners called the Western sectors "Berlin", unless further distinction was necessary. The West German Federal government initially called West Berlin Groß-Berlin or "Greater Berlin",[40] but changed this "Berlin (West)", although it also used the hyphenated "West-Berlin". However, the East German government commonly referred to it as "Westberlin".[39] Starting from 31 May 1961, East Berlin was officially called Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR (Berlin, Capital of the GDR), replacing the formerly used term Democratic Berlin,[41] or simply "Berlin", by East Germany, and "Berlin (Ost)" by the West German Federal government. Other names used by West German media included Ost-Berlin and Ostberlin (both meaning "East Berlin") as well as Ostsektor or "Eastern Sector".[42] These different naming conventions for the divided parts of Berlin, when followed by individuals, governments, or media, commonly indicated their political leanings, with the centre-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung using "Ost-Berlin" and the centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung using "Ostberlin".[43]

The naming of the German Democratic Republic was also a controversial issue, West Germans at first preferring the names Mitteldeutschland ("Middle Germany")[44] and Sowjetische Besatzungszone (Soviet Occupation Zone) abbreviated as SBZ.[45] This only changed under Willy Brandt when West German authorities started using the official name, Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR, but many conservative German newspapers, like Bild, owned by the Springer company, always wrote "DDR" in scare quotes[39] until 1 August 1989.[46]

Similar naming difficulties[edit]

Germany (green) and Slovakia (orange)

In 1995, a disagreement arose between reunified Germany and newly independent Slovakia, as Germany objected to the use of the Slovak language name Nemecká spolková republika (literally "German Federal Republic") owing to its Cold War connotations, instead of Spolková republika Nemecko.[47] This was almost identical to the equivalent Spolková republika Německo in Czech, a language closely related to Slovak,[48] but the Slovak authorities claimed that "Federal Republic of Germany" could not be translated grammatically into Slovak.[49] However, the Slovak government had used it until the previous year, leading to suggestions in the Bratislava newspaper Narodna Obroda that they were using "German Federal Republic" to show their displeasure with German attitudes to the country.[50]


  1. ^ a b c Wer BRD sagt, richtet Unheil an, Der Spiegel, 25 September 1978
  2. ^ Its first recorded use (according to the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS)) was: Wilhelm Grewe: Die verfassungsrechtlichen Grundlagen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Teil I: Das Besatzungsstatut. In: Deutsche Rechts-Zeitschrift, J. C. B. Mohr, Tübingen 1949, S. 265–270. Nachdruck in Der Sprachdienst, Hrsg. Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache, 1988, S. 137 ff.
  3. ^ Dialectics, Dogmas, and Dissent: Stories from East German Victims of Human Rights Abuse, John Rodden, Penn State Press, 2010, page xi
  4. ^ a b Erlass der Schulbehörde Schleswig-Holstein, RdErl. 4 October 1976 (NBl. KM. Schl.-H. S. 274)
  5. ^ Dudenredaktion (Hrsg.): Duden online, Bibliographisches Institut GmbH, Stichwort "Bundesrepublik". Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  6. ^ Tobias Wiethoff (2005-03-21). "Regionenvergleich". Archived from the original on 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  7. ^ Dorothea Siems: Deutschland steht vor Revolution am Arbeitsmarkt. Subtitle: "Die Attraktivität der BRD könnte noch geringer werden", Welt Online 22 June 2011.
  8. ^ The initial states were the following: Baden (south), Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein, Württemberg-Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern. The latter two and the first merged in Baden-Württemberg in 1952.
  9. ^ Deutschland - Ein Name im Wandel, Helmut Berschin, Olzog, 1979, page 76
  10. ^ Deutschland seit 1945: eine dokumentierte gesamtdeutsche Geschichte in der Zeit der Teilung, Gerhart Binder, Seewald, 1969, page 600
  11. ^ Dokumentation zur Deutschlandfrage, Heinrich Siegler Siegler, 1971, page 46
  12. ^ Der Vertrag von Versailles und seine Folgen für die Pfalz oder deutsche Sozialdemokraten verraten Deutschland, Reinhard Welz Vermittler Verlag e.K., 2004, page 143
  13. ^ Bezeichnungen für "Deutschland" in der Zeit der "Wende": dargestellt an ausgewählten westdeutschen Printmedien, Ute Röding-Lange Königshausen & Neumann, 1997, page 84
  14. ^ Vom Sogenannten, Der Spiegel, 21 October 1968, page 65
  15. ^ Facts about Germany: The Federal Republic of Germany, 1959 - Germany (West), page 20
  16. ^ Neues Deutschland, 8 December 1970
  17. ^ a b c d e Stefan Schmidt, "Die Diskussion um den Gebrauch der Abkürzung «BRD»", in: Aktueller Begriff, Deutscher Bundestag – Wissenschaftliche Dienste (ed.), No. 71/09 (4 September 2009)
  18. ^ Wörter und Wortgebrauch in Ost und West: ein rechnergestütztes Korpus-Wörterbuch zu Zeitungstexten aus den beiden deutschen Staaten : Die Welt und Neues Deutschland 1949-1974, Manfred W. Hellmann Gunter Narr Verlag, 1992, page 813
  19. ^ The German Language in a Changing Europe, Michael G. Clyne, Cambridge University Press, 1995, page 74
  20. ^ Rereading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR, Cambridge University Press, 2016, page 47
  21. ^ Hörfunk und Fernsehen in der DDR: Funktion, Struktur u. Programm des Rundfunks in der DDR, Heide Riedel, Literarischer Verlag Braun, 1977, page 84
  22. ^ Muttersprache, 1989, page 158
  23. ^ Sport, Politics, and Communism, James Riordan, Manchester University Press, 1991, page 143
  24. ^ Germany from Partition to Reunification, Henry Ashby Turner, Yale University Press, 1992, page 83
  25. ^ Kennzeichen BÄÄH, Der Spiegel 12 August 1974
  26. ^ Kontroverse Begriffe: Geschichte des öffentlichen Sprachgebrauchs in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Georg Stötzel, Martin Wengeler Walter de Gruyter, 1995, page 320
  27. ^ Konfession und Wahlverhalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Karl Schmitt, Duncker & Humblot, 1989, page 307
  28. ^ Deutschland-Jahrbuch, Volume 2, Klaus Mehnert, Heinrich Schulte Rheinisch-Westfälisches Verlagskontor, 1953, page 520
  29. ^ Der 17. Juni 1953 in der Literatur der beiden deutschen Staaten
  30. ^ Wirtschafts-Ploetz: die Wirtschaftsgeschichte zum Nachschlagen, Hugo Ott, Hermann Schäfer Ploetz, 1985, page 495
  31. ^ Geographisches Namenbuch Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Institut für Angewandte Geodäsie (Deutsches Geodätisches Forschungsinstitut) Verlag des Instituts für Angewandte Geodäsie, 1981
  32. ^ The Two Germanies: Rivals struggle for Germany's soul - As worries surface in Bonn about the influx from the East, there are anxieties across Europe about the likely economic and international effects, The Guardian', 15 September 1989
  33. ^ History of the Berlin Wall
  34. ^ East-West German trade up 8 percent The Christian Science Monitor, 8 September 1982
  35. ^ Germany Divided: From the Wall to Reunification, A. James McAdams Princeton University Press, 1994, page 107
  36. ^ Detente in Europe: Real or Imaginary?, Josef Korbel, Princeton University Press, 2015, page 191
  37. ^ a b Rechts um--zum Abitur: der geistige Wandel an deutschen Oberschulen, Michael Preute Ch. Links Verlag, 1995, page 122
  38. ^ Kampf dem BRD-Imperialismus, Liga gegen den Imperialismus, 1972, page 30
  39. ^ a b c Divided in Unity: Identity, Germany, and the Berlin Police, Andreas Glaeser University of Chicago Press, 2000, page 104
  40. ^ "Article 127 [Extension of law to the French zone and to Berlin" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  41. ^ Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin, Emily Pugh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014, page 344
  42. ^ Der Rechtsstatus des Landes Berlin, Ernst Renatus Zivier, Berlin Verlag, 1974, page 53
  43. ^ Bezeichnungen für "Deutschland" in der Zeit der "Wende": dargestellt an ausgewählten westdeutschen Printmedien, Ute Röding-Lange Königshausen & Neumann, 1997, page 149
  44. ^ Die Agrarpolitik in Mitteldeutschland: und ihre Auswirkung auf Produktion und Verbrauch landwirtschaftlicher Erzeugnisse, Edgar Tümmler, Konrad Merkel, Georg Blohm, Duncker & Humblot, 1969
  45. ^ Das Widerstandsrecht: Entwickelt anhand d. höchstrichterl. Rechtsprechterl. Rechtsprechung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Günther Scheidle Duncker & Humblot, 1969, page 65
  46. ^ "Als aus der DDR die DDR wurde: Der Verzicht auf die Gänsefüßchen kam in der WELT zur rechten Zeit", Heiner Bröckermann and Sven Felix Kellerhoff, Die Welt, 1 August 2009.
  47. ^ Proven Partnerships with Development Potential: Germany's relations with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, September 2010, page 47
  48. ^ Německo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic
  49. ^ Semantic Spat Pits German Against Slovak, Moscow Times, Tony Barber, 10 August 1995
  50. ^ Name-calling upsets the Federal Republic, The Independent, 4 August 1995