Prussian virtues
The term Prussian virtues refers to an unfixed canon of several Lutheran virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

s dating from the Enlightenment. Prussian virtues and the Prussian value system have influenced aspects of wider German culture
Culture of Germany
German culture began long before the rise of Germany as a nation-state and spanned the entire German-speaking world. From its roots, culture in Germany has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular...


Historical Development

These virtues derive from King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia
Frederick William I of Prussia
Frederick William I of the House of Hohenzollern, was the King in Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg from 1713 until his death...

, the "soldier-king" and frugal "bourgeois" reformer of Prussian administration, and 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
Jena is a university city in central Germany on the river Saale. It has a population of approx. 103,000 and is the second largest city in the federal state of Thuringia, after Erfurt.-History:Jena was first mentioned in an 1182 document...

 and Auerstedt
Auerstedt is a municipality in the Weimarer Land district of Thuringia, Germany. It lies northeast of Weimar. On October 14, 1806, the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, a decisive victory for Napoleon I of France, took place near Auerstedt. As a result, the leader of the victorious French forces,...

, until the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 in 1815, was also an important influence. These included reform of community-boundaries, the army, schools, universities, and taxes; enfranchisement of Jews.

Despite a meager economic basis which caused Prussia to be known as the dustbowl of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and despite the great devastation and human loss of the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

, Prussian virtues gave Prussia a modern legal order and administration, an officer corps loyal to the crown, and a reasoned patriotism, which caused Prussia to develop from an ordinary baroque state of a grand elector to a modern great power.

Chosen examples

  • Sincerity
    Sincerity is the virtue of one who speaks and acts truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, and desires.-Sincerity in Western societies:Sincerity has not been consistently regarded as a virtue in Western culture...

  • Humility
    Humility is the quality of being modest, and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.-Term:The term "humility"...

  • Industriousness
    Work ethic
    Work ethic is a set of values based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant work ethic...

  • Obedience
    The term obedience can refer to:* Obedience ** The educational film Obedience about the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures* Vow of obedience as an evangelical counsel* Obedience training for dogs...

     (but not without Frankness
    Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating, or theft....

  • Straightness
  • Sense of Justice („Suum cuique“ = Jedem das Seine = To each his own)
  • Godliness coupled with religious Tolerance
    Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

  • Toughness
    In materials science and metallurgy, toughness is the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing; Material toughness is defined as the amount of energy per volume that a material can absorb before rupturing...

    , against oneself even more than against others
  • Courage
    Courage is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation...

  • Sense of Order
  • Pflichtbewusstsein (Sense of Duty)
  • Probity
  • Self denial (Walter Flex
    Walter Flex
    Walter Flex was a German author responsible for Wanderer zwischen beiden Welten , a stunning war novel dealing with themes of humanity, friendship, and suffering during World War I....

     1915: „Wer je auf Preußens Fahne schwört, hat nichts mehr, was ihm selbst gehört.“ = He who swears on Prussia's flag has nothing left that belongs to himself)
  • Austerity
  • Bravery without sniveling („Lerne leiden ohne zu klagenLearn to suffer without moaning!)
  • Loyalty
  • Incorruptibility
  • Subordination
  • Self-effacement („Mehr sein als scheinen!Be more than you seem to be)
  • Reliability
  • Punctuality


In Germany, Prussian virtues have always been criticized by some, as example by the bourgeoisie for its original distance to natural sciences and art and its state-economy and soldierly shape - "order and obedience". Also the worker movement went especially against the last two aspects.

In the Protests of 1968
Protests of 1968
The protests of 1968 consisted of a worldwide series of protests, largely participated in by students and workers.-Background:Background speculations of overall causality vary about the political protests centering on the year 1968. Some argue that protests could be attributed to the social changes...

 it was seen with distrust as loyalty and obedience was mostly also committed to the National Socialist government and devalued against their concept of emancipatory primary virtues. During the controversy surrounding the NATO Double-Track Decision
NATO Double-Track Decision
The NATO Double-Track Decision is the decision of NATO from December 12, 1979 to offer the Warsaw Pact a mutual limitation of Medium-range ballistic missiles and Intermediate-range ballistic missiles combined with the threat that in case of disagreement NATO would deploy more middle range nuclear...

, in 1982 German SPD
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 chancellor Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt is a German Social Democratic politician who served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. Prior to becoming chancellor, he had served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance. He had also served briefly as Minister of Economics and as acting...

 demanded a return to Prussian virtues, whereupon Saarbrücken
Saarbrücken is the capital of the state of Saarland in Germany. The city is situated at the heart of a metropolitan area that borders on the west on Dillingen and to the north-east on Neunkirchen, where most of the people of the Saarland live....

's SPD mayor Oskar Lafontaine
Oskar Lafontaine
Oskar Lafontaine is a German politician, former German finance minister, former chairman of the Social Democratic Party and former Minister-President of the state of Saarland. Since 2007 he was co-chairman of The Left...

 remarked that those were "perfectly suited to run a concentration camp".

To this day though sometimes Prussian virtues are a theme in political debates. As example in January 2006 the prime minister of Brandenburg Matthias Platzeck
Matthias Platzeck
Matthias Platzeck is a German politician. He has been Minister-President of Brandenburg since 2002 and party chairman of the SPD from November 2005 to April 2006.-Private life:...

 demanded a return to more Prussian virtues.

See also

  • Furor Teutonicus
    Furor Teutonicus
    Furor Teutonicus is a Latin phrase referring to the proverbial fierceness of the Teutones, or more generally the Germanic tribes of the Roman Empire period....

  • Kingdom of Prussia
    Kingdom of Prussia
    The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

  • Prussian Army
    Prussian Army
    The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

  • Knightly Virtues
    Knightly Virtues
    Knightly Virtues were part of a medieval chivalric code of honor. The virtues were a set of 'standards' that Knights of the High Middle Ages tried to adhere to in their daily living and interactions with others. Today, this term still carries similar meanings.Some organizations attempt to continue...


  • Oswald Spengler
    Oswald Spengler
    Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West , published in 1918, which puts forth a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations...

    , Preußentum und Sozialismus, München: C. H. Beck, 1919
  • Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Kapitel „Preußische Tugenden“ in „Preußen – Bilder und Zeugnisse“ (zuletzt postum in „Preußen – Geschichte eines Staates“, Frankfurt a. M./ Berlin 1995. ISBN 3549054963, S. 442f.)
  • Christian Graf v. Krockow
    Christian Graf von Krockow
    Christian Graf von Krockow, was a German writer and political scientist,Christian Count of Krockow was the son of a historic Pomeranian noble family. He was born in Rumbske near the city of Stolp...

    : „Die Pflicht und das Glück“ (Rede am 17. August 1991 im Neuen Palais zu Potsdam
    Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

    ) in: Hans Bentzien: Die Heimkehr der Preußenkönige, 1. Auflage, Berlin 1991. ISBN 3353008772

External links

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