Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Michael Kirkwood House PhD

First Reader

Yvonne Ivory PhD

Second Reader

Yvonne Ivory PhD


Ostalgie, a combination of the German words Ost (east) and Nostalgie (nostalgia), is the psychological phenomenon that describes former East Germans’ longing for a return to aspects of life from the period of communist rule. This paper explores the phenomenon of Ostalgie in reunified Germany in relation to psychological constructs of nostalgia and collective identity.

Ostalgie is essentially both a means and an end. This paper seeks to prove Ostalgie is a means of creating identity, formulated by the interplay of nostalgia and certain social conditions that combined with and aided the failure of democratic capitalism for former East Germans. Nostalgia should be understood as a cultivation of the confronting hegemonic and oppositional memories. As an end, Ostalgie serves as a fundamental cornerstone for post-reunification East German identity itself. Ostalgie can be understood as an attempt to reclaim a sense of Heimat, home, in the wake of profound displacement following the German reunification. The abrupt and radical transformation of East Germans’ lives through unification denied them the opportunity to complete their democratic revolution at their own pace. In addition, widespread job loss and early economic failures of reunified Germany in the early 2000s further divided the formerly Eastern and Western Germans. This paper maintains therefore, that this sense of nostalgia that developed suggests not that East Germans wanted the former socialist regime back, but rather they wanted to be recognized in the present, and they wanted to contribute to their new society while having their history appreciated. East Germans had been oppressed, disadvantaged, and without voice. After reunification, East Germans lives, thoughts, and traditions were systematically devalued just as much as their former government and economic ideologies. In the face of the reunified nation’s failure to provide for and acknowledge East Germans, the former Easterners turned to each other to create a reality which values and affirms the identity of being “East German”.

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© 2020, Faith Morris