In 1995, the first document mentioning the name Mecklenburg (as 'Michelenburg') was exactly millennium old. This birthday provided the opportunity for the new state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to celebrate a new collective memory. Prime minister Berndt Seite emphasised in a greeting address in the official programme-book the significance of the campaign '1,000 years of Mecklenburg' for developing a distinctive regional identity in a time of change (Landesregierung 1995: 5; my translation):
"The 1000-year celebration of Mecklenburg ... ties into the conveying of historical values and directs the attention at the same time to the current conditions of life. We all experience the scale and speed of processes of change as daily challenges. All the more important is the inner security which the attachment to the home country (Heimat) can give the individual human being. The culture of our home country is precious and we must protect and preserve it. ... The celebration of '1000 years of Mecklenburg' reminds us all of the history of Mecklenburg which is rich in tradition, and the celebration contributes significantly to the identification with our home country."
Events featuring in the programme of '1,000 years of Mecklenburg'
(Landesregierung 1995) included
Perhaps the most important single event was the big exhibition in Güstrow about the history of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, entitled "1000 Jahre Mecklenburg. Geschichte und Kunst einer europäischen Region" (1,000 years of Mecklenburg. History and Art of a European Region). This exhibition celebrated the history of the state, the relations with its neighbours along the Baltic Sea and inland, its famous personalities (e.g. Otto Lilienthal, Fritz Reuter, Heinrich Schliemann, Ernst Barlach, Ernst Moritz Arndt, Caspar David Friedrich), as well as its historical monuments and artefacts.
The whole campaign and many of the events of '1,000 years of Mecklenburg' pointed to the significance of the past in the landscape which we inhabit in our daily lives. They also exemplified, and contributed to, contemporaneous history culture. Mostly, the meaning giving to the past during '1,000 years of Mecklenburg' was one of belonging and regional pride, which is clearly politically motivated in country which has just been 'taken over' by another (see also Seite's Regierungserklärung from 25.1.1995). For an international audience, the leaflet of the exhibition in Güstrow emphasised in its English section a particular European angle which may not only contribute to a European identity, but also legitimate a particular politics:
"Situated on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, our region has always been at the centre of European interests... The history of Mecklenburg and West Pomerania is a history of fruitful cultural interchange with our European neighbours."
Landesregierung (ed.) (1995) Mecklenburg-Vorpommern feiert 1000 Jahre Mecklenburg. Dülmen/Westf.: Laumann.
© Cornelius Holtorf