hidden europe 7

In the ghetto

by Nicky Gardner


on the margins of Berlin, several thousand Russlanddeutsche (Russian-Germans), migrants who arrived in Germany in the mid 1990s, live as an underclass

hidden europe's home city, Berlin, walks a social tightrope: in part a capital in the chic western European mould and yet still a city with rough edges, an unkempt place that defies the efforts of Germany's Federal Government to make it more respectable. While the tourists rub shoulders with the political élites along the grand boulevard of Unter den Linden and in the contrived elegance of shopping malls that become ever glitzier each year, for the average Berliner life is rather tougher. The Berlin suburb of Marzahn is a place that doesn't figure in the mental maps of the tourists and political élites, even though this high rise jungle of apartment blocks from the late seventies and early eighties is less than thirty minutes by train from the city centre. Marzahn is home to not just many thousands of poorer Germans but also to a good chunk of the city's Russian community. These are the dispossessed, the ones who live in blighted space and give the lie to the misconception, common among Germans, that migrants from Russia are all ridiculously affluent. The fur coat and caviar image is a tad removed from the reality of everyday Marzahn.

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