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History doesn't always repeat itself; sometimes it rhymes
January 25, 2012 5:44 AM   Subscribe


 
YOU KNOW WHO ELSE.... ok, ok.
posted by slater at 6:03 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I understand the temptation to frame the FPP in those terms, but Frederick the Great didn't bring Germany power and glory, but rather Prussia, and this not just to Poland's detriment but mostly to the detriment of the then-moribund Holy Roman German Empire and other German states.
posted by Skeptic at 6:08 AM on January 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Grave potatoes!
posted by orrnyereg at 6:10 AM on January 25, 2012


Grave potatoes!

Are those potatoes for funerals, or just potatoes that bring bad news?
posted by slater at 6:22 AM on January 25, 2012


Wow...I just bought the Catherine the Great bio yesterday and I just got to the chapter about Frederick II (he wasn't Great yet) and how he engineered the marriage with Elizabeth's son Peter Ulrich to secure his eastern flank so he could fuck with Austria unhindered.
posted by spicynuts at 6:23 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeah I didn't think there was a 'germany' at that time, right?
posted by spicynuts at 6:23 AM on January 25, 2012


I've always had a soft spot for Old Fritz ever since I learnt his asshole father forced him to watch the execution of the man who was almost certainly his lover, Hans Hermann von Katte. It's a wonder that Fritz did not govern as a monster after that experience and turned out as well as he did.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:28 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just bought the Catherine the Great bio yesterday

Which one?

(And let's not single out Frederick, as Russia and Austria were in on grabbing bits of Poland as well.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:35 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Grave potatoes

Here in Germany we stack the potatoes up in small cairns*, like the piles of stones in Jewish cemeteries.

*this is not true but I wish it was
posted by omnikron at 6:40 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


“Plus, they last longer than flowers.”

I'm sensing a new Potato Marketing board campaign.
posted by arcticseal at 7:04 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeah I didn't think there was a 'germany' at that time, right?

Well, as I pointed out above, there was the Holy Roman German Empire (aka the First Reich), which didn't meant much anymore at the time, but was still nominally headed by the Austrian Hapsburgs. Old Fritz spent most of his time devising and carrying out new and imaginative ways to torment the Hapsburg emperors, so his post-mortem elevation to a beacon of German nationalism would probably have amused him greatly.
posted by Skeptic at 7:13 AM on January 25, 2012


(And let's not single out Frederick, as Russia and Austria were in on grabbing bits of Poland as well.)

Everyone was doing that to their neighbor at that time, and they were just scavenging a rotten carcass of a country. Which they vastly helped on its way to the grave and which just recently started to show signs of improvement, sealing its fate.
posted by hat_eater at 7:26 AM on January 25, 2012


I've always had a soft spot for Old Fritz ever since I learnt his asshole father forced him to watch the execution of the man who was almost certainly his lover, Hans Hermann von Katte. It's a wonder that Fritz did not govern as a monster after that experience and turned out as well as he did.

When they figure out time travel, I am so going to destroy history by going back and making this not happen.
posted by Frowner at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2012


Which one?

The Robert Massie one
posted by spicynuts at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2012


David Blackbourn wrote a really interesting book a couple of years ago about Frederick the Great called: The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany. Using some ideas from American environmental history--and specifically investigations of water in the American West-- Blackbourn examines the place, and use, of water in German history, and he starts with Frederick the Great, who he argues is in many ways responsible for transforming the northern German landscape, because of the scale of the water projects he started. Very interesting stuff.
posted by colfax at 8:16 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This might be a moot point based on the comments about him being Prussian rather than German, but regarding:

Germany celebrates a leader who was instrumental in bringing her power and glory

isn't Germany usually referred to as male rather than female? Has this changed or i am just barking up the wrong tree entirely?
posted by biffa at 8:40 AM on January 25, 2012


> The potato, one of more than a dozen left by admirers, is a traditional token to honor Frederick’s role in spreading the cultivation of the food staple in his lands. “Old Fritz made sure they grew them,” Mr. Günther said, using the monarch’s popular nickname.

In fact, this is where the name "pomme Fritz" for fried potatoes comes from.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


biffa: "isn't Germany usually referred to as male rather than female? Has this changed or i am just barking up the wrong tree entirely?"

Hmm, I don't think I've ever heard a country referred to as male, including Germany. Could be wrong.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2012


biffa: "isn't Germany usually referred to as male rather than female? Has this changed or i am just barking up the wrong tree entirely?"

Germania
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:47 AM on January 25, 2012


(And let's not single out Frederick, as Russia and Austria were in on grabbing bits of Poland as well.)

Don't forget those darned Poles had a penchant for invading Russia. Resulted in some great artwork, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:25 AM on January 25, 2012


so his post-mortem elevation to a beacon of German nationalism would probably have amused him greatly

Well, technically, German nationalism as such was a creature born of the Napoleonic occupations, so even Freddie might agree in that light. In any case, I always understood Germanic unification to have been largely spurred by Prussia in the first place, and something that could be broadly seen as a conquest (or liberation) of Austro-Hungarian vassal states. Modern Germany, thus, is a direct political descendant of the Prussian state.
posted by dhartung at 12:01 PM on January 25, 2012


Yes, Germany as it exists today is the result of Prussia surpassing Austria as the preeminent German state.

I just bought the Catherine the Great bio yesterday and I just got to the chapter about Frederick II (he wasn't Great yet) and how he engineered the marriage with Elizabeth's son Peter Ulrich to secure his eastern flank so he could fuck with Austria unhindered.


Peter III of Russia was actually the Empress Elizabeth's nephew, son of her sister Anna and a minor German prince. Famously, when Peter III, a noted Germanophile, came to the throne in 1762, he abruptly called off a war against Prussia that Prussia would likely lose, thereby saving Frederick the Great in the so-called "Miracle of the House of Brandenburg." (The house of Brandenburg is an alternate name for the house of Hohenzollern, the family from which the Kings of Prussia and later the German Emperors were drawn). Hitler apparently hoped something similar would happen in 1945.

Frederick the Great was also an interesting character insofar as his court (at Sans-Souci!) used almost exclusively French, which he saw as a language more fit for culture than German. This, despite the fact that he always had some difficulty with French throughout his life. Thus, while he was certainly interested in the strength of the Prussian state, to call him a German nationalist is a bit anachronistic.
posted by dhens at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


In Poland, and as a classical music aficionado, I marked the passing of Frederick II's 300th birthday anniversary in the most dignified way possible, by attending a Philharmonic Concert dedicated to the music of his court and times. As you all know, in most biographies his ruthless military campaigns and cynical reversals of alliances are apparently off-set by his great enlightenment and sensitivity in classical music composition especially for flute concertos where he played his favorite wind instrument himself.
For this occasion, we had the incredible honor of guesting in Warsaw the Kammerakademie Potsdam Ensemble, conducted by the Trevor Pinnock, the legendary British harpsichordist. Probably the best orchestra ensemble and conductor imaginable for this music.

We heard two works composed specifically for Frederick by his protege, C.P.E. Bach (son of Johann Seb Bach): the Symphony in D Major 183/1 and the Flute Concerto in A Major 168. Then the Potsdam Ensemble played a piece by Frederick's teacher, Johann Joachim Quantz, also specifically composed for the King, a Flute Concerto in G Major.
Trevor Pinnock was outstanding, conducting and playing the harpsichord simultaneously, and the Swiss flutist, who stood in for Frederick, was obviously a virtuoso.
After playing work by Frederick's protege and Frederick's favorite teacher, the orchestra regaled us with a surprise and played a piece composed by Frederick himself!

However, I was surprised that all three/four works were very similar, and frankly quite predicable, date I say mediocre. Even boring. The audience, as musically-knowledgeable as it was, grew restless and tired. No wonder Quantz or C.P.E. Bach aren't household names. After nearly an hour of this all-too chirpy but bland playing, I even began to wonder if it was simply the late Baroque style that wasn't sitting with me nor with the rest of the packed concert hall...
Until, then suddenly, the orchestra launched into its last scheduled piece - Joseph Haydn's Symphony in G major. From the first notes, the audience sat up like electrified. This was magic. It was indefinable, between Baroque and Classical, all boredom and tiredness melted away, we were wide alert and staring at the stage in wonder. For the encore, Trevor Pinnock played the last movement of the Symphony once again for our enjoyment. (This YT video doesn't even begin to convey the energy and emotion Mr. Pinnock could bring out from the Potsdam Ensemble). It earned him and the Potsdam Ensemble a full standing ovation, quite the rarity in Warsaw's concerto-going crowd.

.. All this to say that Frederick was most certainly not that Great, at least not in terms of his music, nor choice of teachers nor choice of protegees.
His ruthless military campaigns and cynical reversals of alliances, however, were an inspiration to many, to say the least.
posted by ruelle at 5:49 PM on January 25, 2012


I am indebted to them (Carl and Frederick) for this piece - pity that the majority of their work is not so great.
posted by hat_eater at 3:45 AM on January 26, 2012


Why they Put Potatoes on Frederick the Great’s Grave
Among his many accomplishments Frederick the Great also happened to introduce potatoes to Germany. He thought they were a great idea, and made a big production out of eating potatoes and smacking his lips enthusiastically at state dinners. Sometimes, when not fighting Austrians, he would visit towns and pass out potatoes. His endorsement worked, and potatoes became a staple crop in the nation.

So that’s why people put potatoes on top of his grave.
Fritz's father was a real fun guy:
In addition to a militaristic bent, Frederick Wilhelm also aimed to inject a decent work ethic into Prussia. He used to wander around Berlin with a cane beating people he thought were acting lazy. He would deliver his rallying cry, “Prussia needs you– now!” along with a sharp whack to the head. Then lecture the aggrieved about how they ought to be knitting, or that young men should be marching or taking guns apart and putting them back together instead of sitting around playing cards.

On one occasion a peasant saw him and ran the opposite direction, so Frederick Wilhelm chased him down and asked why he had run away. When the man replied he was afraid of the king, Frederick Wilhelm shouted “You should love me!” and proceeded to beat him senseless with a cane.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:03 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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