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The term Prussian virtues refers to an unfixed canon of several Lutheran virtues dating from the Enlightenment. Prussian virtues and the Prussian value system have influenced aspects of wider German culture.

Historical Development

These virtues derive from King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, 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 Jenamarker and Auerstedtmarker, until the Congress of Vienna 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, 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
  • Humility
  • Industriousness
  • Obedience (but not without Frankness)
  • Straightness
  • Sense of Justice („Suum cuique“ = Jedem das Seine = To each his own)
  • Godliness coupled with religious Tolerance
  • Toughness, against oneself even more than against others
  • Courage
  • Sense of Order
  • Pflichtbewusstsein (Sense of Duty)
  • Probity
  • Self denial (Walter Flex 1915: „Wer je auf Preußens Fahne schwört, hat nichts mehr, was ihm selbst gehört.“ = He who swears on Prussia's flag has nothing else 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 it was seen with distrust as loyalty and obedience was mostly also committed to the National Socialist government and devalued against their concept of empancipatory primary virtues.

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 demanded a return to more Prussian virtues.

See also


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