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German mind and Russian soul

An art exhibition opening in Berlin tracks this trajectory and promises to show Russian 'soul' and German 'mind.' Over 600 exhibits are on display as part of the events taking place in the 'German-Russian Year'.

The exhibition, at the Neues Museum in Berlin, promises over 600 exhibits from the Middle Ages to the present day, including items from museums and archives of both countries, some of which have never been seen publicly.

Organizers promise that visitors will discover traces of Russian history in German art and vice versa. The exhibition is part of the "German-Russian Year" and was on display in Moscow this summer.

The relationship between the two countries has developed well, said German President Joachim Gauck at the exhibition's opening on Thursday evening.

"The 'Russian soul' and the 'German mind' are not as far apart as some may still believe," he said.

The central aim of the exhibition was to take the spotlight off the horrors of two world wars from the 20th century, said Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

"We want to make people aware of the long relationship between the Germans and Russians, and how close it's always been," he said.

The darkest phase in the two countries' history was the time of Germany's attack on the Soviet Union during World War Two in 1941, the war crimes and the millions of dead in subsequent years.

One of the most controversial issues today is that of "Beutekunst" (trophy art), a term that refers to pieces of art that were taken by the Red Army from occupied East Germany to the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War. Discussions over what was taken and what should be returned are ongoing.

Gauck also called for the Russia-Germany partnership to be used as a "basis for openness." This must also apply "when we disagree, and when we critically analyze the other."

jr/rg (dpa, dapd)