Images of Europe in the discourse of German left- and right-wing populists: between solidarity Europe and fortress Europe

Images of Europe in the discourse of German left- and right-wing populists:
between solidarity Europe and fortress Europe

Svirchevskii D.A.,

HSE University, Moscow, Russia,

ORCID: 0009-0008-1991-719X | RESEARCHER_ID: HNJ-4343-2023

Fomin I.V.,

HSE University, Moscow, Russia; INION RAN, Moscow, Russia; MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 638552 | ORCID: 0000-0003-4703-5262 | RESEARCHER_ID: R-8897-2016

Article received: 2021.12.04. Accepted: 2022.08.19

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2023.02.03

For citation:

Svirchevskii D.A., Fomin I.V. Images of Europe in the discourse of German left- and right-wing populists: between solidarity Europe and fortress Europe. – Polis. Political Studies. 2023. No. 2. P. 27-40. (In Russ.). EDN: YGNOEA

This research was supported by a grant from the President of the Russian Federation for state support of young Russian scientists – candidates of sciences (№ 075-15-2020-335).


The study seeks to understand how German left- and right-wing populists (“Die Linke” and “Alternative für Deutschland”) discursively construct the images of Europe. The toolkit of the discourse-historical approach is applied to analyze the discursive strategies of nomination, predication and argumentation that are used by the two parties to represent Europe as it is and the Europe that is desired. The study is structured based on an analytical framework that distinguishes among three dimensions of the discourses on Europe: the ideational dimension, organizational dimension, and geographical dimension. The results of the analysis show that, in the ideational dimension of the image of Europe, “Die Linke” represents the today’s European Union as a militarized and excessively competitive structure that should instead be focused on protecting human rights as well as promoting peace and solidarity. In its turn, “Alternative für Deutschland” shows the EU as a threat to European cultures and to the sovereignty of European countries. In the organisational dimension of the discourse, both left- and right-wing populists criticize the EU for being undemocratic, but their solutions to this problem are different. While “Alternative für Deutschland” supports the idea of Germany’s withdrawal from the EU, “Die Linke” sees the future of the country only in the context of a united Europe. In the geographical dimension, “Die Linke” criticizes the EU for being too isolated, while it ought to be more open to the outer world. In contrast, “Alternative für Deutschland” emphasizes the insufficient security of the European Union and advocates for its greater closeness. Overall, “Die Linke” constructs the images of Europe mostly on the basis of the topoi of anti-militarism, anti-capitalism, humanitarianism, openness, and democracy, while “Alternative für Deutschland” uses the topoi of culture, history, sovereignty and financial profit. In general, the study shows that although there are a lot of differences in the rhetoric of “Die Linke” and “Alternative für Deutschland”, they both construct arguments against the current EU based on the core populist assumption that the will of the people, democracy, and popular sovereignty must be respected.

image of Europe, Europe, populism, Germany, left-wing populism, right-wing populism, discourse analysis, Alternative Deutschland, Die Linke.

Дополнительные материалы


Albertazzi, D., & McDonnell, D. (2008). Introduction: the sceptre and the spectre. In Twenty-First Century Populism (pp. 1-11). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Alonso-Muñoz, L., & Casero-Ripolles, A. (2020). Populism Against Europe in social media: the eurosceptic discourse on Twitter in Spain, Italy, France, and United Kingdom during the Campaign of the 2019 European Parliament election. Frontiers in Communication, 5(54), 1-12,

Arzheimer, K. (2015). The AfD: finally a successful right-wing populist Eurosceptic party for Germany? – West European Politics, 38(3), 535-556.

Berbuir, N., Lewandowsky, M., & Siri, J. (2015). The AfD and its Sympathisers: finally a right-wing populist movement in Germany? German Politics, 42(2), 154-178.

Browning, C.S. (2019). Brexit populism and fantasies of fulfilment. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 32(3), 222-244.

Brubaker, R. (2017). Why populism? Theory and Society, 46(5), 357-385.

Csehi, R., & Zgut, E. (2021). ‘We won't let Brussels dictate us’: Eurosceptic populism in Hungary and Poland. European Politics and Society, 22(1), 53-68.

Glencross, A. (2020). ‘Love Europe, hate the EU’: a genealogical inquiry into populists’ spatio-cultural critique of the European Union and its consequences. European Journal of International Relations, 26(1), 116-136.

Hough, D., & Keith, D. (2019). The German Left Party: a case of pragmatic populism. In G. Katsambekis, & A. Kioupkiolis (Ed.), The Populist Radical Left in Europe (pp. 129-144). London: Routledge.

Hough, K. (2009). Populism personified or reinvigorated reformers? The German Left Party in 2009 and beyond. German Politics and Society, 27(2), 76-91.

Jacob, F. (2021). The “Decline of the West” as a semiotic strategy against a European Union. In F. Mangiapane, & T. Migliore (Ed.), Images of Europe: The Union between Federation and Separation. P. 91–102.

Kaya, A., & Tecmen, A. (2019). Europe versus Islam? Right-wing populist discourse and the construction of a civilizational identity. The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 17(1), 49-64.

Kioupkiolis, A. (2016). Podemos: the ambiguous promises of left-wing populism in contemporary Spain. Journal of Political Ideologies, 21(2), 99-120.

Krzyżanowski, M. (2010). The discursive construction of european identities: a multi-level approach to discourse and identity in the transforming European Union. Bern: Peter Lang.

March, L. (2017). Left and right populism compared: the British case. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19(2), 282-303.

March, L. (2001). Radical left parties in Europe. London, New York: Routledge.

Mastropaolo, A. (2008). Politics against democracy: party withdrawal and populist breakthrough. In D. Albertazzi, & D. McDonnell (Ed.), Twenty-First Century Populism (pp. 30-48). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Montanari, F. (2021). “From an uncertain border”. double, existential and discursive, European crisis: changes of glance, between migrants crisis and climate change. In F. Mangiapane, & T. Migliore (Ed.), Images of Europe: The Union between Federation and Separation (pp. 167-182).

Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mudde, C. (2004). The populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition, 39(4), 541-563.

Prentoulis, M. (2021). Left populism in Europe: Lessons from Jeremy Corbyn to Podemos. London: Pluto Press.

Reisigl, M., & Wodak, R. (2016). The discourse-historical approach (DHA). In Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. 3rd ed. (pp. 23-61). Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage.

Stavrakakis, Y., & Katsambekis, G. (2014). Left-wing populism in the European periphery: the case of SYRIZA. Journal of Political Ideologies, 19(2), 119-142.

Taggart, P. (2000). Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Trimithiotis, D. (2018). Understanding political discourses about Europe: a multilevel contextual approach to discourse. Discourse & Society, 29(2), 160-179.

Van Kessel, St. (2015). Populist parties in europe: agents of discontent? London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wodak, R. (2007). ‘Doing Europe’: the discursive construction of European identities. In Discursive Constructions of Identity in European Politics (pp. 70-94). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Alekseev, A.V., & Fomin, I.V. (2020). “We, the defenders of nations and liberties”. How the EU populist radical right discursively constructs identities: the case of the Rassemblement National. Political Science (RU), 4, 128-156. (In Russ.)

Fomin, I.V. (2018a). Image of state: a semiotic model. METHOD: Moscow Yearbook of Works from Social Science Disciplines, 8, 47-60. (In Russ.)

Fomin, I.V. (2018b). On the semiotic model of image. baltijskij accent, 9(2), 37-51. (In Russ.) 

Content No. 2, 2023

See also:

Vainshtein G.I.,
Modern Populism as a Subject of Political Science. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No4

Sokolshchik L.M.,
American Conservatism and the Callenge of Contemporary Populism: Theoretical and Ideological Aspects. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No1

Zaslavsky V.,
Russia on the Way to Market: State-Dependent Workers and Populism. – Polis. Political Studies. 1991. No5

Pain E.A., Fediunin S.Yu.,
Populism and Elitism in Contemporary Russia. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No1

Fishman L.G.,
Populism Will Be Long Lasting. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No3



Introducing an article

Polis. Political Studies
1 2010

Sheynis V.L.
Russia’s national security. durability trial. Part II

 The article text


   2024      2023      2022      2021   
   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991