Naming conventions

The official name of West Germany, adopted in 1949 and unchanged since, is Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany). Its abbreviation “BRD” (German) or “FRG” (English) was sometimes also used.

23In East Germany usage, the terms Westdeutschland (West Germany) or westdeutsche Bundesrepublik (West German Federal Republic) were preferred during the 1950s and 1960s. This changed once East Germany considered West Germans and West Berliners foreigners under its 1968 constitution, where the idea of a single German nation was abandoned. In the early 1970s, starting in the East German Neues Deutschland, the initialism “BRD” (FRG) for the “Federal Republic of Germany” began to prevail. In 1973, official East German sources adopted it as a standard expression and other Eastern Bloc nations soon followed suit.

In reaction to this move, in 1965 the Federal Minister of All-German Affairs Erich Mende issued the Directives for the appellation of Germany recommending avoiding the initialism. On 31 May 1974 the heads of German federal and state governments recommended to always use the full name in official publications. From then on West German sources avoided the abbreviated form, with the exception of left-leaning organizations which embraced it. In November 1979 the federal government informed the Bundestag that the West German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF had agreed to refuse to use the initialism.

The colloquial term “West Germany” or its equivalent was used in many languages. “Westdeutschland” was also a widespread colloquial form used in German-speaking countries, usually without political overtones.