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Bavaria's costume veteran Söder unveils 2024 Carnival outfit

February 2, 2024

One of Germany's more colorful, if less significant, recurring political questions has its annual answer: Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder's conspicuously detailed Carnival costume for 2024 is Otto von Bismarck.

Bavaria's Markus Söder having fake eyebrows applied in a makeup studio. February 2, 2024.
Markus Söder's penchant for fancy dress has been well known for yearsImage: Daniel Löb/dpa/picture alliance

Bavaria is one of the parts of Germany that can take Carnival — a word to the wise, call it "Fasching" if you do find yourself down south — extremely seriously each year. 

Many people go to great lengths to participate in the revelry, primarily during February, and many of them will dress up in elaborate costumes. 

For years, this has famously been the case for the conservative CSU politician Markus Söder, now the party leader and state premier.

Markus Söder dressed as Otto von Bismark and Karin Baumüller-Söder as a woman from the era in the 19th century. February 2, 2024.
The finished product and homage to the so-called 'iron chancellor'Image: Daniel Löb/dpa/picture alliance

2024 vintage — Bismarck, the first German (Prussian) chancellor

Söder took to social media on Friday, his tongue presumably in his cheek, to announce the "Breaking news" that he'd be dressed as Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German Empire, for 2024's festivities. 

"Breaking News: Secret revealed... This year's costume is the old Otto von Bismarck," Söder said. 

Count Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was an aristocrat who worked closely with King Wilhelm I of Prussia to unify the German states. He would go on to become a colonial and unified Germany's first chancellor between 1871 and 1890.

"Many called him Europe's honest broker. And as [former CSU leader and Bavarian State Premier] Franz Josef Strauss said: Sometimes Bavarians must be the last Prussians!" Söder wrote.

That's a reference to the Prussians' historical reputation as militaristic, humorless and efficient that was prevalent in other parts of Germany. Strauss often used the phrase when he wanted to imply that Bavaria and the CSU was telling a hard and unpleasant truth that other parts of German society might not want to hear.

Markus Söder in a make-up room, with a cap covering his hair to make him appear bald. February 2, 2024, Munich.
Quite often, but by no means always, Söder's costumes have a political flavorImage: Daniel Löb/dpa/picture alliance

"P.S. Despite the mood of crisis it is allowed to really celebrate, particularly during Fasching," Söder added. 

Söder will be part of the "Fastnacht in Franken" celebrations in Munich on Friday evening that also air on regional public broadcaster BR every year. 

Söder's cosplay skills a long-running tradition

Since very early in his political career, Söder has had a reputation for taking his Fasching outfits quite considerably more seriously than most. The conservative politician will quite often promote or draw attention to his enjoyment of science fiction more generally.

His back catalogue of Carnival or Fasching outfits range from Shrek to Marilyn Monroe, Gandalf, a member of the band Kiss, a mohawk-sporting "broke punk rocker" during the credit crisis in 2012, Luitpold Prince Regent of Bavaria (1821-1912), Homer Simpson, and more.

Combination photo of Markus Söder wearing five different costumes for carnival celebrations in Bavaria: a "broke punk rocker" in 2012, a member of the rock band Kiss in 2011, Lord of the Rings wizard Gandalf in 2010, Marilyn Monroe in 2013 and Shrek in 2014.
These outfits comprise Söder's 2010-2014 vintage, before he had risen to Bavaria's top political jobImage: Ebener/Hildenbrand/Karmann/dpa/picture alliance

He actually put the tradition on hold for a while after graduating to the role of state premier in 2018 but has since started endulging his costume-loving instincts again.

For the last couple of years, Söder has released a series of images and recorded some footage in the costume and make-up rooms during his transformation. 

Last year's costume was a symbolic character rather than a known real or fictional persona. Söder dressed as an unspecified Bavarian clan elder from antiquity, although some mistook his apparel for an attempt to depict Moses. 

Four images showing Markus Söder being transformed in a make-up studio to a character described as the "clan elder who will lead Bavaria safely through crisis," taken on February 10, 2023. Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
Last year's ancient persona was labeled the 'clan elder who will lead Bavaria safely through crisis' Image: Daniel Karmann/dpa/picture alliance

Carnival celebrations will peak next week in most of those parts of Germany that mark it, particularly between February 8 and 13. 

msh/nm (with dpa)  

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