However, current political issues like the democratization of Russian society, characterize a relationship with many open questions.
Russia before the mid 1700s was aloof from Western European politics while Germany was divided into the small states under the nominal leadership of the Holy Roman Emperor.
After the Great Northern War, however, Russia's power spread into the Baltic.
They fought on opposite side during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), but the war saw both grow in power. Russia defeated Sweden and Prussia defeated her Western enemies. They again were on opposite side during the Seven Year's War and fought the battles of Gross-Jägersdorf and Kay. However when the new Tsar Peter III came to power he signed the Treaty of Saint Petersburg and made peace with Prussia, allowing Prussia's Fredrick the Great to concentrate on other enemies.
Prussia and Russia then cooperated to carve up Poland-Lithuania between them.
Both Russia and Prussia had absolute monarchies that reacted sharply against the French Revolution and were part of the coalition against the new French regime during the French Revolutionary Wars and later the Napoleonic Wars. Prussia was shaken by the Revolutions of 1848 but was able to withstand the revolutionaries' call to war against Russia. Prussia did go to war with Denmark, however and was only stopped by British and Russian pressure.
Earlier on it seemed as if the two great empires would be strong allies, and formed the League of the Three Emperors with Austria to control Central and Eastern Europe, maintain peace, and support reactionary policies. However Prussian minister-president Leo von Caprivi failed to renew the agreement and instead created the German-Austrial alliance in 1879. Germany feared Russia's rapid industrialization and Russia feared Germany's already established industrial power. Russia and Germany were now enemies.
The ultimate result of this was the bloody Eastern Front during the Great War which saw both countries bleed the other dry. Russia succumbed first and fell to the Russian Revolutions. Germany was partially responsible by helping Lenin to return to Russia.
After the peace treaties that ended the Great War, the newly created states of the Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union both found themselves outcasts in the international system and gravitated toward each other. The rise of Hitler and the creation of the Nazi state with its virulent anti-Slav and anti-Communist rhetoric strained relations. However the two totalitarian states were able to agree to invade and repartition Poland and the Baltics. Relations were tense but Soviet dictator Stalin did not expect Hitler to invade in the Soviet Union in 1941.
The result was the horrendous ideological and race war on the Eastern Front during the Second World War (called the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union). This was probably the bloodiest conflict in human history.
The creation of West Germany and East Germany complicated relations. West Germany initially tried to claim that it was the only German state and the East was illegitimate and under the Hallstein Doctrine refused to have relation with any socialist state except the Soviet Union itself. This policy eventually gave way to Ostpolitik, an under which West Germany recognized the East.
Eventually the Soviet Union gave up on trying to support the unpopular East German government. After the Revolutions of 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany was allowed to reunite. Soon after, the Soviet Union was broken apart.
Relations between the two nations since the fall of communism have been generally good but not always without tension. German chancellor Gerhard Schröder placed high value on relations with Russia and worked for the completion of the Nordsteam gas pipeline between them. His successor Angela Merkel has been more critical and clashed with Russian president Vladimir Putin over human rights and other issues.
Germany's and Russia's economic strengths and interests complement each other which make a cooperation between the two countries very logical. However political disparities eventually overshadow an even closer relation.