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“We can and should count on the voices of ‘the other Russia’”

Three questions posed to Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré about the event series by the Tsvetaeva Center with the regime-critical intellectuals and artists

Freiburg, May 17, 2022

“The Other Russia. Stories, Positions and Encounters” is the name of an event series organized by the Tsvetaeva Center for Russian Culture at the University of Freiburg. The series gathers significant critical voices of Russian intellectuals and artists and begins on May 18, 2022. Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré, Professor of Slavic Philology and Gender Studies, is the chairwoman of the Tsvetaeva Center. She designed the series together with Margarita Augustin. Thomas Goebel spoke with her about the series’ origins.

Elisabeth Cheauré, Professor of Slavic Philology and Gender Studies, organizes the event series "The Other Russia" with the Tsvetaeva Center. Photo: private

Frau Cheauré, You have organized an event series events entitled “The Other Russia.” Who or what is meant by that?

Cheauré: We actually invented this term ourselves at the Tsvetaeva Center, but it has since been invented or adopted in parallel by other institutions throughout Germany. We mean those courageous people who oppose the regime in Russia and the Russian war of aggression. And those who very quickly after the start of the war expressed their distance by fleeing Russia or before and going to the West because they recognized the political tendencies in Russia early on.

How did you decide whom to invite?

We took a two-pronged approach: we wanted to bring really prominent names to Freiburg, and we approached people with whom we were already in contact in some way. But we also deliberately included a work by Shostakovich in the program - because in my opinion it cannot be that Russian composers are blamed post mortem for Putin's war of aggression and that Russian works are no longer performed. What totally amazed us during the planning: We have not received a single refusal from the highly prominent names we have asked, such as Vladimir Sorokin or Irina Scherbakowa - except, unfortunately, from Lyudmila Ulitzkaya, who cannot come after all for health reasons. We have also already received commitments for a continuation of the series in the winter semester. We were really touched by the enthusiasm for our idea to set a counterpoint to the black-and-white painting and to offer a platform to the voices of the “other Russia.”

In your opinion, what role does the “other Russia” currently play in Russian society?

That is a very difficult question because we don’t have any valid information on that. I also try to listen to official Russian sources, such as Russian television, speeches of the President or the patriarchy in the original. This fact-twisting, crafty propaganda is difficult for us to bear, but it has a great impact in Russia. And there are hardly any other information possibilities there. Moreover, many intellectuals and artists have left the country, it is a real exodus. I admire everyone who protested at the beginning of the war, for example with signatures, that was thousands of people who took the risk of serious disadvantages. We can and should count on all those people, on those voices of the “other Russia,” hopefully when the current unjust regime in Russia will no longer be in power – sooner than later.

Photo: Tsvetaeva Center Freiburg

For the program flyer for the series “The Other Russia. Stories, Positions and Encounters”, click here:

Some of the events will be live streamed. For the appropriate links, click here:

All proceeds from admission fees and donations directly benefit the emergency aid for Ukraine of the Medical Center – University of Freiburg.