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A Transformer of Worlds Between East and West

A new exhibition takes the Russian author Ivan Turgenev as a means of tracing the relationship between Russia and Europe – and wants to encourage more lingering in the museum

Freiburg, Sep 21, 2018

A Transformer of Worlds Between East and West

Photo: Stadtmuseum Baden-Baden

The Russian-European relationship was not always tense in the 19th Century and therefore during the life of the author Ivan Turgenev. Despite apparently irreconcilable differences between East and West, he lived and worked for periods in Europe and was far and away the most significant cultural ambassador for his country. During this time, Baden-Baden was Turgenev’s key German domain. To commemorate his bicentenary, the city is honoring the life and work of the author with the exhibition “Russia in Europe – Europe in Russia. 200 years of Ivan Turgenev”. From 22nd September 2018 to 3rd March 2019, visitors can trace the life of the Russian realist writer through various themes and in this way learn about the author’s times. As well as reading areas and audio clips, films and interactive digital installations offer a variety of media offerings.

The exhibition project at the Stadtmuseum Baden-Baden is also being realized by the special research area SFB 1015 Muße. Grenzen, Raumzeitlichkeit, Praktiken, or “Leisure. Boundaries, Time & Space, Methods” at the University of Freiburg. “We want to encourage visitors to tackle key questions concerning the cultural, political and social relationship between Russia and Europe and find their own answers,” says Freiburg professor of Slavic Studies and the SFB’s spokesperson Elisabeth Cheauré. “What unites Russia and the West? What differences are there between the cultures, and where do they merge? At the same time, we don’t want to be stuck in the past: Individual themes and issues are traced through to the present day.” The Literaturmuseum, the Stadtbibliothek and the Stadtmuseum Baden-Baden, are combining to try out new forms of presentation, particularly designed to encourage a relaxed experience of the museum. “This isn’t just interesting for literature exhibitions, but also for subjects that are controversial and don’t at first glance appear to convey “leisurely” content,” says Sigrid Münch, head of the Stadtbibliothek and Literaturmuseum Baden-Baden.

The exhibition concept aims to encourage visitors to reflect and consider parallels to today’s political and cultural developments in Europe and Russia. Rather like the structure of a book, each exhibition room is designed to represent a separate chapter looking at subjects that are still topical. For example, the rooms cover social tensions in Russia, discussions about a specific “Russian Way”, networks between East and West, and forms of communication from the analog age. The exhibition also looks at Baden-Baden as a “cultural hothouse”, as well as the role played by other artists in the life and literature of Turgenev. A separate room is dedicated to the utterly thrilling love affair between Turgenev and the married singer and composer Pauline Viardot.

Freiburg academics have developed an innovative concept for the exhibition and contributed findings from research into leisure to the design. Visitors can take their time in each exhibition room, whether to browse books, watch the short films specially produced for the exhibition, or to investigate digital displays. Many items can be handled and used, some can be listened to or smelt. The aim is to provide an intense museum experience which can be enhanced with a richly-illustrated catalog that accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition is both a pioneering project and an opportunity to experiment in readiness for another project by the special research area: late 2020 the “Mußeum – Museum der Muße und Literatur” – or the Museum of Leisure and Literature – will open at the Baden-Baden Stadtbibliothek.

Special research area “Muße. Grenzen, Raumzeitlichkeit, Praktiken


Exhibition information

Stadtmuseum Baden-Baden


Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
University of Freiburg
Tel.: +49 761 203-8320

Sigrid Münch
Stadtbibliothek Baden-Baden
Tel.: +49 7221 93-2250

Heike Kronenwett
Stadtmuseum Baden-Baden
Tel.: +49 7221 793-22 70