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“Signs of the Future. East-West: Dialogues and Points of View”: a series of events focusing on Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe

The University of Freiburg’s Tsvetaeva Centre and the Research Training Group Cultural Transfer and Cultural Identity are once more hosting renowned intellectuals and artists

Freiburg, Oct 18, 2023

Kazakhstan is one of the largest countries in the world. The country and the entire Central Asian region are increasingly important as a partner to the West, both economically and politically, and therefore also to Germany. Yet Kazakhstan’s relations with Russia are especially complex and ambivalent, particularly in view of the Russian war against Ukraine. “The history of this country is tied up with the Russian Empire or rather the Soviet Union in an extremely problematic way,” says Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré, Professor Emeritus of Slavic Philology and Gender Studies at the University of Freiburg, and chair of the Tsvetaeva Centre, “The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic was a place to which the Soviet Union banished political opponents, the border with Russia is almost 8,000 kilometres long, discourses on identity and appropriate linguistic policy measures are quite important in Kazakhstan.”

Cheauré planned Freiburg’s series of events Zeichen der Zukunft. Ost-West: Dialoge und Perspektiven [Signs of the Future. East-West: Dialogues and Points of View] together with Margarita Augustin. The events will run from 24October 2023 to 27February 2024. “Our aim is to discuss political questions, questions about the construction of identity, cultural contacts and cultural transfer as well as postimperialism and postcolonialism together with other Freiburg institutions and our guests,” says Cheauré. As in the previous series Das andere Russland [The Other Russia], alongside lectures, film screenings and discussions, the programme will also incorporate science and art in its dialogue. The events are being organised by the Tsvetaeva Centre and the German Research Foundation-funded Research Training Group Cultural Transfer and Cultural Identity at the University of Freiburg; they are taking place in cooperation with the Research Training Group Empires and the University Library, as well as with several external partners (e.g. Volkshochschule Freiburg, Delphi_Space, Kommunales Kino Freiburg, West-Ost-Gesellschaft, Theater Freiburg and the Almaty Goethe Institute).


The events include three exhibitions on art from Kazakhstan – the private views and artists’ talks are drawing some internationally-renowned artists to Freiburg for the first time. From 28 October to 12 November 2023, the exhibition Kuzeu. Displaced Identity can be seen at Delphi_Space (Brombergstraße 17 C). This also involves a workshop on the subject of Upcycled Art – not just for youngsters – with the Kazakhstan artist Saule Suleimenova on 30 October 2023.

From 18 November to 9December 2023, the Kommunales Kino (Urachstraße 40) will be showing the five-channel video installation Altar of East. Nuclear Testimony by Kazakhstan artist Almagul Menlibayeva, who looks at the former Soviet nuclear testing site in the remote region of north-west Kazakhstan. And from 13 January to 27 February 2024 the German photographer Dieter Seitz and Almagul Menlibayeva will together be presenting their views of Kazakhstan in the foyer of Freiburg University Library. The private view will be accompanied by musical world premieres.

Other events

The series will open with a talk on Zentralasien: Eine Region im Aufbruch [Central Asia: a region on the move] on Tuesday, 24 October 2023, 8.15 pm in Lecture room 1098 (Kollegiengebäude I at the University of Freiburg) by honorary senator Prof. Dr. Klaus Mangold. Mangold is one of the greatest experts on the region, from 1999 to 2010 he was the chair of the German Industry Committee for Eastern Europe and from 2012 to 2022 a member of the supervisory board of the state-owned development bank Baiterek in Astana, Kazakhstan. Since 2019, Mangold has been a board member of several international companies, as well as chairman of the Europe-Uzbekistan Association for Economic Cooperation (EUROUZ). From 2005 to 2022 he was the honorary consul of the Russian Federation in Baden-Württemberg, a position which he resigned in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Publicist and historian Gerd Koenen will speak about his recent book Im Widerschein des Krieges. Nachdenken über Russland, on Wednesday, 25 October 2023, 6.15 pm in the events room at Freiburg University Library (1st floor). Koenen is regarded as one of the greatest German experts on Soviet history and has studied German-Russian relations in the 20th century and the history of Communism in depth. He will be discussing this with Freiburg historian Prof. Dr. Ulrich Herbert and Prof. Dr. Dietmar Neutatz at the event, which is being organised by Studium Generale. The German studies expert and head of Studium Generale at the University of Freiburg, Prof. Dr. Werner Frick will host the event.

On Monday, 30 October 2023, 7.15 pm, the former Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Dr. h.c. Gernot Erler will speak in Lecture room 3044 (Kollegiengebäude III) on the subject of the Ukraine war and the “new world order”. Erler was a member of the German Bundestag for Freiburg for 30 years; from 2005 to 2009 he was Minister of State and latterly held the post of Russia Coordinator for the German government for four years. Erler is also the chair of the West-Ost-Gesellschaft Südbaden e.V. and a founding member of the Tsvetaeva Centre. He will be assessing the current status of the war in Europe.

On Wednesday, 15 November 2023, 7.30 pm, the Kommunales Kino (Urachstraße 40) will be showing the film Famine. Using documentary material, it describes the devastating famine in Soviet Russia in 1921 and 1922, when five million people starved to death. With their film, the authors want to recall an early example of when humanitarian help overcame all political boundaries and conflicts. Maxim Kurnikov, co-producer and source of ideas for the project, was deputy head of Radio Echo Moskvy, the last Russian broadcaster that was critical of the regime; today he lives in Berlin. He will be present in person and will discuss the film with the public after the screening (in Russian with German interpretation).

On Tuesday, 21 November 2023, 6.15 pm, in Lecture room 1199 (Kollegiengebäude I) historian Prof. Dr. Leonid Luks will speak on Against the West. Aleksandr Dugin and the continuation of the Eurasian idea. In the post-Soviet era, many advocates of an imperial Russia rediscovered Eurasianism – the concept of the movement that arose in 1921 among Russian exiles. Many journalistic bodies in Russia promote Eurasianism; Aleksandr Dugin, who does so with particular vehemence, is known as “Putin’s ideologue”. Leonid Luks’ lecture will look at him and his ideology. Luks was professor at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt and from 2017 to 2022 head of Moscow’s Research Training Group International Laboratory for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue.

The programme will be rounded off with numerous other lectures, films and discussions. Last but not least, there will be the traditional October concert at the Tsvetaeva Centre, this year dedicated to the unusual love between Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva and Rainer Maria Rilke (piano concert and reading on 26 October 2023, 8 pm, Humboldtsaal, Humboldtstraße 2).

Flyer with full programme for the “Signs of the Future” series of events

Income from admission fees and donations at selected events will go to benefit the University Hospital Freiburg’s relief fund for Ukraine.

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