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1 August, 2011  ▪  Спілкувалася: Inna Zavhorodnya

The Embassy of Culture

The management of the Goethe-Institut and German Ambassador Hans-Jurgen Heimsoeth meet for an exclusive interview for The Ukrainian Week to talk about what the organization does in former Soviet countries and share their plans for Ukraine

The Goethe-Institut is among the largest cultural networks in the world. It inspires cultural life in Ukraine by promoting German language and arts. The Ukrainian Week spoke to Vera Bagaliantz, Director of Goethe-Institut in Ukraine; Hans-Jurgen Heimsoeth, Germany’s Ambassador to Ukraine; Bruno Gross, Commercial Director and Member of the Executive Committee for Goethe Institut; and Johannes Ebert, Director of the Regional Institute for Moscow, Eastern Europe and Central Asia who used to run the Goethe-Institut in Ukraine and will soon head the Central Headquarters of the global institution, about successful exports of German culture into Ukraine and the benefits for both countries.    


Focusing On the Young

UW: The operations of the Goethe-Institutare first and foremost associated with thepromotion ofthe Germanlanguageandculture. To what extent does this impression compare to reality? Or do you cover more activities?

Johannes Ebert: Ourpriorities are,first and foremost, culturalexchange, the promotion oftheGermanlanguageandthe spreading ofinformationaboutGermany. Then, and that is what makes Goethe-Institut special, most subjects and programmes develop with respect to the needs of the host country. The Institut’s staff meet with representatives of cultural institutions in the host country, visit ministries for education and youth, then develop their programmes based on an analysis of the situation.

Another line of our work pertains more to the cultural side. We can see that publishing houses in many Eastern European countries have a hard time with operations on the international level. For this reason, we have started a major programme for publishers, in cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair, helping them to improve their skills and exchange experience with their German colleagues. We are also interested in modern art as in some countries, it enjoys less support than classical art, but young people are actually very much interested in this sort of information.

Bruno Gross: Topics of particular interest include migration/integration and education for people from the field of arts and culture, as well as the role of new media in the interest of international cultural exchange. We are currently developing these areas and will focus on them in the future as well, because we are trying to work for the new target group that is the young people.

UW: How much does it cost Germany to implement its cultural policy and fund the Goethe-Institut?

Hans-Jurgen Heimsoeth: In2009, theMinistry of Foreign Affairs allocated EUR 229mn to Goethe-Institutes. Drawing funds from sponsors or other interested parties is growing ever- more important but the German state budget is still the key source.

Bruno Gross: In addition to this, we have a lot of revenues of our own. Nearly one third of our budget comes from language courses and German language tests. We feel support from the parliament, among others, where MPs realize that every euro invested into cultural policy will have a much greater effect than funds invested into other formats of international collaboration.

Johannes Ebert: This means a lot of influence at little expense.


The Eastern Express  

UW: Whatmakesthe Goethe-Institut in Ukraine different from that in Russia or Poland?

Vera Bagaliantz: I have worked in all these countries. They are all very diverse and we need to adjust our work accordingly. Why do people protest in Ukraine, but not in Russia? Poland is a very homogeneous country while Ukraine has many ethnic groups and many religions. 

We have to work with young in people who, more than anyone else, can effect some change in this country. When talking about modern art, for instance, I think it opens our minds and reveals the visions that that are not integral to classical art. Modern artists provoke in art rather than in street fights. This is the philosophy I am trying to embody in my work. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I believe Ukraine has the best environment for this because its young generation is open, interested and innovative.

Hans-Jurgen Heimsoeth: Ukrainian society is constantly in motion. The question lies in the extent to which this progress affects politics and the mass media. Russian society is also moving but my impression is that Russian politics is being implemented at a totally different level. Poland is undergoing large-scale social progress and it’s already clear how the country will continue to develop. These dynamics makes activity in Ukraine so much more interesting. Ukrainians are ready to absorb everything that is offered. This is also because very little is done to support culture on the part of the Ukrainian government.

Johannes Ebert: After the collapse of the USSR, FSU countries used different avenues to find their own identities. These processes, that are common for all FSU countries, provoke debates, particularly with Germany, after all, part of it was part of the socialist bloc, and also has significant experience in transformation. FSU countries are implementing more or less successful reforms in various social spheres, particularly education and the arts. Yet reforms require not only funding, but also experts and people with whom to share experiences. Therefore, we can also provide contacts for librarians, museum teachers and so on.

UW: Does the Goethe-Institut support young Ukrainian artists?

Vera Bagaliantz: Wegetendlessrequeststofinancially supportand participate in projects. Wearenotsponsors. I often deal with this misunderstanding in my daily work. I get taxpayers’ money that I have to invest in cultural relations. We provide a lot of consultations and advice and we see considerable need to discuss certain events and expand contacts in Germany.  So this is not just about arranging events, which you can see online, but also about a lot of work on culture ties that lies beneath the surface and cannot be seen.

Johannes Ebert: We support Ukrainian artists, offering them cooperation with German artists. In addition, we organize master classes and lectures, and provide information in other formats on new trends. As a rule, we exhibit artists from the countries we work with and German artists, not just the artists from the host country. Also, we don’t arrange exhibitions for Ukrainian artists in Germany. This is actually something that the Ukrainian Culture Ministry should do.

UW: In which of its projects does Goethe-Institut focus on the education component?

Vera Bagaliantz: Our education projects includeprogrammesforartmanagers, publishersandtheNewProspectnetworkthatusedtoprovidescholarships. This programme covered one practical and one theoretical phase in Germany. Ultimately, the participants had to produce a cultural project of their own that was 100% supported by the Goethe-Institut. One such project was an exhibition arranged by Daryna Yakymova, our scholarship winner, at the National Art Museum. These efforts in terms of arts and development take place not only in Kyiv, but also in Donetsk and Sevastopol.

Hans-Jurgen Heimsoeth: There are also other options, such as supporting the studies of Ukrainians in Germany. Currently, Germany is hosting 9,000 Ukrainian students including 1,200 with DAAD stipends (a German student exchange service – Editor). There are also contacts between universities, there are Ukrainian universities that have German language departments which cooperate with Dresden or Magdeburg universities. In addition, ZFA, the central institution for secondary school education abroad, sends German teachers to teach the German language in Ukraine. Unfortunately, we have encountered some problems with their status and registration in Ukraine. This led to the number of German teachers in Ukrainian schools falling from 15 to just 4. Accreditation system was cancelled without making sure there is an alternative model. Still, the Ukrainian government has already noticed how problematic this is and realizes that something has to be done about it.

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