He knows the songs of his loved ones by heart. When Eckhard Maas sings on guitar, in Russian, Georgian or German, an intimate knowledge of the words and melodies he sings becomes apparent. He has been a friend of Wolf Biermann since 1971, and from 1978, during the GDR era, Maas became known among dissidents as a translator of the chanson by Russian regime critic Bulat Okdeshua (1924 – 1997).
Until then, his Berlin apartment Prenzlauer Berg had become a meeting place for the subculture of writers and artists of the GDR, which Stasi eagerly watched, who actively spoiled the studies of Eckhard Maas’s philosophy.
To this day, the man born in 1951 invites people to literary salons in the same atmosphere, where Goethe, Heine or Brecht are present as virtual guests.
Above all, the contemporary cultural landscape of Eastern Europe meets here, more precisely: the Caucasus, the southeastern region adjacent to Ukraine, which includes Georgia, southwestern Russia, Chechnya and Azerbaijan. It is bordered by the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The Caucasus is considered the “cradle of civilization and the mountain of languages”.
In 1996, the son of Reverend Maas, shaken by the war against Chechnya, founded the German-Caucasian Society. Soon, the Chechen refugees also knew that they could turn to him as a mediator, artist, translator, cheerleader and friend.
Eckhard Maas has now compiled the many astonishing phases of the Society’s work into a volume that could not be more recent.
[Fluchtzeiten. Deutsch-Kaukasische Gesellschaft: Geschichte, Kultur, Religion, Politik, Flüchtlinge. Lukas Verlag, Berlin, 2022, 312 Seiten, 646 Abb., 25 €].
The volume documents protests, assemblies, discussions, actions, and excursions in detail. It displays faces, stories, poetry, music, essays, speeches, essays, hundreds of photographs of actors, posters, and landscapes. In 1996, says Maas, Wolf Berman admired Georgia’s polyphonic choirs in Tbilisi, but found the dilapidated facades and wrecked cars on the roadside somewhat frustrating.
In September 2005, the Chechen poet Apti Bes Sultanov, Maas and others spoke about the “Putin regime” at the International Literature Festival in Berlin, which concerned mainly insiders. In November of the same year, Andrei Glucksman met his old friend, the legendary Georgian author Jevi Margilashvili, at the Mas Salon.
[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen.]
Salon of Literature, which was completely acquired by Studio Babelsberg in 2014 as the backdrop for the documentary film about Sascha Anderson (“The Betrayal Trilogy”), has once again become the center of attention.
Everyone is welcome, including refugees with more or less traditional attitudes. The host explains to them in an unmistakably warm way: “I respect your culture when I visit you, you have to comply with my rules here. I have women at the table.”
The book also pays tribute to all those who have long warned of the Kremlin under Putin
This is acceptable. Maas, who, as a citizen of the German Democratic Republic, made daring trips to remote parts of the Soviet Union and moved between languages as he did among member records, knows no ethnic barriers.
The Caucasus Book is a contemporary document, but also an impassioned account and panorama of the tireless activity of many, who warned of the Putin-era Kremlin before others woke up. The volume thus offers a vital form of further training for anyone who wants to acquire or deepen his knowledge of the cultural region of the Caucasus, which the author says is treated “neglected” in this country.
“Putin may one day have to respond before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague,” Maas wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on March 13, 2005, shortly after the assassination of the democratically elected Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. That was almost seventeen years before Russia invaded Ukraine.