How the Goethe-Institut deals with the Ukraine war

The Goethe-Institut is represented three times in Russia (here is the Moscow Building).Photo: dpa / Federico Gambarini

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4/25/2022 at 12:33 PM25/04/2022, 12:35 PM

Julia Dombrowski

Learning the Russian language and getting to know the country and its people: Until recently, this was an attractive idea for many people. But since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, cooperation between Western countries and the Russian Federation in many areas has stopped.

This puts educational centers, language schools and other cultural centers of international exchange in a difficult position. How should they continue to operate? And: Shouldn’t we continue to support friendly exchanges between the civilian population for the time being?

Some language travel service providers, such as GLS, have already moved their Russian language courses to Latvia in order to somewhat avoid conflict. The GI is also affected by the crisis, explains Viola spokeswoman Knoll Watson. In light of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, “there can’t be ‘business as usual’,” she said. “All public events have been cancelled. Basically, everything is under scrutiny.”

The Goethe-Institut has cut many ties of cooperation with Russia

The Goethe-Institut has been represented in three locations in Russia: in Moscow since 1992, in St. Petersburg since 1993 and in Novosibirsk since 2009. But working there is very difficult due to tensions: “In light of Russia’s offensive, which violates international law, one can no longer work with government bodies or even public representative bodies.”According to Knoll. The Goethe-Institut also supports German political decisions: “From our point of view, economic sanctions against Russia are necessary.”

“As the Goethe-Institut, we have unlimited solidarity with Ukraine and our partners there.”

Viola Knoll from the Goethe-Institut

In the cultural sector, the Goethe-Institut has already canceled all film events and “we will not lend any films to partners until further notice,” according to a Knoll report. Participation in the EDUfair Education Fair in Moscow, participation in the Education Salon in Moscow and the Information Day at Mendeleev University were also cancelled.

The Goethe-Institut in Moscow has been a place of cultural exchange between Germany and Russia for many years.

The Goethe-Institut in Moscow has been a place of cultural exchange between Germany and Russia for many years.Photo: Goethe-Institut / Anastasia Zeider

“As the Goethe-Institut, we have unlimited solidarity with Ukraine and our partners there,” she asserts. Special aid programs have even been set up for the war-torn country and its people. These include, for example, an offer of funding for cultural workers from Ukraine and special assistance for Ukrainian refugees who have to find their way in Germany (My Way to Germany).

In Ukraine itself, the Goethe-Institut has had a large institute in Kyiv since 1993. A total of 115 people work there, some of whom have already had to leave the country.

Other language courses for Russian people

However, Knoll points out, one does not want to burn all bridges. Because: To date, there are still many people in Russia who want to learn German, are interested in cultural exchange or want to continue friendly relations. They should not be punished for their country’s policies.

“There are a lot of people in the art and cultural scene who are speaking out, even with great personal risks,” Knoll says of the situation in Russia. They should not be left hanging. Russian civil society needs “additional contacts”. Therefore, language courses and exams continue at Russian institutes. “Our courses have students who are interested in Germany – they are also part of Russian civil society and learning a foreign language always means getting to know another culture,” she says.

“There are a lot of people in the art and cultural scene speaking out, even at great personal risk.”

Viola Knoll from the Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut library is still available. “This gives interested parties access to existing literature and media.” Students and teachers will continue to be taught media skills through webinars. Small-scale collaboration and large-scale disconnection: It is a balancing act that educational institutions must bear in this international conflict.

For Johannes Ebert, Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut, it is clear that “civil society exchange is more important than ever”, especially in times of war. Especially if you want to have a chance of peace again sometime.

Lidl employees can be happy. After Aldi, opponent Lidl is now also increasing the minimum wage. Many employees will soon find a higher amount on the payment receipt. As Lidl announced on Wednesday, the retailer wants to offer a minimum entry-level wage of €14 gross per hour from June 1. Recently, Lidl paid at least 12.50 euros. Both amounts are above the legal minimum wage.

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