Building bridges is important
Geza Andreas von Geir, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to Russia, told RG about the peculiarities of events at different venues and their diversity.
Dear Mr. Ambassador, The Year of Germany in Russia 2020/21 kicked off at the end of September. How would you describe it?
Geza Andreas von Geir: The Year of Germany in Russia is from many points of view a special project. Firstly, in scale: in 2020 and 2021 Germany will be presented to the Russian public in all its versatility: as a modern and open country to the world, firmly rooted in European structures. Including with its intensive, centuries-old relationship with Russia. The Year of Germany reflects many aspects and facets – art and culture, language and education, science and research, economics and technology, tourism, ecology and climate protection, renewable energy and sustainable development, sports. At the same time, we strive to show Germany as it really is, with all the diversity of our culture, diversity of opinions and discussions. We want to spark interest in Germany.
Secondly, this Year of Germany is special as it is hosted by a large number of partners: the federal government, federal states, German cultural and scientific organizations, economic associations and companies, foundations and associations. And, of course, numerous enthusiasts from all spheres of public life who are not indifferent to German-Russian relations. The embassy and our general consulates in Russia, the German Cultural Center. Goethe and the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce are coordinating this initiative. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier took over the entire program of the Year of Germany under his patronage.
And, finally, one more feature is that it is not focused on any one narrow target group. It is addressed to all people in Russia and takes place throughout the country, including outside megacities. Events are held throughout Russia – from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, from Arkhangelsk to Krasnodar. And, of course, first of all, in the virtual space, where a huge number of people are present.
The Year of Germany is designed not only to awaken people’s interest in our country, but also to strengthen ties between people, to create new contacts. The focus of the Year of Germany is people, which is clearly demonstrated by the logo of the initiative.
The period of the Year of Germany is, of course, special – in the midst of a pandemic and against the background of tense political relations …
Geza Andreas von Geir: Absolutely, the moment is really special. When we started planning this Year a few years ago, we could not have foreseen the coronavirus pandemic or how political relations would develop. Both of these aspects were reflected in the Year of Germany. First of all, a pandemic. She demanded that we show maximum flexibility. Much had to be postponed, to another place, reorganized, carried out in digital or hybrid format.
I was very pleased that, despite this, we managed to convey the idea of the Year to many people. There is great interest in it, including the events taking place now in digital formats. For this I am grateful to many who actively support us in Germany and in Russia. It is also good that the Year of Germany is taking place despite many political decisions. This is correct and important, because we, during the Year of Germany, strive to build bridges and connect people. It is precisely in difficult times that we must foster exchange, dialogue and cooperation. The moment was chosen correctly also because at the global level we are faced with serious problems that one way or another we can overcome only together. Borders cannot contain a pandemic or climate change. With the Year of Germany, we strive to achieve a strong understanding that we Germans and Russians must act together to be successful.
How do you assess its intermediate results after several months since the beginning of the Year of Germany? Have your expectations been met so far?
Geza Andreas von Geir: Yes, I am satisfied. Many projects were successfully implemented, including one of the most important for us: the opening of a large German-Russian exhibition “The Iron Age. Europe without Borders” at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The same applies to the “Be @ thoven” music festival in Yekaterinburg, the Festival of German Language and Culture in Kazan, the Vocational Education Week in the Urals and the German-Russian Media Forum in Saratov. Live webcasts or social media contests have allowed us to reach a wider audience. We have received over 1000 proposals for the tender for projects within the framework of the Year of Germany! What is currently not possible to implement, we will try to implement by the end of 2021. And I am very optimistic about this!
And what events planned for the Year of Germany in 2021 are of particular interest to you personally?
Geza Andreas von Geir: As an art lover, I am looking forward to two major art exhibitions in the Tretyakov Gallery with great interest. “Romanticism. Dreams of Freedom” unites works of German and Russian romanticism – and surprising parallels become apparent. Diversity United brings together 90 representatives of contemporary art from 35 European countries, including both world-renowned artists and debutants. I find this pan-European approach interesting and highly relevant. But not only our major projects are important. The Year of Germany is made up of many small events.
Speaking of my personal experience, the opening week of the festival was already marked by many surprises, including discovering simple ideas for me with a grandiose effect. So I am looking forward to new surprises with curiosity. The variety of projects will undoubtedly bring a lot of new things, enrich us with new knowledge and impressions.
What long-term results do you expect from the Year of Germany?
Geza Andreas von Geir: Each project individually aims to unite Germans and Russians, arouse interest and curiosity about Germany and what it has to offer. The same applies to interest in Russia and its people. Of course, I hope that this is only the first step, followed by others – in the form of travel, cooperation, learning a partner’s language or professional education – in general, there are many positive, promising impulses for interaction. This will be useful for German-Russian relations in general, which, incidentally, was demonstrated by the Year of Russian Culture in Germany, within which many events were also held.
1962 – was born in Munich
1991 – joining the diplomatic service
1993 – political department of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1994 – embassy Germany in Morocco
1997 – Directorate General for External Relations of the European Commission (Brussels)
2000 – Department for European Affairs of the Federal Foreign Ministry
2001 – Working Group Foreign Policy, German Bundestag, CDU / CSU Faction
2006 – Head of Division in the Department of Foreign and Security Policy of the Federal Chancellor’s Office
2010 – Vice President of the Federal Reserve of Germany
2014 – Head of the Political Department of the Federal Ministry of Defense
2019 (since September) – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Germany in RF