Russia: A Generation in Transition – Talk

Talking about the Transition Generation

Summary of a discussion at Sakharov Centre hold on September 3rd 2015 by Lubov Boruciak, Aleksey Levinson, Vassily Sharkov, Dennis Volkov, Sergey Lukashevsky and Polina Filipova.

кликните здесь для полного русской версии и видео See Website Sakharov Center in English

What is the concept of „transit“ – what did actually happen in Russia in the last 25, 3o years? That was the first focus of the talk, while the second was on the „transition generation” itself. The discussion was mainly driven by the speakers personal experience and remembrance, but also research results.

What is transit? „Transit“ is seen as a movement. While the speaker agree where it stems from, it is still not clear where it leads to and how the ongoing process of transition will develop further. In addition, there is nothing like the one transition leading in a certain (if yet unclear) direction: instead there are different ‘transitions’ ongoing, depending what issues / groups / institutions / policy fields we are talking about – and there are also going in different directions. One participant used the metaphor of a treadmill, where we are heading forward, while the ground beyond us is moving backward. While the overall living standard for Russian citizens had improved over the last decades, on the political-institutional level es well as in the ‘sphere of ideas and thinking’ the development had gone backward, according to the speakers.

Another approach, brought forward in the discussion, does not view transition as a development, but rather the ‘dominating state of disintegration and post-disintegration’.

What is the „Transition Generation“? While it is common sense to label those born between 1975 and 1985 as the transition generation, the actual question is: What does constitute this generation? What divides them from those born before and after, but also from the same generation in other transition countries? Some argue, this is more a question of the generation, than the personal view and political attitude of people. This is supported by the argument that social practices are passed on from one generation to another. The basic question, thus, was that of identity.

Another issue raised repeatedly is that of the role of the transition generation in the protest movement today. However, the evaluation of that is very controversial among the speakers. Some argue, it is just the form of protest that has changed; the means of communication – but not the issue and causes of protest.

Speakers finally suggest to take today’s youth into account when speaking about the transition generation: How do they see society, it’s values, institutions, the material world around them – lacking the experience and remembrance of the transition generation: Do they consider it ‘just given’? Or do they consider today’s state as ‘made’ by the transition generation – putting them in a situation where they can accept or reject that society created by the former generation?

Die Transit-Generation in Russland

Die Diskussion im Moskauer Sakharov Center im Herbst 2015 drehte sich um zwei Fragen: Was bedeutet “Transition” und welche Transformationan haben sich in Russland in den vergangenen 25, 30 Jahren ereignet? Und was macht die “Transition-Generation” aus? Im Gespräch treten sie aber keineswegs so separat auf, sondern verschränken sich immer wieder ineinander. Der Stellenwert eigener Erfahrungen und Erlebnisse der Diskutierenden ist dabei wesentlich größer als etwaige Forschungsergebnisse.

Der erste Komplex beschäftigt sich mit dem Wesen des Konzeptes „Transit“ und seiner Bedeutung für Russland: „Was ist eigentlich in den letzten 25-30 Jahren passiert?“, lautet die zentrale Frage. Dabei werden verschiedene Erklärungsansätze ins Spiel gebracht. So wird Transit einerseits als eine Bewegung betrachtet, bei der klar ist woher sie kam, aber aus dem Rückblick betrachtet nach wie vor unklar ist, wohin sie führt bzw. in welche Richtung sie sich entwickelt. Andererseits scheinen sich die Diskutierenden weitgehend einig, das Transit auch zwei bzw. mehrere Bewegungen in verschiedene, teils gegensätzliche Richtungen gleichzeitig bedeutet. Sehr prägnant ist dieser Standpunkt formuliert in der Metapher vom Laufband, auf dem man selbst nach vorne läuft, während der Weg unter einem sich rückwärts bewegt.

Verbunden werden diese zwei gegensätzlichen Richtungen u.a. mit der Diskrepanz zwischen Veränderungen des allgemeinen Lebensstandards (vorwärts) und der politisch-institutionellen sowie der ideellen Ebene (rückwärts). Ein anderer Ansatz versteht Transit nicht als Bewegung in eine bestimmte Richtung, sondern als dominierende Situation des Zerfalls und Postzerfalls.

Der zweite Komplex widmet sich der „Generation Transit“, die zeitlich definiert wird als zwischen 1975 und 1985 geborene. Die zentralen Fragen hierbei lauten: Was macht sie aus? Was unterscheidet sie von der vorhergehenden und der nachgeborenen Generation? Aber auch, wie unterscheidet sie sich zu derselben Generation in anderen Transitländern?

Vor allem der zweiten Frage wird viel Raum gewidmet, vor allem aufgrund der angeführten Hypothese, dass es, wiederum von der jetzigen Situation aus betrachtet, weniger eine Frage der Generationen ist als vielmehr eine der Einstellung, der Werte und des politischen Standpunktes. Im Zusammenhang damit wird auch die Weitergabe sozialer Praktiken zwischen den Generationen diskutiert (auch hier die These, dass diese Weitergabe allzu starke Unterschiede nivelliert). Grundlegend wird also die Frage nach der Identität gestellt („Generation des Transits oder von irgendetwas anderem“). Ein weiterer Punkt, der in der Diskussion immer wieder auftaucht, ist der Einfluss der Transitgeneration auf die Protestbewegungen, wobei die Bewertungen unterschiedlich ausfallen.

Am Ende der Diskussion wird versucht Themen zusammenzutragen, die für eine weitere Auseinandersetzung mit der Problematik Transit/Transitgeneration interessant sein könnten. Etwa: aktuelle Bewegungen des Transits; neue Inhalte, die die Transitgeneration hervorgebracht hat (nimmt Bezug auf eine zu den Protestbewegungen geäußerte These, wonach sich die Äußerlichkeiten – v.a. die Kommunikationsmittel – geändert haben, die Inhalte aber nicht). Als wichtig wird außerdem genannt, die heutige Jugend in mögliche Untersuchungen einzubeziehen: was für eine Welt sie um sich herum sehen im Hinblick auf Werte, Ideen aber auch materiell und institutionell und wie sie zu ihr stehen, ob sie sie etwa als etwas gegebenes betrachten, oder als von den vorherigen Generationen geschaffenes/übermitteltes, dass sie bereit sind zu übernehmen oder eher ablehnen.

2nd meeting – October 2015 Berlin

Olena Pravylo

Olena Pravylo

Mandy Schultze

Mandy Schulze

Christine Wetzel

Christine Wetzel

Judith Enders, Polina Filippova

Judith Enders, Polina Filippova

exposition "Der dritte Blick"

exposition “Der dritte Blick”

guided city tour in Berlin-Mitte

guided city tour in Berlin-Mitte

guided city tour in Berlin-Mitte

guided city tour in Berlin-Mitte

2nd meeting – October 2015 Berlin

https://vimeo.com/145891867

1st meeting – May 2015 Sofia

Thinking about Transition – Impressions and Voices from Bulgaria

The starting point

We began our journey amidst the different countries and faces of transition in May 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Twenty-five years after what can be thought of ‘the revolution’, ‘the change’, after ‘becoming free’ or ‘breaking apart’, we discovered that even the simplest terms that describe the period of transition are not easy to define. At the same time, however, the concepts and ideas that are most commonly used to talk about transition in the countries from Eastern and Central Europe already let us infer a lot about the people’s narrative and view on the end of Communism twenty-five years later. Twenty-five years since the beginning of transition? Not all of our participants, coming from Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Germany, Czech, Croatia and Bosnia, would subscribe to that date either.

“I think no one expected that all the participating countries would have the same approach to transition, but I doubt that anyone anticipated the reality of the divergence. One of the most striking, yet understandable, differences was in the way people perceived ‘the moment when history stopped’ for their particular country”, says Polina, our project participant from Moscow.

In Bulgaria, the period of transition was politically finished in 1999 with the establishment of market economy and liberal-democratic institutions in the country. Nevertheless, the lack of continuity has led to multiple changes in the Bulgarian model, according to Rumyana Kolarova, Secretary for Civil Society Relations of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. Transition ends when there is disenchantment but Bulgaria has experienced disenchantment various times already, says Kolarova.

Does transition mean ‘heading West’?

The idea that the countries in Eastern and Central Europe after 1989 would or should broadly aim for ‘becoming like the West’ or ‘getting closer to Europe’ is widely present in the states of the former Western Bloc. But there is another perspective to this issue. The idea that Bulgaria should move towards or integrate into the West is rather strange to Bulgarians. We have always perceived ourselves to be Western in the tradition of the French revolution, according to Kolarova. She was puzzled to be told by a British scholar in 1996 that Bulgaria is not in Europe.

What became of the dream of democracy and freedom?

In the beginning of the 90s, it was believed that democracy is just around the corner. We just needed to get rid of the nasty people, according to Martin Ivanov, Secretary for Culture and National Identity of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria and a former Head of the Archives State Agency. He thinks that it was not believed to be a long process back then. Maybe one needs that somewhat naive excitement to bring about change, before one realises the profound difficulty of the process of transition. But once the reality forced the society to sober up, the collective hangover was remarkably strong.

The Bulgarian elites have been leading the country into the EU without knowing what this step entailed, according to Ivanov. The EU was more a symbol, an image. There was little knowledge, but abundant enthusiasm about the EU, he remembers. Now transition is perceived as more of a U-turn. Many Bulgarians long for the Communist era to come back.

Prior to 2014 there was a fear that there would be a clash of histories over what and how to remember the period before 1989 and the subsequent transition. At the end, however, there was no history, no memory, no-one was interested, according to Kolarova. Teachers tend to skip the lessons on communism and democratisation. As a result, the history of this period is learned only within the family, if at all. This phenomenon can also explain the widely propagated nostalgia for the Communist period. She points out that in the early 90s we had voters and parties that were much more committed to the idea of democracy than now.

The generation of transition

During our stay in Sofia we encountered two researchers from the sociological agency Alpha Research, Genoveva Petrova and Lubomir Todorakov, who also had a lot to share about transition. According to them, the generation of transition views the period of transition in black and white. As a result, the two groups supporting different positions cannot conduct a meaningful dialogue or reach a consensus when it comes to this issue.

Nevertheless, while a number of people are divided about the past, they all agree that the present situation is unacceptable. The generation of transition appreciates the freedom, but it also misses the security of the Communist regime. And as the period of transition was about democracy, capitalism and market economy, one of the values that appear to be missing in the post-Communist era is solidarity.

When the discussion turned to the younger generation, composed mainly of people born after 1989, another interesting aspect of the contemporary Bulgarian society came to light. According to the findings of a study about the level of awareness of the population when it comes to the Communist period and transition, conducted by Alpha Research, there are substantial knowledge gaps that appear to be especially noticeable in the younger generation. This is explained not only by the fact that this period is not taught at school but also by young people’s lack of interest in the topic

The transition left Bulgaria as a mafia-captured state, according to Todorakov. Nevertheless, while it is too late to change the system, it is still possible to convince the ruling elites to be reasonable. It is the responsibility of civil society to demand this change and to insist on getting involved in the political decision-making process.

* All opinions mentioned in this article were gathered during the kick-off meeting of the project “Mapping a generation in transition” which took place in May 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The participants in the project include Sofia Platform (Bulgaria), German-Russian Exchange (Germany), Antikomplex (Czech Republic), Sakharov Center (Russia), Institute of Social Science and Foundation „Wissen am Werk“ (Croatia), Congress of Culture Activists (Ukraine), Perspektive3 (Germany), Populari (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Kick Off Workshop Sofia – Spring 2015

Transition Dialogue Team

Olena Pravylo

Olena Pravylo

Christine Wetzel

Christine Wetzel

Kristýna Hlavatá

Kristýna Hlavatá

Martin Ivanov (Secretary for Culture and National Identity, Bulgaria) & Rumyana Kolarova (Secretary for Civil Society Relations, Bulgaria)

Martin Ivanov (Secretary for Culture and National Identity, Bulgaria) & Rumyana Kolarova (Secretary for Civil Society Relations, Bulgaria)

Johanna Sievers & Kristýna Hlavatá

Johanna Sievers & Kristýna Hlavatá

Polina Filippova, Louisa Slavkova & Mandy Schulze

Polina Filippova, Louisa Slavkova & Mandy Schulze

Genoveva Petrova & Lubomir Todorakov (Alpha research)

Genoveva Petrova & Lubomir Todorakov (Alpha research)

Caroline Hornstein-Tomic & Mandy Schulze

Caroline Hornstein-Tomic & Mandy Schulze

Polina Filippova

Polina Filippova

Alida Vracic

Alida Vracic

Daniel Smilov (Political scientist, Visiting professor at CEU)

Daniel Smilov (Political scientist, Visiting professor at CEU)

Doerte Grimm

Doerte Grimm

Kick off meeting in Sofia, 21 – 23 May, 2015

Mapping a Generation in Transition: Bulgaria

The starting point

We began our journey amidst the different countries and faces of transition in May 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Twenty-five years after what can be thought of ‘the revolution’, ‘the change’, after ‘becoming free’ or ‘breaking apart’, we discovered that even the simplest terms that describe the period of transition are not easy to define. At the same time, however, the concepts and ideas that are most commonly used to talk about transition in the countries from Eastern and Central Europe already let us infer a lot about the people’s narrative and view on the end of Communism twenty-five years later. Twenty-five years since the beginning of transition? Not all of our participants, coming from Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Germany, Czech, Croatia and Bosnia, would subscribe to that date either.

“I think no one expected that all the participating countries would have the same approach to transition, but I doubt that anyone anticipated the reality of the divergence. One of the most striking, yet understandable, differences was in the way people perceived ‘the moment when history stopped’ for their particular country”, says Polina, our project participant from Moscow.

In Bulgaria, the period of transition was politically finished in 1999 with the establishment of market economy and liberal-democratic institutions in the country. Nevertheless, the lack of continuity has led to multiple changes in the Bulgarian model, according to Rumyana Kolarova, Secretary for Civil Society Relations of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. Transition ends when there is disenchantment but Bulgaria has experienced disenchantment various times already, says Kolarova.

Does transition mean ‘heading West’?

The idea that the countries in Eastern and Central Europe after 1989 would or should broadly aim for ‘becoming like the West’ or ‘getting closer to Europe’ is widely present in the states of the former Western Bloc. But there is another perspective to this issue. The idea that Bulgaria should move towards or integrate into the West is rather strange to Bulgarians. We have always perceived ourselves to be Western in the tradition of the French revolution, according to Kolarova. She was puzzled to be told by a British scholar in 1996 that Bulgaria is not in Europe.

What became of the dream of democracy and freedom?

In the beginning of the 90s, it was believed that democracy is just around the corner. We just needed to get rid of the nasty people, according to Martin Ivanov, Secretary for Culture and National Identity of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria and a former Head of the Archives State Agency. He thinks that it was not believed to be a long process back then. Maybe one needs that somewhat naive excitement to bring about change, before one realises the profound difficulty of the process of transition. But once the reality forced the society to sober up, the collective hangover was remarkably strong.

The Bulgarian elites have been leading the country into the EU without knowing what this step entailed, according to Ivanov. The EU was more a symbol, an image. There was little knowledge, but abundant enthusiasm about the EU, he remembers. Now transition is perceived as more of a U-turn. Many Bulgarians long for the Communist era to come back.

Prior to 2014 there was a fear that there would be a clash of histories over what and how to remember the period before 1989 and the subsequent transition. At the end, however, there was no history, no memory, no-one was interested, according to Kolarova. Teachers tend to skip the lessons on communism and democratisation. As a result, the history of this period is learned only within the family, if at all. This phenomenon can also explain the widely propagated nostalgia for the Communist period. She points out that in the early 90s we had voters and parties that were much more committed to the idea of democracy than now.

The generation of transition

During our stay in Sofia we encountered two researchers from the sociological agency Alpha Research, Genoveva Petrova and Lubomir Todorakov, who also had a lot to share about transition. According to them, the generation of transition views the period of transition in black and white. As a result, the two groups supporting different positions cannot conduct a meaningful dialogue or reach a consensus when it comes to this issue.

Nevertheless, while a number of people are divided about the past, they all agree that the present situation is unacceptable. The generation of transition appreciates the freedom, but it also misses the security of the Communist regime. And as the period of transition was about democracy, capitalism and market economy, one of the values that appear to be missing in the post-Communist era is solidarity.

When the discussion turned to the younger generation, composed mainly of people born after 1989, another interesting aspect of the contemporary Bulgarian society came to light. According to the findings of a study about the level of awareness of the population when it comes to the Communist period and transition, conducted by Alpha Research, there are substantial knowledge gaps that appear to be especially noticeable in the younger generation. This is explained not only by the fact that this period is not taught at school but also by young people’s lack of interest in the topic

The transition left Bulgaria as a mafia-captured state, according to Todorakov. Nevertheless, while it is too late to change the system, it is still possible to convince the ruling elites to be reasonable. It is the responsibility of civil society to demand this change and to insist on getting involved in the political decision-making process.

* All opinions mentioned in this article were gathered during the kick-off meeting of the project “Mapping a generation in transition” which took place in May 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The participants in the project include Sofia Platform (Bulgaria), German-Russian Exchange (Germany), Antikomplex (Czech Republic), Sakharov Center (Russia), Institute of Social Science and Foundation „Wissen am Werk“ (Croatia), Congress of Culture Activists (Ukraine), Perspektive3 (Germany), Populari (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

 

Times of Change – Workshop in Moscow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“TIMES OF CHANGE” – WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

We are a group of Germans, Poles and Russians, who came to Moscow to discuss the role of the political and social changes in the 1980s and 1990s in people’s lives and in the recent histories of our countries.

While in Moscow for one week in April, we tried to find out about the effects of big changes on Russians’ everyday life, and also about their opinions on these times and on the changes that happened. In order to achieve this, we used two approaches. On the one had, the entire group met with different experts and time witnesses. These meetings mostly had a the form of an informal lecture, usually followed by a discussion of our resulting questions. On the other hand, we formed small groups that went out into the city and researched on topics like the changes in business, in a community’s life, or in the museal presentation of history. In the course of this research, we talked to people in the streets or as a small research group met with locals who had agreed to tell us about their experiences of the 1980s and 90s.

timesofchange

Transition Dialogue on Perspektive3

Same but very different

My story of change in the 90s. Perspectives Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria and Germany.

When we think of transition in Germany, we think of reunification of East and West, of living in relation to that other half. In all the states of the former Eastern Block, the so called 3rd Generation – those born between 1975 and 1985 – has made transformation experiences in an age of adolescense. Inbetween breakdown and new beginnings, impoverishment and unknown abundance of goods, new role models and lasting confusion and insecurity. With the promise that all borders are now gone and the sticky feeling that they are still there, just elsewhere and reshaped.

Take the chance to listen to very personal stories from Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria and Germany. And if you like, tell us your own story.

In addition, you will have the opportunity to combine your visit to the panel discussion with visiting the exhibtion DER DRITTE BLICK by Perspective3– a multimedia exhibition on photographic positions of a transition generation.

date: thursday, 03.10.2015

time: 4-6pm

location: Willy-Brandt-Haus, Berlin

on the podium:

Olena Pravylo (Congress of Culture Activists, Ukraine)

Polina Filippova (Sakharov Center, Russia)

Louisa Slavkova (Sofia Platform, Bulgaria)

Christine Wetzel (German-Russian Exchange, Germany)