Transition Dialogue – Что дальше? / Wie geht’s weiter?

Transition Dialogue – Что дальше?

В прошлом году наш диалог о трансформации брал паузу, однако сейчас активно происходит его  следующий этап. Вопрос о дальнейшем развитии диалога мы обсуждаем прямо сейчас.

24 сентября в библиотеке Луизенбад в Берлине состоялся воркшоп под названием «Поколение Трансформации в Восточной Европе: Поколение неопределенности – Поколение недоверия». Данное мероприятие прошло в рамках проекта «Диалог о Трансформации» который является совместной инициативой ДРА и София Платформ (Болгария) при поддержке Федерального агентства гражданского образования Германии.
Эксперты в сфере политологии, молодежного образования и социологии из восьми восточноевропейских стран приняли участие в воркшопе для поиска нового подхода и методов гражданского образования поколения перестройки. Целью встречи явилась постановка дальнейших конкретных задач и вопросов для лучшего понимания актуальных политических позиций, гражданских знаний и возможностей людей, переживших переход к демократии в 90х годах в Восточной и Южной Европе, а также России и ГДР.
Были представлены социологические и политические исследования поколения транформации, ставшие основой для дальнейшего обсуждения формальных и неформальных подходов и других аспектов гражданского образования. Участниками была также подчеркнута необходимость такого обмена профессиональными знаниями для лучшего исследования и понимания процесса перехода к демократии с разных перспектив. Затронутые важные вопросы и темы будут впоследствии вынесены на широкую дискуссию на конференции в Софии (Болгария), которая пройдет 22-23 ноября 2018 в рамках проекта «Диалог о Трансформации».

Transition Dialogue – Wie geht’s weiter?

Unser Transition Dialogue war im letzten Jahr ein wenig still. Die nächste Periode unseres Dialogs beginnt jedoch. Was kommt als nächstes? Darum ging es in unserem aktuellen Treffen.

„The Generation of Transition in Eastern Europe: A Generation of Uncertainty – a Generation of Distrust?“ Zu dieser Frage veranstaltete der DRA gemeinsam mit seiner bulgarischen Partnerorganisation „Sofia Platform“ und durch Unterstützung der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung einen Workshop am 24. September in der Bibliothek am Luisenbad in Berlin. Die Veranstaltung wurde im Rahmen des gemeinsamen Projekts „Transition Dialogue“ durchgeführt.

Expert_innen der Politikwissenschaft, Jugendbildung und Soziologie aus acht osteuropäischen Ländern kamen dabei zusammen, um nach neuen Zugängen zur Erforschung der „Wendegeneration“ und davon ausgehend neuen Maßstäben für die politische Bildung zu suchen. Ziel des Austauschs war es Fragestellungen zu erarbeiten, die helfen die aktuellen Einstellungen, politischen Ansichten und zivilgesellschaftlichen Haltungen der Menschen zu verstehen, die die massiven Transformationserfahrungen der 1990er Jahre in Ost-, Süd- und Mitteleuropa miterlebt haben.
Während des Workshops wurden soziologische und politikwissenschaftliche Studien zur Wendegeneration aus verschiedenen Ländern vorgestellt, die die Grundlage für die weitere Diskussion bildeten. Die so erarbeiteten Kernthemen dienen der Vorbereitung für eine umfassendere Konferenz im Projekt „Transition Dialogue“, welche am 22.-23 November 2018 in Sofia (Bulgarien) stattfinden wird.

Transition Dialogue – What Next?

Our Transition Dialogue has been a bit silent for the last year, however the next period of our the Dialogue ist about to start. What’s next? That’s what we discuss right now.

“The Generation of Transition in Eastern Europe: A Generation of Uncertainty – a Generation of Distrust?” This question was the main focus of the workshop the DRA organized together with its Bulgarian partner organization “Sofia Platform” with the support of the Federal Agency of Civic Education of Germany on September 24th at the Luisenbad Library in Berlin. The workshop was held within the framework of the common project “Transition Dialogue”.

Experts in political science, youth education and sociology from eight Eastern European countries came together, to gain new insights into the “Generation of Transition” and discuss the possible implications on civic education deriving from them. The aim of the exchange was to develop a range of questions, which would help to understand the current attitudes, political views and civic demeanors of people, who lived through the massive transformation of the 1990ies in Eastern, Southern and Central Europe.

Throughout the workshop sociological and political science studies from different countries were presented and served as a basis for the discussion. The core issues thus worked out will be discussed in length in a more comprehensive conference taking place in Sofia (Bulgaria) on 22nd-23rd of November 2018.

Mapping Transition: E-Book out now

Two years of research, six countries, six different histories of transition, lots of shared stories and many lessons learned about democracy and how to bring about change. We are happy to present our Book:


The book is the final publication of the first project period of “Transition Dialogue” from 2015 – 2017.  Project Coordinator: Christine Wetzel

About the Book “Mapping Tranistion in Eastern Europe”

“Mapping Transition in Eastern Europe: Expericence of Change after the End Communism”, edited by Louisa Slavkova, 96 pages, published by DRA e.V. 2017.

For a free printed copy please send an e-Mail to

Table of Content

About the Transition Dialogue Network
Christine Wetzel

Comparing Transitions: Challenges and Lessons for Civic Education
Louisa Slavkova

Bulgaria: Nostalgia on the Rise
Iva Kopraleva

Croatia: How to keep Talent at Home
Rafaela Tripalo

Germany: A Tale of Two Generations
Dr. Judith Enders, Mandy Schulze, Christine Wetzel

Romania: A Missed Opportunity for Minorities
Irina Ilisei, PhD

Russia: Authoritarian Resurgence
Oksana Bocharova, Polina Filippova, Vlada Gekhtman

Ukraine: Transition Reset
Olena Pravylo



Contested Memories – or Where does Nostalgia Lead us?

The transition dialogues are about experiences and memories about the very recent  history. For Ukraine, the communist past is a taboo issue, only fragments appear on the surface, but trigger conflicts in families and entire regions. Clashing beliefs about the past are not new and and have become an obstacle to mutual understanding within society – as you can read from the voices below. We were diving into the see of thoughts of the Ukrainians about Soviet times.

Voices below are taken from are discussion on the eve of 2017 in the Kiev “Museum of Dreams” – a museum that is exploring how the dream meets reality in human life. Could there be a better place to talk about the time of change since the end of communism?

How to Remember Communism?

Tatyana (born 1957): Communism was only good because we were young

“It scares me speaking with people who are 20-30 years old, and they tell me how cool it was in the Soviet time, how lucky it was, not such a cannibalistic time. I studied in Leningrad, and went through Moscow [in the time after the end of communism]. And I remember I saw happy people on Gorky Street. […] And when I hear of this young nostalgia, I ask again: “Wait, you are 30 years, how do you know what it was like back then?” I had a conversation yesterday. And one woman told me, “I understand everything, I understand, but in that time I was young!” – “Of course, that’s great, but the youth does not return. Do you want to get back to those circumstances instead?”. So go back to youth, yes! But it would be good if there was also a thing like the internet back then (all laugh). Because now I can go to any museum, walk around any city online.”

Victoria (1981): Things would have changed anyway – with or without the Soviet Union

“But imagine if it was the Soviet Union, but with what we have now. Perhaps the Union would rethink itself as a country. We are simply different, as a whole […]. Perhaps the Union would now have the same challenges, the Union would also change.”

Victoria (1970): You were not at the elections in the Soviet Union.

Elena (1982): I remember – caviar, music. Everybody went to eat there.

Tetyana (1957): Suddenly election results depended on the people’s choice

After 1985 my  first impression – a congress of deputies. I was in Kherson and was walking along the Ushakov’s street. There were no mobile phones, but  small receivers, that shouted out to the whole Ushakov’s about the  candidates. People listened. They wanted change. Then they were all waiting. We then first realized that something now depends on us. We realized that the election would not be approved by a district committee member. It was great what happened that time. People listened and turned around.

We all love to believe in illusions

What would happen if people in 1914 would have been prepared for what would be in 1917? If people would have anticipated this terrible transformation [the tough time of revolution, shortage of food and civil war]? They probably also would have thought that this would be over eventually and all would be all well in the end. I also once had this illusion . Now I know that there is no stability – history never ends. Ludmyla spoke about absence of ideology. But there is a humanist ideology, we all believe in people. We all want a good world, warm and well for everybody. It’s also an ideology, but it is good.

Clashing values, clashing generations

During the discussion, a conflict evolved between two women – Victoria, born in 1970, and Ludmyla, born in 1981 – about the question, if there was a freedom of choice even in the Soviet Union. Was there really no choice in life (says the one born in 1970) or was it just convenient to deny the fact that there is more than one possible way to go (says the one born 1981).

Victoria (1970): “There are things that unite us with the European Union, but there are also our personal changes: changing of values, transition from paternalism to justice.”

Victoria (1980): “You talk about changes of values. What kind of values did Soviet people have?”

Victoria (1970): “First, this is Paternalism. The question of choice for them did not exist.”

Victoria (1980): “This is not a value.”

Tatiana (1957): “The value of the military communism and stability.”

Victoria (1970): “I mean the paradigm of paternalism. Nothing depended on you, they [Soviet power] could give something to you or not. You lived in set frames and they said that you should be comfortable within. This imposed value, which raised more than one generation. Now these people do not have these frames anymore and it’s not comfortable for them. For us however, the main sense is in that change. The more people accept free values, not the values of the Soviet Union, the faster our country will develop.

Ludmyla (1981): We did not just move out of a closed, capsular existence. We actually have changed the ideology [the whole framework of values, the political ideology]. I have no personal experience of living in the ideological space of the Soviet Union. I have not had time to put forward some unwelcome ideas that could be suppressed.  I was too young, just 9 years old. Now we can choose freely. Our mission is to carry this memory.  People are now developing a collective  consciousness [on the past] and this can be dangerous because it can be manipulated.. We must remind people how it really was. The only task I see for the transition generation is this explanation.

What also makes me angry is when people say, that the Soviet people had to act like they did because they grew up with these values. That people had no choice. That is not true! It was just convenient. And even now, people choose what is more convenient – no influence on policy, not affecting anything. This is perceived also normal.  This is a dangerous narrative: to tell people that they have no choice.

Victoria (1970) You have such a position, because you have not lived in that time. Today you said that at the age of  nine you did not have to make a choice. You just did not see that the scope of available information was so  very narrow, as you may not have been aware of the choices that you could theoretically have made.

The time of the 90s that you have experienced is a very different time. When you lived in Soviet Ukraine, you did not even know what was going on in other countries. There was no choice.

Ludmyla (1981) I think, that you just liked to live like that. Sit and wait that someone decides for you. It was comfortable for you.

Victoria (1970) You had no expectations, because you just lived in this system. You just didn’t know any other varieties of existence.

Tatyana (1957): Luda [Ludmyla], if you did not like the government and the system, you simply went to a psychiatrist.

(Ludmyla laughs) Yes, Luda, this is serious, you lived and you had to be happy, because how can a normal person do not like the Soviets? You were considered crazy if you did not like it.

Romania 27 years after: Minority Rights and the Issue of Education

Iulian Stoian is a dedicated human rights activist, advocating for vulnerable groups such as LGBT and Roma minorities. He worked for several prestigious organisations and institutions such as the Romanian National Agency for the Roma, Council of Europe, Open Society Foundation, National Democratic Institute. He has an in depth expertise as program manager, trainer and researcher in working on issues such as Social inclusion, Anti-Discrimination, Trafficking of Human Beings, Roma political participation.

The interview was shortened. You can read the full transcript here: Interview_Iulian Stoian_Transition and Minority Rights in Romania_2016.

Interview with Iulian Stoian by Irina Ilisei in December 2016, Translation: Vlad Costea

Let’s start with a personal question: What did the experience of the transition mean to you?

I was a fresh graduate after the Revolution, and to me the transition meant a series of major experiences to which I felt like a spectator and sometimes like a Guinea pig. These experiments have somehow influenced my professional path, but also my personal life.

When I say Guinea pig, I mean that I experienced almost all the possible changes that a  student could experience at the time, from the modifications to the legislative framework which, naturally, impacted us as subjects of education, but I also career-changing events. For example, I have always prepared myself, from the earliest school years, to become a chemistry teacher.

When I graduated in 1996, I realized that the social reality no longer reflects my childhood dreams. Just like me, a whole generation of teenagers has had this opportunity to look for a different path on the labour market, as well as in career and life.

Did you feel like you were a subject to a kind of experimentation in the society?

I’ve learned to take life for what it is since I was a child. I’ve learned to try to adapt to the new realities. And I can say that from this point of view I was quite privileged, in the sense that everything I’ve done in my life so far has been a part of what I wished and planned.

In the early 1990s, when I was close to my senior year in high-school, I had the chance to work for “Revista 22” [prestigious magazine on culture and politics] and that’s where I got in contact with what is called nowadays ‘the civil society’, with debates on democratic topics, on human rights, and it was then that I realized that the career that I was about to pursue was in the field of human rights.

We were all learning and breathing democracy, and we were all eager to learn about what this new paradigm Romania had become a part of really means: Romania’s transition towards a democratic state, one that puts human rights at the core of its actions.

How do you evaluate the evolution of human rights or the legislation on human rights? You practically were both a witness and a participant to this process of change.

I believe that the evolution of the human rights is an on-going process: it’s a learning process for us all as a society, regardless if you were born and educated during the communist regime, or if you were born in this post-1989 framework.

During these 26-27 years, there was a process of adapting the national legislation to various juridical systems Romania was aspiring to. For example, Romania’s ascension to the Council of Europe produced a series of changes to our legislative framework: we abolished death penalty, we abolished article 200 from the Penal Code which would bring penal charges for homosexuality, and so on.

Lots of such rights have been progressively adopted, but this came at the cost of not educating the population properly during the process. Practically, we were all a part of a learning process, learning by doing if you may.

Was the transition period a continuous progress in regards to human rights, or did it have its ups and downs?

In the field of human rights, I can say that it’s a continuous struggle. For instance, the fight against racism towards the Roma community. It has taken various forms from the cases of violence in the early 1990s – inter-ethnic violence and all the way to more subtle forms of racism which become more and more refined by the day. People learn to refine, if you may, the way they express racism.

In 2008, according to public opinion surveys, 8 out of 10 Romanians didn’t want to have neighbours who were members of the Roma community or the sexual minorities. In comparison, today the number has decreased to 6 or 7 Romanians out of 10 who declare themselves openly against these unpopular minorities.

In regards to these statistics, I don’t think that racism or homophobia have decreased too much, I do believe there is an influence regarding the self-censorship of survey respondents, because we have all learned that we shouldn’t say certain things when we are being interviewed about sensitive topics such as these unpopular minorities.

What do you think would be required in order to grow the majoritarian population’s acceptance in regards to ethnic and sexual minorities? What should be done in our society?

We should also get used to the idea that we all have rights and should benefit from them equally and equitably as citizens. The major fault, if you may, for this high degree of intolerance in Romania is given by the communist regime itself, which used to try by all means to remove every difference between social classes. That utopia of creating the new man who would fit perfectly in certain pre-determined patterns and in which we all had to fit to be accepted in society.

In terms of evolution, where do you think the transition started and ended?

I believe that the transition has started from the moment when the dictator’s helicopter has left the roof of the Romanian Communist Party from Bucharest, from the days of the Revolution when we all wished to be accepted by the international community, to become an occidental state like we used to see in movies and magazines when they would escape censorship… I think that’s when it began and transition still continues to this day.

Were measures undertaken in the early 90s to support human rights?

1993 Romania has adhered to the Council of Europe. I think that was, if you may, one of the milestones for our discussion: the fact that Romania has adopted a series of normative documents which came to consolidate the human rights dimension from the legislation, but also the efforts that we’ve made for the population to know and internalize these values. I think that was a first milestone. The next one, I think that was technically in January 2007, when Romania became a member of the European Union. We have the obligation, through our member state status, to respect and comply to all these laws.

Let’s talk about the adherence of human rights laws now that Romania is in the EU!

As a human rights activist, I knew from my colleagues from countries that once these human rights regulations are adopted, the state’s interest in human rights will decrease dramatically. It also happened in our case, in the sense that it was assumed that as we adopted all the legislation required for Romania, we would also respect it. In practice, things weren’t this way and they aren’t today either. The big problem we notice for years is the wrong application or the lack of application of this legislation.

I believe that here, what plays a big role is the fact that we don’t make sufficient efforts to inform the population, the economic agents, and the institutions about these topics of human rights. I think that the lack of sanctions – even when the infringements are obvious – encourages the others to think that this is the normal state of affairs.

Do you believe that civic education could improve knowledge and respect for human rights in the population, and also make the population empathize with the rights of minorities?

Civic education and education for citizenship should be, in my opinion, the central component of Romanian schools, not only because we have to catch up compared to other states that became EU members before us, but also given the fact that Romania has had one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the former Communist Bloc, and this supressed the civic spirit.

Therefore, citizens associate civic education with the kind of education they would receive before 1989: patriotic education, combined with lectures from the speeches of the former State Secretary of the Communist Party. Because I will say it again, those of us who lived in that period do not associate civic education with education for citizenship as something where you put human rights in the centre. Because, in essence, that’s what it’s about: the rights we all enjoy and we should apply and promote to the others.

Are there visible changes of mentality from a generation to the other, in regards to human rights?

To those who were about 45 years-old during the Revolution hang on to the values and norms they used to respect strictly in the past. So, we can safely affirm that the younger generation which was born after the Revolution is much more sensitive to subjects like human rights and minority rights.

However, I realized that at least in the case of my generation – the ones who graduated from high-school when the Revolution was taking place or were still in school at the time –  among university graduates a very hard to explain conservatism. A kind of conservatism which manifests itself through racism and homophobia, sexism, ultra-nationalism, maybe, and also anti-Semitism. These things come packaged together and can sometimes be discovered among people with an education that would surprize you.

Still, we’re heading towards an area where acceptance towards diversity is higher than what it used to be in the communist period or in the first few years after the Revolution. We enjoy free movement within the EU for quite some years and see what is and what isn’t done abroad, but also have access to information (television, internet) … we all enjoy the right to free expression and right to free information so that we learn about these topics on the go, while doing.

Did the transition period have an impact on the daily lives of people who are part of ethnic or sexual minorities?

Well, we have to make a little distinction: among ethnic minorities, for examples the Roma, there is this widespread perception, that the situation was much better before 1989 in terms of finding a job or having a decent housing, as well as the chance to study if there was a desire for it. Of course, all these things came with drawbacks and inconveniences, such as no right to free speech, to free assembly, or to speak or use the maternal language. There are pros and cons that somehow make the discussion a lot more difficult.

But in my perception, Roma people have been the big losers of the transition. They were the first to lose their jobs, the first to be pushed towards poverty, the first to sell their homes due to poverty, and lots of them have migrated to rural areas or poor urban ghettos. They were literally and practically marginalized from society.

On sexual minorities, I think that they have faced an improvement in terms of perception, for instance some weeks ago, they had a march against the Christian-conservative “Coaliția pentru Familie” (The Coalition for Family), the organization that wants to limit the right to equality for sexual minorities: the right to marriage or the recognition of family life, which is an universal right. We see an increasing number of young people who become sensitive to the problems of this minority and decide to participate actively to associative movements by signing petitions, taking part in marches, manifesting themselves on the internet in favour of human rights and diversity of every kind.

I need to add that also Roma enjoy new supplementary rights since 1989: education in the minority’s language, class on the language, civilization and history of the Roma, special spaces for the Roma youth in high-schools and universities, a series supporting services and professions such as sanitary mediators, or school counsellors who bridge the communities with the local administration.

But these jobs and facilities shouldn’t exist in a normal society because the local administration should be inclusive enough to be able to discuss with the citizens of Roma ethnicity in their language, but also deliver to them high-quality services that are comparable with the services the other citizens receive.

I would say, these jobs and these facilities are transitory. We need to understand that they exist to compensate for historic injustice.

What has civil society done to support minority rights?

After 1989 there was an explosion of forces that were trying to coagulate at the level of political parties, NGOs, foundations, to quickly improve the problems that existed in our society. I remember that at the time there were many functioning foundations and associations which attempted to help children from orphanages, and still it took quite some time.

Minorities of every kind have tried from the very beginning to express their identity. Since the first free elections we have a deputy in Parliament, who benefitted the Roma by coagulating a movement and the establishing an association that gathered together the members of the Roma community at the time.

Also, on the topic of sexual minorities, there were a series of social actors who worked in this area.

I have been involved in civil society, and Roma society, and the one supporting the rights of sexual minorities since the early 2000, and as an evolution I can say that we have had ups and downs. But we are much more prepared right now than we were in the early 1990s, when Romanians would only see certain realities for the first time.

Were people ready at the time? There was a lot of need for people that had the right kind of knowledge, were sensitive towards the issues, knew legal matters, but also had abilities to organize communities. You simply didn’t have all these things in the communist period.

It often happens that the civil society functions primarily on the foundation of good intentions: in the sense that maybe you weren’t the best prepared in a certain field: But if you had the particular interest to work in that area and you were the only one offering these services, then it was clear that those entities, associations, and foundations that were established and deliver services. It went on like this until the accession to the European Union, when it all began to be much more specialized and exchanges became easier to do. The quality of the services provided, however, is questionable. It was a learning process for all of us.

Remembering the 90’s in Russia: Values and Attitudes of the Transition Generation

Results of an interview study conducted by the Sakharov Center Moscow as part of the international project „Transition Dialogue: Mapping a Generation“.

by Oksana Bocharova and Vlada Gekhtman

“We are, in a sense, some of the most fortunate. We saw the heyday of that time. Now we are witnessing the decline of an epoch. But we lived when in was in its full blossom. We had the strength to fight, to conquer a spot, to make a successful, acceptable living”

About the Research

The 90s in Russia were condemned and praised. It feels that the arguments about this time are always an argument not about the 90s – rather than an argument about different sets of values. Sometimes, the transition memories appear very raw, the transit itself is not discussed much in families and among friends.
For this research we talked with people who represent different backgrounds who experienced radical changes or emerged in the course of transition period: business people, entrepreneurs and self-employed (11 interviewees); further representatives from science and education (8) and those with a  media/creative occupation (9). Their common feature is that they have successfully adapted to the new reality, have managed to fit into it. Thus, the participants represent a metropolitan middle class – that is, the values and attitudes that dominated the 90s, and that, in fact, owe their existence to the transition period.

Read the full study here (pdf): Attitudes of the Transition Generation in Russia_Sakharov 2016

Background & Motivation

The 90s is the time we have already lived without Sakharov – he died on Dec, 14th 1989. But Sakharov’s hopes and fears, about a new world that is to come, still stay with us as challenges and questions unanswered. In our work as an institution, we try to acknowledge the 90s as a multidimensional epoch in the history of our country rather than a black and white narrative that diminishes its significance. This research, however, small still allows the reader to have a glimpse into this strange and exciting world of change.

The Changes since the 80s and the war in Eastern Ukraine

Transition Dialogue Panel on the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine

9. November 2016 at Böll-Foundation Berlin, DRA Autumn Talks on Conflict Resolution in the Donbass Region

The war in Eastern Ukraine widely disappeared from from press coverage and international notice. But the conflict goes on and the Minsk peace process is shaky. After discussing prospects for conflict resolution for two days, this panel tried to shed some light on the issue of transition experience as a factor in the conflict in the Donbass.

Indeed, thesis and sides taken by theherbstgesprache-1 panellists and audience happened to present the conflict setting in a nutshell. A heated discussion revealed the long shadows of the past.

Igor Semivolos from the Crisis Media Center Kiev argued there was a certain mind set of Donbass people that triggered this conflict: Firstly, because the Soviet culture was mainly a culture of violence with its emphasis on the eternal struggle of communism against its enemies. Secondly, the Donbass was suffering from a cultural poverty. People there preserve the “paternalist attitude that someone will do it better for them”, say Semivolos. Individual identity was not welcome here, there was still a culture of collectivism. In this region, that is the ‘most Russian one’ of all Ukraine regions, there were social tensions before the conflict broke out.

Valentina Cherevatenko, Union of the Don Women, lives in a Russian region close to the Ukraine boarder. Here, it happens that one part of the village is Russian and one part is Ukraine.

We had a clear picture from films of who is the enemy, she remembers her childhood in the Soviet Union. The problem is, that certain “buzzwords” proof to be longlasting and are reframed and reused in the current conflict – without reflecting what we are actually talking about. “If you told me, what you understand with fascism, I can tell you, if we have it or not”, says Cherevatenko.

“Everything we experience today is related to the way that history is presented to us.” We must talk to each other, we must understand what we mean with the words we use. “Future needs remembrance and remembrance needs future.” Valentina Cherevatenko

The audience of about 50 people was eager to contribute to the discussion, as for instance Valentina from Ukraine remembered, “When I was in the first grade my belief was that I would live in Communism forever. But then the Soviet Union collapsed.” Especially for history teachers the situation was difficult: history was rewritten and changed, and now herbstgesprache-4a completely different history was teached.

Then a competition of history startet with the election of Juschtschenko and goes on since then, she says. “In the region where I live, the situation after Maidan was not accepted, it was not just in the Donbass.” She remembered the summer of 2014 as a moment of breakdown of public infrastructure, that people could only manage because of mutual collective help organised by citizens.

Olena Pravylo from the Congress of Cultural Activists took a different stand: “As a person who was on the Maidan from the first day, I can say, that there are obviously different positions. But I don’t want to argue to about this.”

Instead she drew the attention on the research and interviews she did as part of the Transition Dialogue network. From the research, she understood that the different generations have a very different remembrance and perspective on history.

“My generation – in 1991 we were children. For us Tschernobyl meant vacation.” After the explosion, many people were moved to different regions to escape the radio-active pollution. “But the interviewed people born in the 70s and 60s said: We were born and went to school as Soviet Children. After the Soviet Union was just banditism. They say, the best time was only after 2000 when things finally stabilised”, she recalls from her research. Transition doesn’t end. “What we need is a transition generation dialogue, to discover how differently we understand history.”herbstgesprache-3

She referred to the resume from research done in Germany, suggesting a role swith between children (born in the 80s) and their parents. “The children understood new rules of the game. But the parents still live in the past, they did not manage to adjust to he changes and find their position.”

“The boarder of Soviet thinking is moving eastwards but it is still there”, says Olena Pravylo. “Through the Transition Dialogue network, I understand that there are many Russian people who want a dialogue, who want to question the patterns of thinking and overcome the conflict.”

“I am happy we have now changes in Ukraine after Maidan. Let’s see, were it leads. I liked the answer of a person I asked, how he would understand that transition ends: He said, ‘then clerks in public service will smile like normal people’.” Olena Pravylo

Aleksei Tokarev from MIGMO University switched the topic saying he wants to address the stereotypes. “I try to tear down this wall.” He said, he would not deny that Russian troops went to Ukraine twice. But “it’s the problem of Europe that they think, the problems lie only in Moscow.” He insisted the voice of people in the Donbass wasn’t heard. Far not everyone there would agree to the politics in Kiev.

Here the question, if the conflict in the Ukraine was a civil or international war was on the table again. “It has both elements”, says Igor Semyvolos. “It’s also a civil conflict.” After collapse of Soviet Union, people in the Donbass had not developed a new common identity like most people in Western Ukraine. As the conflict was triggered, they were in the midst, “forced to take side between Ukraine and Russia”.

Voices from the audience jumped back on the issue of transition: “The transition from communist time hasn’t finished, and that is the reason for this conflict”, one woman said. She quoted the artist Dragovic’s: ‘how to lead into conflict in three easy steps’: First; raise level of acceptance for violence in society – e.g. activists were confronted in a cruel way, that was to serve this purpose. Second, create stereotypes – first victim of war is truth.

Another women said, “we grew up having been teached, that Ukraine identity would not exist if it wasn’t defended with blood. It’s a culture of self-defence. But it is not one of tolerance. So you in Germany do not understand: How could you support a war? But that is why.”

“We need to ask ourselves who we are? We are children of Soviet union and live now 20 years without identification.” Statement from the audience

The discussion showed that issues of identity arising of the break up of Soviet Union and ongoing instability indeed contribute to the conflict setting in the Donbass. Mental lines of conflict run deep through the population within the Ukraine and and beyond, they are not only between regions but also generations.

Actually, narratives of the past long before the break up of the Soviet Union are framing and impacting on the attitude to the Ukraine state and the Donbass conflict now. Also in this discussion participants called on historical events and actors – like the 2. World War – to make their point. As stressed by panelists and audience, it would need a lot more dialogue to sharpen the senses for the fact that there are different perspectives on history and the current conflict in the Donbass. Indeed, when people find it hard to talk to each other, is is probably the clearest sign that they should talk.


“Man muss im Schutzraum des Privaten seine Haltung finden”

Im Buch “Wie war das für Euch? Die Dritte Generation Ost im Gespräch mit ihren Eltern” erzählen die 1975 bis 1985 Geborenen, warum sie nicht aufhören können, sich mit der eigenen Herkunft und der Familiengeschichte auseinanderzusetzen. Die Interviews und Reflexionen im Buch zeigen aber auch, dass diese Auseinandersetzung über Transformationserfahrungen in der Familie auch eine wichtige gesellschaftliche Dimension hat. Judith Enders ist Mitherausgeberin des Buches und Mitglied des Transition Dialogue-Netwerks. Wir haben nachgefragt. 

Was wolltet ihr wissen?

Judith: Gibt es in eurer Familie Kommunikation über die Wendezeit? Wenn ja, wo und wie läuft diese ab, gibt es Tabuthemen oder Grenzen? Wenn nein, warum nicht? Was sind die Ursachen für das Schweigen?

Mit welchen Erwartungen bist Du an das Buch herangegangen?

Judith: Meine Vorannahme, dass sich ein differenziertes Bild ergibt, da es ja nicht den DDR-Bürger gab. Die AutorInnen sind zufällig zusammengestellt, aus unterschiedlichen Lebensumständen: Beruf, soziale Einbindung, Familiengeschichte. Zum Tewie-war-das-fur-euch_cover-2il haben wir Leute angesprochen, die wir kannten. Andere trafen wir einfach zufällig. Das Kriterium war Menschen zu finden, die Lust auf den Dialog mit den Eltern hatten. Aber auch einige, wo die Kommunikation mit der Elterngeneration Schwierigkeiten machte, weil diese eigentlich nicht wollten oder noch nicht darüber nachgedacht hatten – wo unserer Buchprojekt den Impuls gab, diesen Dialog zu beginnen. Das war zum Teil eine emotionale Herausforderung, hier mussten wir die Entstehung des Textes wohlwollend begleiten.

Was hat Euch bewegt, dieses Buch zu machen?

Judith: 2012 organisierten wir mit der Initiative „Dritte Generation Ostdeutschland“ eine Konferenz zum Thema „Die Dritte Generation Ost im Dialog mit der Zweiten Generation“. Hier haben wir gemerkt, dass sich unter den 100 Leuten eine interessante Dynamik entwickelte, eine große Verwunderung darüber, dass das Thema so wenig bearbeitet ist, dass es so wenig Gespräch zwischen den beiden Generationen über die DDR gibt. In den meisten Familien gibt es eine große Sprachlosigkeit, jenseits von Anekdoten oder Allgemeinplätzen über die Vergangenheit. Das hat uns motiviert, dieser Thematik Raum zu geben. Das Buch soll ein Anstoß für die Leserinnen und Leser sein, mit der eigenen Familie ins Gespräch zu kommen und im eigenen Umfeld weiter zu diskutieren.

Warum sollte ich als Mitdreißigerin mit meinen Eltern über die DDR reden?

Judith: Das ist grundsätzlich für alle Menschen wichtig, da unausgesprochene Dinge in der nächsten Generation weiter wirken. Das Spezifische bezüglich der dritten Generation Ostdeutschlands ist, dass ihre Elterngeneration in einer Zeit, in der die Eltern sich normalerweise mit ihren Kindern über ihre Zukunft, Werte etc. auseinandersetzen, also in der Pubertät, dazu wenig Gelegenheit hatten, da sie zu sehr mit sich selbst und der Bewältigung der Umbruchszeit beschäftigt waren.

Eine weitere Dimension ist, dass man nach circa 20 bis 25 Jahren überhaupt erst gesellschaftliche Ereignisse so reflektieren kann, dass die Emotionen nicht überhand gewinnen und eine sachliche Auseinandersetzung erschweren.

In Eurem Buch spricht eine Autorin von der Erwartung eines „Ostdeutschen 68“. Das wäre jetzt zeitlich so weit. Hattet ihr erwartet, dass das käme?

Judith: Erwartet nicht, aber die Idee hat Charme. Ich denke, dass aufgrund des gesellschaftlichen Drucks dafür kein Raum da ist. Es gibt zu viele andere Probleme. Aber nötig wäre es, um eine Aufarbeitung des noch nicht Bearbeiteten anzustoßen. Die Auseinandersetzung mit der DDR erschöpft sich ja nicht im Auswerten der Stasi-Akten. Und in Westdeutschland gab es wenn überhaupt nur eine marginale Auseinandersetzung mit der DDR Alltagskultur und der Wendezeit. Ich glaube, da haben viele kein Gefühl dafür, wie schwierig die Umbruchzeit für viele im Osten war. Da fehlt das Verständnis, nicht nur Empathie sondern einfach das Verstehen, was passiert ist und was das mit den Menschen gemacht hat. Die Bürger aus Westdeutschland sollten auch erkennen, dass die Wende Teil ihrer eigenen Geschichte ist.

Wie wirkt diese verpasste Auseinandersetzung auf die Gesellschaft heute?

Judith: Es gibt immer noch strukturelle Unterschiede im Engagement, in der Bewertung und Wahrnehmung der Demokratie als Staatsform und den Möglichkeiten der Entfaltung, die sie dem Einzelnen bietet.

Es ist wichtig, die eigenen Rolle und das eigene Verhaltens in der DDR erst einmal in der Familie zu reflektieren. Das ist ein Schutzraum, wo das Gespräch weniger mit Schuld und Scham belastet ist und man einfacher darüber reden kann, wie es einem damals erging und wie es einem heute mit der Erfahrung geht. Dies öffnet dann Reflektionsräume dafür, auch öffentlich diese Debatte zu führen und sich auseinanderzusetzen. Man muss im Schutzraum des Privaten zunächst selbst seine Haltung finden, um sich der gesellschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung stellen zu können.

Wenn man die Vergangenheit persönlich nicht verarbeiten kann, dann blockiert das ganze gesellschaftliche Gruppen oder eine ganze Generation – die ja auch nur aus vielen Individuen besteht – neue Situationen und Erfahrungen anzunehmen. Die verpasste Auseinandersetzung im Privaten hindert eine ganze Generation sich mit der Gesellschaft heute, ihren Möglichkeiten aber auch ihren Problemen auseinanderzusetzen.

Das Interview führte Christine Wetzel

„Wie war das für Euch? Die dritte Genration Ostdeutschland im Gespräch mit ihren Eltern.“ Chr. Links Verlag, Berlin 2016

von Judith C. Enders (Hg.) (Autor), Mandy Schulze (Hg.) (Autor), Bianca Ely (Hg.) (Autor)

“Now people have responsibility for what they are doing”

In the course of the Maidan revolution, the Ministry of Culture was occupied by cultural activists in order to develop a more progressive cultural policy for Ukraine. Yaroslav Belinsky belonged to the group of artists who occupied the Ministry and later created the Congress of Cultural Activists. But it’s not just about culture, but the role culture plays for society. The Congress’ claim says “We build a new country”.

Dörte Grimm from the Transition Dialogue-Team interviewed Yaroslav Belinsky, Designer, Member of the Congress of Cultural Activists, in April 2016 in Kiev.

Dörte: Yaroslav, how and when did you come to occupy the Ministry?

We came to occupy the Ministry right after Maidan: The shooting [when 100 protesters where killed] was on 18th, 20th Februar, we occupied the Ministry on the 24th, 25th. We went there for a month of hard and chaotic discussion on how to reform the ministry, how to work there. We were designers, musicians, sculptors – just art people who didn’t know how the ministry works.

So, we created separated groups for cinema, theatre, design, music… 15 groups all together. The main groups was for coordination. But after a month realised that it is not useful just to discuss, we wanted acting, we wanted to understand how culture works. So we left the Ministry and went out to the country, we gathered culture people from all over Ukraine. That was when the Congress of Cultural Activists was created.

Dörte: How did you become active during Maidan?

Yaroslav: I did not make Molotov Cocktails. I went there when it started, when it became a manifestation with million of people on Maidan just in a few weekends. Everyone was there. It was like a big family. Unknown people, but it felt like you knew them for years. That feeling was absolutely amazing. Something really, really new. It was a great impression. We try to cultivate this feeling and try to make it grow in the future.

Dörte: What has changed since the Maidan Revolution?

Yaroslav: The main difference is that now people have responsibility for what they are doing. That is new option for Ukraine. Before, we had the post soviet generation who was just responsible for nothing. As part of Congress we are present in all parts of Ukraine and talk to all kinds of people, not just from culture. And we understand, that they really want to be part of the change. We discuss with them cultural matters and why it is so important. What happened in the East of Ukraine and Crimea is also a reason of a lack of culture and of bad education. It wouldn’t have happened if the situation would have been a different one there.

Dörte: A day before, on a tour through the city, our guide said to us, the time before was unacceptable and unbearable, just years of frustration and total deadlock How did you experience the time before Maidan?

Yaroslav: For me, it was like you do something – but there is a concrete wall between you and what you want, between you and the environment you want to be part of.

Dörte: Because you couldn’t talk, your voice wasn’t heard?

Yaroslav: No, it was not like in the Soviet Union, not that something was restricted. Now it was just absolutely frozen, no development. Just as it is. You try to change something, but the authorities don’t want to. It was comfortable for them: they were just trying to get money from government budget. For instance, the Minister of Culture just kept on doing the same Soviet style events with the same people all the time. We call it Scharavaschena, old fashioned clothes from 400 years ago: That’s what they showed every year, the same costumes with the same dancing. That’s what they called culture. But some kind of new contemporary dance, visual arts – they didn’t understand that this could be part of culture. For them it was not culture, just non-understandable things.

Dörte: How will your next steps look like?

Yaroslav: We have a lot of cooperation with different NGO from Europe. I’m very optimistic for the development of the organisation. We want to found an Open Ukraine Design Center to support and discuss why and how design matters. To work in social, youth, business and government projects. We want to show that design can have a value for everything. And it can be a good packing for all kind of things developed in Ukraine. We have many good products, but they usually have a bad cover.

Dörte: What does transition mean to you?

Yaroslav: I was 11, 12 when the Soviet Union collapsed. It was not as hard for me as for my parents. My parents where in the military and I saw the Soviet Union that was absolutely bad equipped with a low level of support for the members and families. I remember packages with food from the Bundeswehr Army. It was a support from German to Ukraine Army. There was a time we survived just from those packages.

Dörte: But there is still transition going on…

Yaroslav: Yes, sure, we’re young, we have a flexible mind and can change our visions. But older people can’t. Partly it is very hard to speak to them. I can give you the example of a young girl and her grand mother. The young girl said to her grandmother, “how can you be sad that the Soviet time is gone? They killed millions of people in camps”. She answered, “yes, but we had ice cream for 3 Kopeks”. For our generation that is absolutely inappropriate. But for them it is o.k. Every second family I know in my environment has relatives who where shot in the 30s in the Soviet time, for instance my great grand parents. They were from Poland and lived in Ukraine, an intellectual family of teachers. They were shot not for their opinion or acting, just because they were Polish and educated. So Soviet time is nothing romantic for my generation.

Dörte: Do you think Ukraine is on a good way?

Yaroslav: Very slow, but I hope faster in the next year. And I hope that we as part of the change can help to make it better and be useful.

Dörte: Where do you get your motivation and energy from?

Yaroslav: We feel like a big family, the Congress team. When someone is depressed and loosing energy – which keeps happening – we do see that and support each other. It is very helpful to be part of that team.

What motivates people to become a driver of change in a time of transition?

Results from a Workshop at the 2015 NECE Conference in Thessaloniki, 22nd October 2015

Why we are asking this question

“Transition ends when we have disenchantment,” we learned in our first meeting in Sofia. But when transition ends due to disenchantment, it does not mean, that everything is ‘done’. Rather, people have become frustrated about the transition process, they do not believe in their possibility to bring about change. As activists, teachers, researchers in the wide field of civil society and citizenship education one of our main concerns is how to empower people. How to encourage them to be the change the want to see happen? In this brief workshop we presented best practice and learnings from our own work and asked participants to share their experience.

The workshop was held by Many Schulze (Perspektive³, Berlin), Olena Pravilo (Congress of Cultural Activists, Kiev) and Christine Wetzel (German-Russian-Exchange, Berlin). Documented on film by Dörte Grimm (Perspective³).

The workshops participants joined us from Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Croatia and Germany.

Olena’s Case on DIMG_20151022_150044riving Change: Establishing a Cultural Management in the community of Zaporizhzhya (Ukraine)

It all started with the occupation of the Ukraine Ministry of Education. The idea was spread on Facebook by artists and cultural managers after the end of the Janukovich government. It was not to destroy anything symbolically, but actually to do better, and to run the ministry with a lot more passion and expertise.

The problems of Ukraine’s cultural administration were, according to Olena, lacking concepts for cultural development, overall bad administration of policies, and no openness towards other sectors as education or economy. The idea of self-made cultural policy spread to other cities, Assemblies of Culture were set up and registered as NGOs – as in the community of Zaporizhzhya.

Olena explained, what drove the activists to take this great challenge was not to accept excuses: “We in Ukraine can always look at other countries and find reasons why things can not be changed here: Because we have less money than Germany, because we are not so small like Estonia, and so on. But we said, we can do it. We just start, see what works elsewhere and try to do it here.”

Therefore, the activists in Zaporizhzhya invited experts from all over the Ukraine to share their experiences and best practice from other communities. There was no big funding for this event, everybody traveled on her or his own expanses, local activists all provided their bit to make the event happen. It was a kick-off for cultural self-management in the Zaporizhzhya. By now, the activities have resulted in the initiating of a cultural strategy for the community, and the developing of a cooperation with the Economic University. A book fair was established and diverse cultural projects created.

“We need examples, we need to repeat them, spread them, show others what works,” Olena stressed, and, as simple as crucial: “Ask people to do something! Encourage them, give them examples of what they can actually achieve. Do you have a telescope, do you know something about the space? Why don’t you show children the starts and the universe?”

Mandy’s Case on Driving Change: How young people looking for place to live accidentally opened a social space and investigated local history (Germany)

Mandy’s story of change had to starting points. One was a typical ‘lost place’, like you can find plenty of it all over the former communist countries in every community: empty town halls, factories, schools, hotels ect.

One the other side there were five young people looking for a place to live and work. They found an empty, run down public house in the town of Niederoderwitz to settle.

“The five had nothing in mind with community issues or civic empowerment,” says Mandy. “But From the moment they had started to work ob the house, they got confronted with locals who stopped by and asked to come in and have look. They became aware of the enormous meaning the house has for the people in the village.” For decades all festivities had been celebrated here; birth, birthdays, carnival, thanksgiving… With closure off the hotel the village had lost it’s social heart, the place were people would meet.

So, they opened the house for a first garden party – and 800 out of 1.500 villagers came. Consequently, the house was opened regular and became the new community center. The group of 5 people grew to 25. They were confronted with new issues of management; dealing with the administration, finding supporters and funding, investigating the local history. They invited chronologists and historians. They established themselves in the village, got children and had to deal with related issues, like Infrastructure for young families.

Essentially, the hotel hall was not just a place to celebrate. A public space like this is simply crucial for the development of a sense of community in the first place. Without a place to gather, community life is disintegrating, emptying and frustration growing that there is ‘nothing here anymore’. The five young people had realized the potential of that place. How it matters to people, that they perceived it as an open wound in their village – and they are willing to change something about it, to give it new sense. By accident, they, just seeking affordable housing, became community activists, bringing public space and local citizen-driven self-organization (back) to live.

Thus, in terms of the workshop question, the case shows three things: Firstly, start small and local, the ‘home’ is a place everyone can emotionally connect to – and this is crucial.

Secondly, the people can create a political awareness starting from concerns for issues that are considered to be not political at all, like housing, some questions asked on the past.

And finally – despite all praise to the possibilities of virtual communication – the necessity to provide a physical space, a laboratory and hub for encounters and those who are willing to be drivers of change.

see more of this case on Facebook:

In 2013 a network was founded supporting initiatives like that in Niederoderwitz reclaiming the public space. They are analysing and providing knowledge and support on issues like: What are triggers for civic engagement?
What are the challanges for those who want to engage? How can they be supported?

Open Discussion Results

We asked everyone to note down her and his answer to the workshop question and later share it with us. Here are insights the that were given by the participants from their experience:

  • Do not work on a group, you want to do something for, but work with them. Listen and develop approaches with them, that build on their needs, ideas and capacity.
  • Show people ‘the better live’ that is possible and provide them with examples how to get there.
  • You need a common issue if you want to keep people on board. This seems obvious, but often it is not the case when you look closer.
  • Education is an extremely powerful tool!
  • Ask people questions that make them start thinking.
  • Talk, talk, talk to people! Support encounters between different groups to share experience and examples, then develop programs to implement knowledge in practice.
  • We need to make ourselves visible, we need public spaces to unfold, grow and spread ideas.
  • Perform the best examples of your own, be the example, be the change – start local, then grow up the levels.
  • Support the people, who are willing to do something; empower them, build their confidence, if possible provide financial support.
  • Show them the consequences of their actions, show them what happens when the make changes – and what if not.
  • Networking and team-building: Make people feel that they are not alone!
  • You need to organize and structure the ideas, provide the ground to make ideas work
  • Lower administration burden!

The workshop holders suggest, that the examples given by the participant apply to all kind of civic engagement in different circumstances. We further suggest, all the points given link into each other and form a ‘Circle of Motivation‘:

The chart point to motivation and incentive structures on different levels; the individual (1) (2), but also organizational (3) (6) and institutional (4, also including funding) level, that are all relevant for people to drive change processes – though one can partly make up for the other. Bottom up activity should ideally meet a top down structure that facilitates engagement, e.g. with funding, providing spaces for meeting, give access to key actors. But this are not opposites: The Ukraine example shows the attempt of changing this very environment for activity.

The six elements build on each other and are linked, but they are not solely linear: E.g., sure, it helps to talk about and spread your cause at every stage of the circle. And, obviously, listen to those you want to address with your activity before you start is always a good idea! As it was stressed by a participant from Georgia early in the discussion, our attitude towards those who we want to work with is important. We should be facilitator, not the instructor who always knows better. For there is nothing less encouraging if you do not get the chance to follow your own ideas.

And finally: Do never forget about the social experience of engagement! Whatever you do; provide space for getting together also with agenda, celebrate results, tell others, honor activity and – say thanks.

Circle of Motivation

Driving Change Diagram

Thank you to all of you who joined this workshop and shared their experience!

by Christine Wetzel

see the workshop video and read more about what we did at the conference