Guten tag, Minsk
By Lyudmila Minkevich
It isn’t unknown to hear the German language on the Minsk metro, in shops or on the street, since guests from Germany often visit the Belarusian capital. Sometimes, schoolchildren and students chat in German to show their knowledge of the foreign language, just for fun. It’s a language which has become especially popular in Belarus of late, alongside German films, books and theatrical performances. Our republic recently hosted the 7th German Week, honouring the 20th anniversary of German reunification.
“Twenty years isn’t a ‘silver wedding’ but it allows us to look back and thoroughly assess what has been done,” notes Peter Dettmar, Deputy Head of Mission of the Germany Embassy to Belarus. Changes and achievements in Germany over the past twenty years were discussed by round tables at the event, which was attended by the German Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Christof Weil, alongside German and Belarusian historians and public figures. The meetings also tackled sci-tech co-operation between Belarus and Germany, with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) presenting new scholarship programmes and a cycle of lectures on today’s economic theory and practice. The German-Belarusian Economic Club and the German Economy Office in Belarus organised a Day of the German Economy in Belarus. It was dedicated to bilateral collaboration in the energy sphere, attended by twenty German companies involved in producing energy efficient technologies. With the aim of developing economic co-operation and investment activities in the sphere of power engineering, energy- and resource-saving, the latest developments and bilateral contacts were presented and a briefing was conducted.
Meanwhile, the Germany-related days were primarily dedicated to cultural events, since all other spheres of human life are built on culture. It forms the crust of the ‘pie’. Of course, even those without knowledge of German could take part, listening to Schumann at the Belarusian State Academy of Music, tasting German wines and admiring the ReplikRepublik Berlin-Minsk fashion show. The latter was a very unusual project, with Minsk’s Alesya Knitwear Factory re-creating famous Berlin designs. Both the Belarusian copies and German originals took to the catwalk, allowing the audience to admire garments by Wolfen, Frank Leder and Chris Holzinger — alongside their Belarusian counterparts.
German films were screened, including new Heiligendamm by Michael Blume, The German Gambit historical drama by Hans-Christoph Blumenberg and Solino by Fatih Akın (a German director of Turkish origin). How did pizza and spaghetti arrive in Germany’s Ruhr region? They were brought in 1964 by the Amato family, who arrived from the sunny Italian region of Apulia, inspired by stories about the country of economic wonder. Akin’s film tells the story of the family’s nostalgia for their homeland, their professional success and personal tragedy.
Meanwhile, the Shorts at Moonlight festival of short-length films was organised for those unable to listen to a history covering 20 years, or unwilling to spend an hour and a half in a cinema hall. The Germans have been organising the event since 2003, each summer in the open air, in palaces and parks in the regions around Frankfurt and Mainz. Spectators are offered around 100 films, from which the favourites are voted for by the public. Gudrun Winter, Director of Shorts at Moonlight, presented Minsk with a range of films from the 2010 programme. Most were shot without words, making them accessible to Germans and Belarusians alike, as well as to adults and children.
Special events for children were also organised as part of German Week, with the Goethe Institute’s library, in Minsk, demonstrating the latest books for children and young people. Young readers were able to enjoy books, while also creating pictures from the paints, coloured pencils, corrugated paper and other items available to them.
Minsk has hosted German Week seven times now, allowing Belarusian residents to discover more about German culture and the country, which is our reliable friend and partner.