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Poetry and Science

Palaces of Culture featured prominently in the educational and cultural policies of socialist states. As places of encounter and education, of culture and sport, they were part of the social engineering practised by the state.

At the same time, they were architectural icons of many Eastern, Central and Southern European capitals. But Palaces of Culture were found not only in the heart of socialist metropolises. “Houses of Culture” were systematically established in smaller towns and suburbs too, where people could take advantage of education, culture and sports offerings that also served to shape the “socialist citizen”. Then, in the years of change around 1989, Houses and Palaces of Culture played an important role as physical venues in the system transformation. Today, the architectural and cultural heritage of these Palaces is handled in ways that are as diverse as the societies of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. In five panel discussions curated by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb), visitors to the Humboldt Forum will take a look at Warsaw, Kyiv, Belgrade and Minsk together with guests from the respective countries. They will learn more about the socialist idea of Palaces of Culture, urban debates, revolutions in the city environment, international discourses, political protests, state power, and shrinking spaces for culture.

Today, official spaces such as the “Palace of Arts” in Minsk are no longer available to independent Belarusian artists, authors and cultural creators – in fact, many have left the country in fear of arrest and condemnation. Artists’ residencies, exhibitions and events abroad, but also private retreats and the internet offer alternative spaces for independent art. The panel asks: What role did cultural practitioners play during the peaceful protests against rigged presidential elections in the summer of 2020, which were crushed by brutal police violence? How does the search for alternative spaces work? Our guests are an artist, an academic, and a translator from Belarus.

The series “Palaces for the People. Palaces of Culture in Eastern Europe Before and After 1989” is curated by the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.

Welcome and introduction
Carolin Savchuk, Advisor on Russia and Belarus in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe project group at the bpb

Antanina Slabodchykava, artist, Dresden
Andrei Vazyanau, Assistant Professor for Social Sciences, European Humanities University, Vilnius

Iryna Herasimovich, Translator and essayist, Zurich University

Carolin Savchuk: After completing a degree in languages and international cultural and business studies with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe at the University of Passau, Carolin Savchuk worked for over ten years as a freelance facilitator and trainer with cultural managers in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. From 2017 to 2023, she established and then headed the education and outreach department at Museum Berlin-Karlshorst – the historic site of the end of the war in Europe in May 1945. Since May of this year, she has been an advisor in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe project group at the bpb.

Antanina Slabodchykava was born in 1979 in Minsk (Belarus), where she lives and works as a visual artist to this day. She graduated from the Glebov Minsk State Art College (department of painting) in 1998, and from the Belarusian State Academy of Arts (department of architectural painting) in 2004. She works with various media (painting, graphics, installation, video) on themes such as motherhood, identity and gender in the context of feminist practices, as well as death, memory, the archiving process, subordination and power from different aspects: as personal experience, social stereotypes, social history, etc.

Andrei Vazyanau is a lecturer at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania) and a researcher at Minsk Urban Platform (Belarus/Lithuania). He holds his PhD in social anthropology from the University of Regensburg (2021, project title “Infrastructures in Trouble: Public Transit, Crisis, and Citizens at the Peripheries of Europe”). His fieldwork background includes the Donetsk region of Ukraine (Mariupol, Kostyantynivka, Druzhkivka, Horlivka) from 2011-2013; Romania (Galati, Braila, Constanta) from 2015-2016; Belarus (Minsk) from 2017-2021. In 2022 and 2023 he delivered humanitarian packages to medical workers in Lviv and Kyiv.

Iryna Herasimovich was born in Minsk in 1978, and has been a freelance translator since 2009. She has translated works by Lukas Bärfuss, Georg Büchner, Monika Rinck, Nora Gomringer, Mehdi Moradpour, Jonas Lüscher, Michael Köhlmeier, Franz Hohler and Franz Kafka into Belarusian. Since 2018, she has curated the translation part of the Literature Intermarium forum in the Kaptaruny art village. She works as a dramaturge and curator in the field of visual arts, and is a member of the German Academy for Language and Literature. Since 2021, she has been a doctoral researcher in the Slavic Department at Zurich University, as part of the SNF project “Arts & Disinformation”.

- free of charge
- Duration: 60 min
- from 14 years or older
- Language German / Simultaneous translation: English-German and Belarusian-German
- Location: Mechanical Arena in the Foyer

Additional information