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Post/Socialist Palaces

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.

Palaces of Culture and other public buildings shaped the public space in socialist cities. In Kyiv, the historical transformation of these spaces can be traced using the example of the “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” or Independence Square, often called simply “Maidan”. In the post-Soviet era, its imposing Stalinist architecture set the scene for the square as a place of power, and its post-Soviet architecture subsequently also filled it with mainly state representational functions. But the Ukrainian people aggressively appropriated and continue to appropriate public spaces and buildings for themselves – in everyday life, but also in resistance movements, revolutions, and times of war. The discussion explores transformations of Kyiv’s public architecture and asks about its significance as a locus of civil empowerment for Ukraine’s transgenerational collective memory.

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

Evgeniya Molyar, art critic, member of the initiative DE NE DE and coordinator of the project “Soviet Mosaics in Ukraine”, Berlin
Vasyl Cherepanyn, curator, director of the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC), Berlin
Kateryna Mishchenko, essayist, translator and publisher from Kiev, currently Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

Kateryna Stetsevych, Head of the Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe project group at the bpb

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.

Evgeniya Molyar is an art historian. She studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kyiv. The focus of her work is the cultural heritage of the Soviet era, especially monumental art. She curated a project entitled SOVIET MOSAICS IN UKRAINE. As a member of the self-organised initiative DE NE DE, she researches and preserves the uncomfortable cultural heritage in the context of ideological changes. Molyar is a pre-doctoral fellow at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome. Her special interest here is researching contemporary artistic practices in Ukrainian art that turn to the cultural heritage of the Soviet era.

Dr. Vasyl Cherepanyn is Head of the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC), an institution he co-founded in Kyiv in 2008 as a platform for collaboration among academic, artistic, and activist communities. VCRC is the organizer of the Kyiv Biennial and a founding member of the East Europe Biennial Alliance. Cherepanyn holds a PhD in philosophy and has lectured at several universities, both in Kyiv and other cities in Europe, and is a curator, writer and editor.

Kateryna Mishchenko is a writer, curator, and co-founder of Medusa, a Ukrainian independent publishing house. She taught literature at the Kyiv National Linguistic University, and has worked as a translator in the human rights field. Her essays have been published in Ukrainian and international anthologies and journals, and in the book Ukrainian Night. Together with Katharina Raabe, she co-edited the book “Aus dem Nebel des Krieges” (2023), published by Suhrkamp. Mishchenko lives and works in Kyiv, for the present, she is in Berlin.

Kateryna Stetsevych studied literature, linguistic and cultural studies at the University of Chernivtsi and the Freie Universität Berlin. She worked as a freelance curator and lecturer for international intermediary organizations such as the Goethe-Institut and GIZ, among others, as well as cultural institutions in Germany. She is a coordinator of the program focus “tranzyt. Literature from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus” at the Leipzig Book Fair (2012-2014). Currently, Kateryna Stetsevych is the head of the project group Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe at the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb)

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