Select language:

Wolfgang Schälike: Our Goal is to Popularize Dostoevsky in Germany

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Wolfgang Schälike: Our Goal is to Popularize Dostoevsky in Germany

Wolfgang Schälike: Our Goal is to Popularize Dostoevsky in Germany

21.01.2021

Svetlana Smetanina

Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1861. Photo by Mikhail Tulinov (fragment). Photo credit: https://dostoevskiyfm.ru/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/4.jpg

The second centenary of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s birth will be widely celebrated not only in Russia but also in Germany. The German-Russian Institute of Culture in Dresden has launched the Year of Dostoevsky in Germany project. Dr. Wolfgang Schelicke, chairman of the board of the institute, spoke about the events planned and how interest in the writer facilitated bridge-building between our countries.

How did the idea to hold the Year of Dostoevsky in Germany come about? And was it difficult to implement this project?

The idea suggested itself in a completely natural way because Dresden is very closely associated with Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. Although even in Dresden, few people know that Dostoevsky spent most of his time abroad in this very city. As a rule, Baden-Baden is often mentioned in connection with Dostoevsky. The reason behind it is that back then gambling houses were banned in Saxony, so he used to leave Dresden for Baden-Baden, where he lost massively.

Fyodor Dostoevsky spent more than two years in Dresden. In Soviet times, this fact was not particularly mentioned either, since Dostoevsky first wrote Demons, his prescient novel about terrorism in the 20th century, in Dresden. His daughter Lyubov was born here and here she was christened in the Orthodox community.

It is known that Fyodor Mikhailovich adored the Sistine Madonna, a painting displayed in the Dresden gallery and went to look at it almost every day.

25 years ago, ourGerman-Russian Institute of Cultureheld a large symposium in honour of the 175th anniversary of Dostoevskys birth. It was dedicated to Demons. Back then, we were able to bring together four presidents of Dostoevsky Societies for the first time ever. I am referring to Russian, German, American, and International societies. And a foundation stone for a future monument to the writer was laid in the Russian Orthodox Church. Having spent years looking for a decent place to install the monument, we finally erected the monument to Dostoevsky by Alexander Rukavishnikov in Dresden in 2006. And we managed to invite Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel to its unveiling.

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel at the unveiling of the monument to Fyodor Dostoevsky in Dresden. Photo courtesy of the German-Russian Institute of Culture

The library at our German-Russian Institute of Culture was named after Fyodor Dostoevsky 25 years ago. Today it is one of the largest Russian-language libraries in Germany. So it was perfectly natural for us to come up with such an initiative and to combine the Year of Commemoration of the Writer in Germany with the year of the second centenary of Fyodor Dostoevskys birth.

On 8 May last year, Michael Kretschmer, the Minister-President of Saxony, took part in commemorative events at the Soviet post cemetery for the first time. It was there that I told him briefly about our initiative regarding the anniversary year. Throughout the summer we proactively communicated with officials of the Saxon State Chancellery and the Ministry of Culture presenting arguments in favour of the Year of Dostoevsky. I believe that since the Minister-President took over the patronage of this project, it is very important in view of German-Russian cultural ties. And thus, we are imposed with great obligations.

Read also:All countries are looking for their own Dostoevsky

What events are planned for the Year of Dostoevsky in Germany?

A press conference on the opening of the Year of Dostoevsky in Germany with a greeting from the Minister-President was scheduled for January 14. But due to strict lockdown, we decided to postpone it to a later date. Many other events have also been postponed. For example, the Leipzig Book Fair where it is planned to arrange a stand dedicated to Fyodor Dostoevsky is to be postponed from March to May.

Therefore, on the one hand, we continue to set the events that will be held live. However, there is also a plan B - to transfer them online. For example, the Dostoevsky without Borders conference was scheduled for the International Mother Language Day in February. Representatives of Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Lusatian Serbs living in Germany intended to participate in it. Now we are planning to hold this conference in the second half of the year.

The Week of Germany in St. Petersburg is scheduled for the end of April. Each year it is dedicated to a specific region of Germany. This time Saxony will conduct it. Furthermore, it is not only about the 200th anniversary of Fyodor Mikhailovichs birth; 2021 is also marked by the 60th anniversary of Dresden and St. Petersburg twinning. And it is clear that the main symbol of this alliance is Dostoevsky. We are on friendly terms with the F.M. Dostoevsky Literary and Memorial Museum in St. Petersburg and have been working with them for many years. And this time we are planning to hold a musical and literary evening there. Also, the museum promised to send us an exhibition dedicated to Dostoevsky. We will do the translation into German and intend to present it in Dresden and other cities of Germany.

Wolfgang Shelicke

In early May, Germany will host the so-called European Week. And as part of this event, we plan to hold Dostoevsky, a Russian European panel discussion. The intention to participate has been already expressed by Igor Volgin, the president of the Dostoevsky Foundation, and Vladimir Kantor, a philosopher; as to the German side, professors of Slavic studies, as well as Christoph Garstka, the chairman of the German Dostoevsky Society who took part in our symposium as a student 25 years ago, have also expressed their interest.

We have been also working on the Following the Footsteps of Fyodor Dostoevsky in Moscow, Dresden, and St. Petersburg international exhibition. Famous German writers, members of the Saxon Academy of Arts, will present their “My Dostoevsky” essays. For example, in 1992, Volker Braun, one of the leading German writers, wrote an essay under the title "Raskolnikov, Trotsky, Gorbachev." Many German writers that were famous more than 100 years ago, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Maria Rilke, showed great interest in Dostoevsky's work.

We do not want to focus on literary experts only listening about their discoveries in Dostoevskys work. Our goal is to popularize Dostoevsky in Germany. Therefore, we have come to an agreement with the Saxon Association of Libraries to join the events of the anniversary year. We have created an online platform to host all events dedicated to the Year of Dostoevsky in Germany, even those held independently of the German-Russian Institute of Culture. For example, the other day there was information that our partner in Munich, the MIR association, published a calendar dedicated to Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. Also, German theaters will certainly stage performances based on Dostoevskys works.

The building of the German-Russian Institute of Culture in Dresden. Photo credit:Litrossia.ru

In your opinion, do German readers find Dostoevsky interesting today?

Of course, the older generation knows him much better. That is why we want as many events as possible to be held in libraries. For example, three years ago, Vitaly Konstantinov, a Russian artist who lives in Germany, published a comic book with Dostoevskys biography. Such a presentation may be of interest to young readers.

The Year of Dostoevsky will conclude in November - December. Vladimir Kochin, the executive director of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, suggested that we hold a meeting of representatives of all Dostoevsky's societies from different countries in Dresden since it would be easier for everyone to come to Germany than to Moscow.

Our task is to build bridges for better mutual understanding between our countries. And such a theme as Dostoevsky, a Russian European shows that Fyodor Mikhailovich influences not only European culture, but also European thought, and the world thought. Therefore, Dostoevsky has been extremely relevant to this day and will be relevant in the future.

New publications

There are about two million Armenians living in Russia today. But when it comes to Russians living in Armenia, there are about 15,000 people only. But both of them continuously split time between two homes and strengthen the ties between our countries - economic, cultural, and spiritual. And these ties go deep into the past, many centuries ago. We will tell you in this article how the first Russians settled in Armenia and how their descendants live in Armenia today imbued with the local culture while preserving the national traditions.
One of the most cozy towns in Russia, a member of the Association of Small Tourist Cities of Russia is located about 100 kilometers from Moscow. Borovsk makes visitors to fall in love with it at the first glance. Beautiful, typical Russian landscapes with river and churches, homey cafes, low-rise buildings and private houses decorated with naive art live under hovering spirit of the theoretical cosmonautics founder Tsiolkovsky.
Rus at Play 14.10.2021
A significant contribution to the development of professional sports in Europe has been made by Russian players who stepped into the sporting field under the guidance of their parents either at home or in a strange land. Emigrants founded clubs, played at packed stadiums as if they had been sports superstars, and led teams to championships as coaches and managers. Sports clubs are still established by our compatriots today.
A bear dressed in kosovorotka and bast shoes playing balalaika is one of the strongest Russian stereotypes. In reality, bears live in Russian woods or zoos, kosovorotkas and bast shoes could be traced in museums and at folk concerts. In contrast, the balalaika has won its unique place not only on concert posters but also at an international stage, in concert halls, jazz and rock clubs.
Summers in Alaska are short. And the breath of winter is felt from early fall. Famous Russian traveler Sergey Sinelnik knows this better than most people. Since 2019, he has been sailing on an exact replica of the medieval coastal dwellers boat Pilgrim. The journey has taken him to the northernmost American state. This year's voyage is over; next spring, Sinelnik and his crew will sail along the Northern Sea Route to Russia.
Michael Chekhov passed away more than 65 years ago, but his fame and influence in the theatrical and cinema worlds seem to be only growing. The Russkiy Mir found out how Chekhov's methodology is interpreted today in theaters that are named after him, and who is awarded the Michael Chekhov Medal.
Recently FSB declassified the original text of the 1946-1948 Tokyo International Military Tribunal verdict. It referred to the plans of imperialist Japan to seize the Soviet Far East and Siberia. Just a day before the opening of the international forum dedicated to the 1949 Khabarovsk War Crime Trials has started. The forum was dedicated to the trial over Kwantung Army soldiers accused of developing and using bacteriological weapons.
There are some good news for art connoisseurs. From now on every person can buy an exhibit from the Hermitage. Of course the buyer should possess a certain amount of money. All this has become possible thanks to new technologies.