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Department Head Alexander Semyonov
Academic Supervisor Evgeniy Anisimov

First part of the joint research seminar "Turning Points: Russia and Germany, 1980-2000"

A group of 15 BA and MA students from the Department of History, HSE SPb participated in the first part of a joint research and educational seminar “Turning Points: Russia and Germany, 1980-2000” organized by the Department of History, Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg and Humboldt University in Berlin from 1st to 8th of May. The course was led by Ekaterina Kalemeneva (HSE SPb) and Krestin Bischl (HU zu Berlin).

The seminar was devoted to political, social and cultural aspects of the history of reunification of Germany in the end of the 1980’s and the analysis of contemporary representations of the recent past. During a week, students and professors from both universities took part in the discussions focused on different dimensions of unification in both Germanies: ideological, economic, gender and race issues in pre- and post-unification Germany; controversies of explanations and representations of the GDR experience and the examination of contemporary public narratives on this period.

Along with theoretical discussions in the classrooms, students visited a number of museums and memorials, dedicated to the topic. The participants visited the GDR museum, Berlin Wall museum at Bernauer Strasse, and the memorial site of the former prison of the Ministry of State Security of the GDR (Stassi). The seminar united students of different age and with various research interests, what gave an opportunity to look at the problem from different angles. During the workshops participants emphasized various models of the perception of the GDR: as a totalitarian state or as a romanticized land of humanism and good neighborhood. Furthermore, the FRG political case was also discussed.

An important characteristic of this seminar was the discussions’ format – every member could formulate and outline the main thesis of the texts or express criticism towards controversial points either in the texts or in the museum exhibitions. Almost informal discussions between Russian and German students encouraged cultural exchanges among all the participants.

In the beginning of June, a group of German students from Humboldt University will come to HSE in St. Petersburg for participation in the second part of the seminar, which would be devoted to the history of Perestroika and controversial development of Russian Federation in the 1990s.