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Illustration: Hannah Göppel

POSTWEST \\ guess where
Transcultural festival

> POSTWEST \\ guess where website

Originally planned for May 2020, the transcultural theater festival POSTWEST sought to bring together artists from ten countries who had developed twelve new plays especially for the festival. With its dramatic history between East and West, the Volksbühne is the perfect venue for this gathering of invited theater makers from Eastern Europe. Now all our partner theaters find themselves in a new reality. For us, as artistic teams, not only did the COVID-19 pandemic mean the cancellation of the festival week in May, but also the abrupt end of the preparation phase: rehearsals for our productions were just about to begin, the shared set for the stage in the Großes Haus had already been created in the Volksbühne workshops, and the schedule for each day of the festival had been finalized.

How, after a year of preparation, could this transcultural theater festival take place at such short notice without any completed productions or a real stage? By returning to the basic concept of the festival, collective artistic exchange. Over the last few weeks, we have intensified this collaboration that has brought our partner theaters to Berlin for three workshops since June 2019. Instead of the Volksbühne, we are using the digital realm to share ideas across borders—and thus also as a venue for the virtual edition of POSTWEST.

The twelve planned productions will now be replaced by digital contributions reflecting the nature of our international network, which will be made accessible to a global audience for the first time over a period of three days: online live performances, videos on demand, audio tracks, and discussions with the theater makers about their experiences with POSTWEST. This will be complemented by additional formats in our supporting program, which began a thematic countdown to the festival back in November 2019, including discursive events such as the series Plattform East, meetings with the artists, and DJ sets—all digital, of course.

POSTWEST has thus outgrown its original iteration as a stage event and is responding to this new reality. The Coronavirus crisis has allowed us to observe how many countries are turning in on themselves once more, and information about the situation in other countries seems like mere statistics. Against this background, reflecting on historical categories and the possibilities of their dissolution becomes more important than ever. East or West? Post-West, post-East, post-EastWest? Does a shared cultural heritage lead to a similar historical awareness? With such a wide variety of countries and identities, is it even possible to think about and shape the future together? What do a strong civil society, solidarity, values relevant to the future, and democratic systems look like to us? How can we, as theater makers—even during a global lockdown and without any public gatherings—continue to establish networks and long-term transcultural initiatives in order to respond artistically to these current social debates?

While the virtual edition of the festival addresses these questions, it also forms the foundation of an international network. The planned productions will premiere at our partner theaters once they have reopened and will be integrated into their repertoires. In this way, and through future collaborations, POSTWEST lives on as a space where artistic disciplines are not only considered from an individual or national perspective, but also create a transcultural context.

Center of Contemporary Art DAKH
Kiew, Ukraine
> ZoomTime [SMUTA]

Gertrudes ielas teatris
Riga, Lettland
> Tanya's Birthday. Berlin

Jaunimo teatras
Vilnius, Litauen
> Man from Fish: Voices

Riga, Lettland
> Cannon Fodder

New Theatre Institute of Latvia
Riga, Lettland
> Looks Like You're Going To Die

Prague City Theatres
Prag, Tschechien
> We are here for you
Discussion on 'The Heroes of Capitalist Labor' by Saša Uhlová

Qendra Multimedia & National Theatre of Kosovo
Pristina, Kosovo
> The Return of Karl May
(Entertaining play for the German people)

Budapest, Ungarn
> Date an Eastern European

Teatrul Tineretului
Piatra Neamț, Rumänien
> POSTWEST - something digital

TR Warszawa
Warschau, Polen
> Maria Klassenberg. Home choreographies.
> "Your Internet Connection is Unstable“

Vaba Lava
Tallinn, Estland
> A different kind of white

Berlin, Deutschland
> Hammer&Spiegel(Mirror)
Aus dem Theater ein Film.

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Curator: Alina Aleshchenko
Associate curator: Wiebke Jahns
Dramaturgy: Degna Martens
Festival team: Lucia Bihler, Michael Ladner, Hannah Schünemann, Elif Sözer, Karina Zotz

Past Activities

Platform East: An Unholy Alliance? “Christian Values” and Anti-Gender Politics in Central and Eastern Europe

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

With: Regina Elsner (ZOiS, Berlin), Radoslav Stoyanov (Bulgarian Helsinki Commitee, Sofia)
Moderation: Patricia Hecht (taz, Berlin)
Input: Elżbieta Korolczuk (Södertörn University, Stockholm), Kristina Stöckl (University of Innsbruck)

Today, right-wing populist movements and authoritarian governments worldwide use “Christian values” to promote conservative social policies. They proclaim to represent what is supposedly “real" civil society, as opposed to the elites. In countries such as Russia, Poland or Bulgaria in particular, the anti-gender and pro-family agenda of right-wing parties strengthens those who are nationalist and critical of Europe. However, these movements are also part of international ultraconservative Christian alliances that view Eastern Europe as a new bastion for the defense of their values. For instance, these links are clearly evident at the World Congress of Families (WCF), where ultraconservative Christian groups and individuals gather to defend a traditionalist understanding of the family.

What are the driving factors behind this “unholy alliance” of religion and politics, in which gender is equated with demoralization? What role do the Catholic and Orthodox Churches play in this process? How do the different denominations of the Christian church position themselves and engage in this conflict of values?

Regina Elsner is a theologian and a researcher at ZOiS. Through the project Morality instead of peace, Regina Elsner is investigating the dynamics of Russian Orthodox social ethics since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Elżbieta Korolczuk is a sociologist, commentator and women’s and human rights activist. She works at Södertörn University in Stockholm and teaches at the American Studies Center at Warsaw University. Her research interests involve: gender, social movements and civil society. She published numerous texts, e.g. on the women’s movement and its relation with neoliberalism, on new forms of citizenship, politicization of reproduction and anti-gender mobilization in Poland and abroad.

Radoslav Stoyanov is a Bulgarian human rights activist with a focus on LGBTI issues. As a gay activist, he litigated many cases before the national equality body regarding public hate speech against sexual minorities. He is acting as a watchdog for right-wing conservative activities in Bulgaria. He is currently working as an expert in the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and is pursuing a master’s degree in law.

Patricia Hecht worked for radio and print in Germany, Mexico and Colombia, before she joined taz in 2012. She was editor on the Berlin desk and for the front page and is now gender editor on the politics desk, working for example on reproductive rights and antifeminism. She was part of the international research team Europe's Far Right, reporting on strategies and networks of European far right politics.

In cooperation with

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Der Weg aus der Nische? Belarussische Literatur und ihre Zukunft

Russian with translation into German

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

A way out of the niche? Belarusian literature and its future

With: Julia Cimafiejeva (poet and translator), Andrej Januškevič (historian and publisher)
Moderation: Alexander Chertenko

Since the 1990s, Belarusian writers who do not belong to the official, pro-government writers' union and write in Belarusian have found themselves in a precarious position: due to a lack of support and systematic marginalization in public discourse, they are destined to a niche existence, both culturally and linguistically. Belarusian is regarded as secondary to Russian by the state, which is the main reason why language is regarded by many Belarusian authors as a medium of resistance—even including those who write in Russian themselves, such as Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. Publishers dedicated to Belarusian-language literature are also faced with a double challenge: they must hold their ground against the dominance of Russian-language publications, most of which come from Russia. In addition to this their work is also shaped by cultural, political, and administrative restrictions.

Set against this difficult situation, a lively literary scene has developed in Belarus over the last two decades, with its own publishing houses, journals, literary critics, and prizes, and it is even gaining recognition beyond national borders. What conditions are the independent authors and publishers working under there? Who are their readers and how do they market their publications in a (linguistically) Russian-dominated book market? If language is a political issue, what does it mean to write and read in Belarusian? And what ultimately needs to happen in order to liberate their literature from its niche?

Julia Cimafiejeva is a Belarusian poet and translator. She has published two volumes of poetry so far: Kniha pamylak (The Book of Errors, 2014) and Cyrk (Circus, 2016; German translation, 2019) . Cimafiejeva is the co-founder of the online literary magazine PrajdziSvet (discontinued in 2018). In 2017 she curated the Znak rounasci (Equal Sign) literature festival. She also presented the television programme Remarka (Commentary).

Andrej Januškevič is a historian and proprietor of the independent publishing house in Minsk of the same name. He is also the founder of, a literature distributor that disseminates and promotes contemporary Belarusian literature.

Alexander Chertenko is a German-Ukrainian literary and cultural scholar, Slavist, and comparatist, and is currently working at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. In 2019 he was a visiting scholar at ZOiS (Center for East European and International Studies).

In cooperation with

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Upcoming Activities:
Platform East: An Unholy Alliance? “Christian Values” and Anti-Gender Politics in Central and Eastern Europe, 26.02.
Platform East: Fragmente meiner Heimaten. Russischsprachige Migration in Deutschland, 18.03.
Dead-end Jobs: Precarious Work in Central and Eastern Europe and Beyond, 31.03.

Platform East: Urban Activism in Eastern Europe

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

With Alexander Formosov (Dekabristen e.V., Berlin), Zuzanna Hertzberg (artist and activist, Warsaw), Sasha Kurmaz (artist, Kyiv), Lela Rekviashvili (Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, Leipzig)
Moderation: Tsypylma Darieva (ZOiS, Berlin)

One often hears people speaking of weak civil societies in the Eastern European context. The image of citizens intimidated into political passivity still persists all too stubbornly. Yet anyone taking a closer look is bound to notice that resistance to neoliberal and authoritarian structures has been stirring up in many Eastern European cities. This resistance is expressed in creative forms of protest, artistic interventions, and the (re)appropriation of urban space. Using photos and video material, activists, artists, and social scientists will show how diverse and dynamic contemporary urban activism in Eastern Europe is: from grassroots actions in Russian Murmansk and the mobilisation of street protests against construction projects in Tbilisi, through to artistic interventions in Ukrainian and Polish cities. They will discuss the various forms and effects of urban activism in Eastern Europe, while also assessing their regional specificities and global connections.

Alexander Formozov studied History, European Ethnology and Political Science in Moscow and Berlin. Alexander's main focus is on transdisciplinary projects and international exchange in the areas of urbanism, culture, non-formal education and civil society in Eastern Europe. He is currently working at the Dekabristen e.V. as a project coordinator of the educational project ACT|UP.

Tsypylma Darieva is a social anthropologist and a senior researcher at ZOiS, Berlin. Together with Carola Neugebauer she edited the forthcoming volume Urban Activism in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Practices and Strategies, DOM Publishers.

Zuzanna Hertzberg is a painter, author of installations, performative actions and artivist. She deals with subjects of memory and body, as well as issues related to a broad sense of identity and geopolitics. Zuzanna earned her PhD degree at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts (2018) and participated in a number of exhibitions in Poland and abroad. She is member of Antifascist Coalition as well as co-founder of Jewish Antifascist Block.

Sasha Kurmaz is a post-conceptual multi-disciplinary artist with a graffiti background. In his artistic practice, he uses photography, urban intervention, and performative situations through which he analyzes the social and political interrelationships that address themes both poetic and political. His work is at once direct and open to interpretation.

Lela Rekhviashvili is a post-doctoral researcher at Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig. She is interested in political economy of post-socialist transformation(s), urban informality and mobility, and social movements. Her publications theorise intersection of marketization, social embeddedness and informality. Her upcoming research project will look into counter-hegemonic thought and practice of civil societies in former Soviet peripheries.


Which forms of civic engagement exist in Eastern Europe? Which agents are participating in the restructuring of public space? How has collective memory changed in the post-Soviet era? The new series Platform East will raise these questions and many others as part of the transcultural festival POSTWEST. Academics, artists, and activists from Central and Eastern Europe as well as various experts on Eastern Europe will address the socially relevant issues that affect their everyday lives: the freedom of art and media, the politics of memory and the construction of identities, generational relationships and conflicts as well as protest against political systems. Bringing together these different professions will produce mental collages that expand epistemic horizons and serve as the starting point for diverse future scenarios and a collective utopia of POSTWEST.

The series Platform East is a collaboration between the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) and the Volksbühne Berlin. Through panel discussions, films, lecture performances, and other formats, the series will function as a platform in the truest sense: at the intersection of art and science, it moves past the existing homogenous images of Eastern Europe and offers space for political, societal, and cultural diversity.

In cooperation with

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation


An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

As a prelude to POSTWEST Festival in May 2020, the ensemble will thoroughly yet sensitively explore the world of POSTWEST and present artistic contributions on (un)familiar subjects and figures, their own ideas and approaches to the festival’s theme. Get to know our ensemble in a completely different way, and let this snapshot for your mind and senses guide you around the evening performance and to POSTWEST Festival.

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Platform East: (De)constructing Stereotypes. Media Images in the European Press

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

With: Alice Bota (ZEIT), Dóra Diseri (n-ost), Tamina Kutscher (dekoder), Dariya Orlova (Mohyla School of Journalism)
Moderation: Gesine Dornblüth

The media shapes our perception of political events, people, public debates, countries – and the stereotypes associated with them – within society. When we think about Eastern Europe our judgments are also inevitably influenced by imagery constructed by the media through pictures and texts. But how accurate are these images and between what tensions are they created?

This event focuses on the representation of Eastern Europe in Western European media outlets and vice versa: What ideas does Germany have about Eastern Europe and how do they view “us” there? To what extent do reports in the media influence our perception of East and West and the construction of the stereotypes associated with them? What role do political and economic factors play? What level of responsibility do foreign correspondents have with regard to the dissemination and maintenance of stereotypes and what new challenges are they facing?

In this discussion, journalists and media experts use these questions to approach the status quo of the media landscape in Europe. Against the background of a perceived East-West divide, they identify influential factors and talk about possible future scenarios and the conditions they would require: What would media coverage that's free of the continuous construction and reproduction of stereotypes look like?

Dóra Diseri is a Berlin-based Hungarian journalist and project lead of the European cross-border grant program “Reporters in the Field” at n-ost (Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe). Until October 2018, she was the Berlin correspondent of the Hungarian news channel HírTV. She studied journalism, cultural and Eastern-European studies in Budapest, Leipzig and Berlin. Before moving to Berlin in 2012, she worked as a multimedia journalist and reporter in the news department of the Hungarian Public Television (MTVA) in Budapest.

Gesine Dornblüth is a journalist and was the Moscow correspondent for Deutschlandradio from 2012 to 2017. With her doctorate in Slavic Studies, Dornblüth has reported primarily for radio reports and features from Russia and other former Soviet countries since the 90s.

Tamina Kutscher is a trained journalist, historian and Slavonic studies scholar. In 2016, she became dekoder’s editor-in-chief. dekoder is an online platform that connects the public spheres in Russia and Germany: It publishes translations of articles and reports in the other country’s language and also provides context and expertise from universities. For this combination of journalism and scholarship, dekoder was honoured with the 2016 Grimme Online Award.

Dariya Orlova is a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director for Research at the Mohyla School of Journalism (National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine). She holds a PhD degree in Mass Communications from Autonomous University of Barcelona. Her major academic interests include: media transformations in transition countries, political communication, journalism culture, media and national identity. She has also served as an independent media expert and researcher with NGOs and international development agencies and worked as a journalist prior to her academic career.

In cooperation with

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Ivan Krastev: The Light That Failed – A Reckoning

Book premiere
English with consecutive translation into German by Johannes Hampel

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

Susan Neiman (director of the Einstein Forum, Potsdam) talks with author Ivan Kastev about sources for the current global crises, on the occasion of the German-language release of his book The Light that Failed - A Reckoning.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the model of liberal democracy was supposed to be the only alternative. Today the liberal world is breaking apart before our very eyes. Populism, nationalism and a departure from liberal democratic values are accompanying its downfall. The West won the Cold War, and yet it has lost its political relevance. How could it come to this?

In the political analysis presented in The Light that Failed, Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes argue that the supposed “end of history” turned out to be the beginning of an “Age of Imitation”. For almost three decades the imperative for the East was: “Imitate the West”! Through this imperative, the life of the imitators was increasingly dominated by feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, dependence, and the loss of identity.

Ivan Krastev, born 1965 in Bulgaria, is a political scientist. He is the chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and permanent fellow at the The Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, where he is head of the Democracy in Questionprogramme. Krastev writes for the international edition of The New York Times. His essay After Europewas published in 2017.

“Ivan Krastev is one of the great European minds of today.” Timothy Snyder

“Reading Krastev is a pleasure, because a love of literature, political realism and the beauty of thought all flow together in the art of his style.” Elisabeth von Thadden, DIE ZEIT

“Ivan Krastev is one of Europe's leading intellectuals.” Madeleine Albright

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

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