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January 16, 2021

Dr. Evelin Hust, Director of Goethe Institute in Bucharest: Importance of Romanian-German Cultural Relations

It is pertinent to reflect on the importance of the Romanian-German Cultural relationship on the eve of the 25th anniversary of German Reunification. This date signals the start into a new era Hust1of East-West relations in Europe, which had repercussions in the whole of Europe.
In Romania the revolution took place roughly a month after the fall of the Berlin wall and ushered in changes that were equally massive, leading the country into the EU in 2007. In this respect, our two nations are closely linked by an interdependent recent history. More importantly, however, the German minority in Romania has been a cultural bridge between our two nations for more than 800 years. They have paved an understanding into German culture as well as a positive attitude towards anything German in Romania in general that is hard to find anywhere else. Very importantly, the German minority secured a presence of the German language in Romanian cultural life.
Language in general is the main key for a deeper cultural understanding, which is why the Goethe-Institutes worldwide engage in the teaching of the German language, in teachers training as well as in organising programmes for cultural exchange and offering information about Germany. In Romania, there is the unique situation that the Romanian state runs an educational infrastructure in minority languages, be it the highly reputed German Schools, the various subjects that are offered in German at the universities, or the cultural institutions like the German language theatres in Temeswar/Timisoara (DSTT) or Hermannstadt/Sibiu. On the other hand, the tremendous changes that have been ushered in 25 years ago also led to the exodus of a large part of the German minority from Romania to Germany. Hence, we can and should not rest on the laurels mainly received from the past and the implementation of a better infrastructure for the teaching of German as a foreign language has become increasingly more important. And the interest in Romania to learn German is very strong and is still growing. Yet, there is a rising lack of teachers of German or teachers instructing subjects like physics etc. in the school or the universities in German language. This is why we want to offer more projects in the field of teachers training for teaching German as a foreign language as well as teaching other subjects in German.
Apart from the issue of language there has always been a very strong cultural exchange between our nations. German intellectuals were present in the Romanian cultural life, while Romanian intellectuals like Eminescu or Caragiale left their imprint in Germany. Yet, there is quite a knowledge gap when it comes to recent aesthetic and cultural developments in both cultural scenes, which we should strive to bridge, since knowledge is an important prerequisite for understanding each other and acting sensibly and coherently in a unified Europe.
The Goethe-Institut in Bucharest opened in 1979 and its importance during the years of the Iron Curtain was tremendous. After 1989, the exchange of cultural, educational and social knowledge between our countries enhanced considerably. Furthermore, there is a lot we can learn from each other and to establish together in the social as well as cultural fields. We want to focus e.g. on urban issues in the next years, since how to make the cities more responsive to its citizens is an issue salient in Germany as well as in Romania – and we believe that art and cultural activities have a role to play. In Romania this has come to the forefront of attention partly because of the competition to become European Culture Capital in 2021. We also share the heritage of socialist urban planning, or of buildings that are tainted by their past but have acquired a new role today. Besides, cultural creations like film, dance, literature or music open up a cultural horizon that enrich and inform in a unique way about the happenings, interests and values held by another society, and can help tremendously in understanding each other.
Knowledge on Romanian culture is unfortunately very limited in Germany. We hope to contribute to a better understanding by inviting more German cultural actors for a longer period of time here, who will relay their positive experiences of the vibrancy of Romanian culture once they are back in Germany and we will try to explore in how far the ICR and Goethe-Institute could cooperate more in the future.
In this respect I am very much looking forward to be active in the fields of cultural exchange in Romania for the next five years.

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