Kyiv Perennial: What remains of the ‘friendship between peoples’?

A symposium of the Prater Gallery, curated and organized by Lena Prents and Antonina Stebur

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, many media outlets in Germany have alluded to the past image of friendship between the two nations in contrast to today’s enmity. Hardly a private conversation takes place between those who grew up under socialism – and with the ideology of friendship between nations – without reflecting on the former solidarity between the ‘peoples of the Soviet Union.’ Friendship is an important term with a complex history of relations. But what does it mean when applied to entire nations? What characterized these kinds of friendships, which involved emancipatory and conciliatory aspects on the one hand, but also hierarchical and even colonial gestures on the other?

After the Second World War, ‘friendship between peoples’ became a central propaganda tool in socialist countries beyond the Soviet Union. As ideological and dishonest as the term may be, it was also lived out to some extent. Under the slogan of ‘friendship between peoples’ or ‘friendship and brotherhood’, real encounters and friendships were fostered, not between peoples, but people. Cultural exchanges took place that were beneficial for both parties. However, this does not appear to have produced a stable friendship between peoples. When the era of socialism came to an end, a seemingly endless series of ethnic and national wars began, which continue today.

What remains of the ‘friendship between peoples?’ is a symposium that focuses on the idea of friendship and brotherhood in (post-) socialist contexts. It focuses on the term itself and its real-life expression, seen from a historical, decolonial and art-historical perspective. It offers the chance to reflect on how artistic political imaginations, including feminist and queer visions, have expanded the idea of friendship to form new ties and communities, such as notions of sisterhood, communities of care or chosen families.

Speakers: Felix Ackermann, Zhenia Belorusets, Vika Biran, Olena Oleksandra Chervonik, Taras Gembik, Tereza Hendl, Beáta Hock, Iva Kovač, Kata Krasznahorkai and Bojana Pejić