German Berlin-Karlshorst Museum allows Moscow representatives to dictate its activities and promote Russian propaganda

The Berlin-Karlshorst Museum, (previously German-Russian Museum) itself is a truly unique place and is well-known because it’s where Wilhelm Keitel, the leader of the Wehrmacht, signed the German Instrument of Surrender on May 8, 1945.

In the article for the German outlet FAZ news, historian Hubertus Knabe highlights the situation around the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum, before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine formerly known as the German-Russian Museum, where the members of the association responsible for making decisions about the museum’s activities still remain Russian ministries.

“In 1967 the Red Army created a propaganda exhibition at this location for its soldiers stationed in the GDR, which was later made available to East Germans. When Germany reunified, an agreement was made with Russia to renovate the museum and continue its operations. The “Museum Berlin-Karlshorst” association was established as a collaborative effort in 1994.” — according to Knabe.

This association is financed exclusively from the German budget. At the same time, the board of this association includes 17 institutional members, including the Russian ministries of defense, culture, and foreign affairs. There are also representatives of Ukraine and Belarus. In particular, on the Ukrainian side, the Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War.

The Ukrainian media “Week” contacted with Ukrainian Museum to clarify whether the representatives of the institution drew attention to the fact that they are equal members of association with the ministries of the hostile country. The acting director of the museum, Lyudmila Rybchenko, said that since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression that has been going on for 9 years, the Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II has not participated in the work of the Scientific Council of the Museum “Berlin-Karlshorst” because of the presence of Russian and Belarusian representatives in it. With the starting of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the cooperation between the two institutions has been suspended.”

Despite the fact that the financing comes from the German budget, the procedure for making all necessary decisions is taken with the participation of all members of the association, and therefore also the Russian ministries. In particular, the members have the authority to vote on for economic plan, choose the director, and determine the focus of the work. According to Hubertus Knabe’s article, the German museum sent draft resolutions to its members to seek their input and approval in order to continue its operations. Knabe explains that one of the resolutions was related to the economic plan for the year 2023.

The list of members of the museum association includes the ministries of culture and defense of the Russian Federation.

List of members of the museum association, including the ministries of culture and defense of the Russian Federation

The fact that Russian ministries participate in the decision-making process regarding the German museum, despite the war against Ukraine, contradicts Germany’s policy of terminating cooperation with Russia,” Knabe notes. Back in April 2022, the spokesman for the Minister of Culture Claudia Roth emphasized the “position of the federal government and the museum to no longer maintain direct contacts with state representatives of the Russian Federation and Belarus.”  However, when asked about specific decisions made by the members or how often they communicated with Russia, Claudia Roth’s press secretary did not provide any answer. According to the spokesperson, the members of the association decide on the economic plan once a year as per their rules, and the Board of Directors has not changed. The Council includes two members, one of whom is from Russia – Vladimir Lukin, who used to manage the museum during the GDR and is now the deputy director of the Moscow Armed Forces Museum.

“The re-election of Lukin to the Board of Directors is a sensitive issue, as he is a declared supporter of the President of Russia. While giving Putin a tour of his museum in June 2020, he lavished praise on him for an essay that suggested Poland was complicit in World War II and that the Baltic States had voluntarily joined the Soviet Union. What’s worse, Lukin’s museum cynically promotes Russia’s war against Ukraine,” Knabe writes. Every regular visitor to the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum can make sure of this by simply clicking on the link of the Russian Armed Forces Museum in the description of the composition of the Board of Directors on the website. The website offers to familiarize yourself with the exhibition, which glorifies the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The description contains the usual “lyrics”: “the Kyiv regime”, “education of Russophobic attitudes” and “the uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (almost NATO)”. The exhibition runs until May in Moscow. And all this can be done by a visitor of the Berlin-Karlshorst museum website with one click.

The Board of Directors consists of the German Historical Museum and the Museum of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. His representative is Vladimir Lukin.

The Board of Directors of the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum consists of the German Historical Museum and the Museum of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. His representative is Vladimir Lukin

“Against this background, the involvement of Lukin and Russian ministries in the management of the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum looks unacceptable,” – Knabe emphasized. He also notes that a spokesman for the German Ministry of Culture recently announced that the structure of the association “no longer looks viable in light of the current political situation” and “immediately needs changes.” The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs also agreed with this opinion. But no one says how the situation can change. Knabe stresses that, given the structure of the association, the break with Russia and Belarus does not seem so simple. “Although Germany bears the entire cost of the museum’s expenses — this year’s institutional funding is 1.55 million euros — the Kremlin, along with Belarus, has veto power in the association.

According to the charter, the general meeting, which must decide all important issues, is valid if at least two-thirds of the members are present. Therefore, Germany cannot make any decision on its own. A three-quarters majority is required to dissolve the association,” says the article by the German historian. The situation with the dissolution or change of members of the association is further complicated by other documents with which the Federal Republic of Germany tied its hands in relations with the Russian Federation. However, the worst thing is that during the year of the war, it was not used to develop the decisions regarding the participation of structures from Russia and Belarus as part of the museum.

However, it is worth mentioning that the team of the Museum Berlin-Karlshorst released the statement on February 21, 2023, dedicated to the anniversary of the Russian full-scale war against Ukraine, in which they condemn this war in the “strongest possible terms”.

“The Museum Berlin-Karlshorst strongly condemns Russia’s war against Ukraine and stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The museum is providing support to those affected by the war and is working to protect Ukrainian cultural assets. The museum refuses to engage in dialogue with Russian state institutions due to their misuse of history as propaganda for the war. The museum demands that the Russian government return to principles of international law and immediately end the war against Ukraine.” – said in the release.

Also, the museum decided to help with scholarships to those who are affected by the war, and among them not only Ukrainians but also representatives of the country who attacked. And of course, they do not necessarily condemn Putin’s regime, and possibly just secure themselves to continue to live in their comfort zone and wait for better times.

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