Culture in a “Klein aber fein” Perspective

An interview with the Kulturattaché Zuzana Christofova

August 19th, 2020
20200819_Culture in a Klein aber fein Perspective.jpg

Berlin, Germany – On 19th August two team members of Berlin Global, Elena Argentesi and Valeria Fugiani, had the occasion to have a short interview with Miss Zuzana Christofova, member of the political and cultural department at the Embassy of Czech Republic. She shared her thoughts on cultural diplomacy and connections between Czech and German culture.

Could you briefly tell us about your duties and responsibilities at the Embassy?

I am a member of the political department here at the embassy. But, unlike other colleagues of the team, I focus mainly on culture and being in contact with the Czech community here in Germany. So apart for following politics here in Germany, I focused on organising events and projects that could promote Czech culture here in Berlin. Moreover, I am in charge of cooperating with different partners—eitherCzech or German—who are doing events mainly here in Berlin or in the nearby area.
I would like to introduce that the Embassy also houses a Cultural Institute: its main duty is promoting Czech contemporary arts. Hence, our roles are rather split as the Cultural Institute focuses on modern art while the cultural department focuses more on the historical/political part of which, I think, more suitable for the Embassy. Of course, we cooperate quite often.

Could you introduce us to the Czech Republic and its culture in a few words?

In German, there's this nice expression "Klein aber fein” (small but delicate/nice) which could be suitable for describing the Czech Republic. With this expression, I would like to underline that, although our country is small in comparison to Germany, it has its own history, traditions, arts, creative people and I think this is a great basis for a very delicate and nice country. Music, for example, it’s one of the strongest traditional elements of Czech culture, in addition to modern and contemporary architecture and history.

What do you personally think about cultural diplomacy? In which way do you think cultural diplomacy is important for the Czech Republic?

Above all, I personally think that cultural diplomacy is a very nice part of diplomacy in general. Specifically, I believe that it is something unavoidable because every country has something, either good or bad, that attracts other people. In my opinion, it is the will to deepen, to touch, and to experience new cultures that make cultures grow. As far as this is concerned, what we do here at the embassy is just a tip of the iceberg:  it is just the official policy and diplomacy. However, I think the strongest diplomacy is the one without us supervising it. There are so many events going on without us being involved in and I am really happy about that.

Could you introduce us to some events of the embassy that promote cultural exchange between Czech Republic and Germany?

As previously mentioned, looking at the cooperation between the Czech Republic and Germany, the Czech Centre focuses most on historical and political events. In fact, Czech and Germany share the common history, which makes it easier to arrange these events. For example, we do a lot of public readings of new books, memoirs or testimonials from Czech emigrants to Germany. Furthermore, we also support theatre exchanges and cooperate with different partners by bringing Czech actors to Berlin for a couple of weeks and vice-versa. With that exchange, we would like to help the logistics with the promotion of these events and festivals. 

What are the similarities and differences between Czech and German culture?

I would say that there are not so many differences between these two cultures but more similarities, especially with the east part of Germany, we share lots of resemblance such as music, cuisine, etc. As there are not so many differences, it makes it easier to establish a connection between the two countries. Furthermore, I would point out that Berlin is a great city for improving cultural relations because of its proximity, which enables cultural exchanges over its borders.

What have been the major challenges in promoting Czech culture in Germany? How did you deal with them?

I am still on the positive note that there are not so many challenges as the two cultures are similar. This is also due to the great role of the so-called "Czech- German future fond" that was established by the government of both the Czech Republic and Germany to improve cultural relations. The fond started around 1997-98 and it promotes projects that include both Czech and German elements.
There are various projects and interests that this fond can support. Personally, I think this is overall a good project so I would not say there are many challenges for now.

Under current COVID-19 pandemic, many cultural events were cancelled. How did you adapt to the situation and, if any, what are some other ways to promote culture?

Of course, the pandemic has had a strong impact on the Embassy and the events taking place at it. As an embassy, we first have to make sure that our political and counsellor sections function and were not in danger by the COVID so we had to put off some cultural events. We had to cancel a couple of events. Now we have planned some activities for the rest of the year but we have to follow the immediate evolution of the situation and react based on the current condition. We always try our best  to sustain culture, but now we first have to look into the health and security of the other people. In addition, there is great cooperation between the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the network of our cultural institute—they developed an online project where they broadcast online events, concerts. The information could be found on the website of the Embassy. We tried to be available at least online, but we hope to be able to host physical events in the near future.

News from Berlin