Ukrainian Russian youth symposium held in Vienna

On Saturday, 29th of March, 15 Russians and Ukrainians met up to discuss matters of identity, values and neighborhood-relations as well as talk about visions of future for their societies. In world café-style small groups debated 4 questions (see below). In a reflexion round afterwards the need for further and profound possibilities of exchange was articulated. Furthermore, it was also suggested to initiate several projects, which aim at strengthening engagement in the field of civil society and promote education. The meeting was held in German.

Discussed Questions

1.1. Matters of identity: What’s our idea of „European“, „Ukrainian“, „Russian“? What is typical? What are we proud of?
1.2. What kind of values are important to this generation? What values or system of values are necessary to maintain a society?

2.1. What kind of society to we wish to be in? Into what direction to we want to develop our society?
2.2. What steps have to be taken by us to establish a peaceful society? How can civil connections be reinforced?

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Russian participants:

One side seems to refuse this dialog. It is my side. What I saw today is that the problems we are facing in our societies are the same or very similar. Of course there are differences, but they are outnumbered by what we have in common.

I’ve noticed, the mentality of the younger generation is a different, more active one. Education is a big issue. With better education comes a better society.

I enjoyed today and gained new insights. Especially while talking to that group over there. Stability, order and freedom of choice, that’s what’s missing in Russia – most of all stability. It’s going to take a few more generations. I hope, the situation in Russia will improve.

Thanks to you all. There are a lot of differing opinions concerning “identity”. We all agree that we have to empower the modern-day civil society. We seek for freedom, sincerity and public campaigns. Education and development of one’s self need to be promoted as well. We will make sure, to motivate more Russians to participate next time.

Ukrainian participants:

The relations between Russia and Ukraine are our issue and within our responsibility. It is not really an European matter. In my opinion, we should repeat this event and initiate more projects of that kind. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. Hopefully, we realize all of this and proceed into this direction.

Today I had an interesting experience being part of a dialogue and discussions. The last 4 months have not been easy. I was afraid to even talk to my Russian friends. I started asking myself what answers they would give me, and if it might be better to not say anything at all. But today actually went well. We all need to talk. The experiences I gained today will accompany me in future. Still, we are different from each other. There is hard work ahead of us, which we need to tackle.

Today I learnt a lot, specifically I got to understand the Russian point of view. I spoke a lot about identity and values, which are global issues. In my opinion, both our societies have issue with justice. Laws work for some, the rich ones, while not for the poorer part. There is this justice in Europe, and I want to fight for it in Ukraine. We need to carry forward this initiative.

I enjoyed listening to Russians. Our views on the world don’t differ that much, but our reactions are different, as well as our implications. In future societies we need self-determination without restricting the freedom of others. Without education there is no wealth. For a prosperous society we need dialog to avoid a situation similar to South- and North Korea.

The topic of dialog was raised by almost everyone in their reflexion. How do we identify ourselves? Both, Ukrainians and Russians strive for changes and improvements. And it depends on us whether these changes will come. There are different priorities. To me, personally, orientation towards Europe, European values, human rights, human dignity, personal liberty are important. Culture affects every dialogue.

Russians emphasize the shared past during the Kievan Rus and hospitality. To us, the Ukrainians, it is necessary to look back on our past and reappraise it. We don’t mean to erase and hide it, but to face up to it.

To talk to each other is important. A conversation like this also has to work in different aspects. The issue of values and identity is just an introduction; there are more topics behind it. I would like to approach those at the next event.

What I am going to take with me is the duality of the past. Even among Ukrainians we are discordant how to construe our history. It rises up consistently and we need to clarify this situation somehow.

Society needs to control politicians, this is what we are trying to enforce in Ukraine. It is also going to concern Russia. Russians and Russia have a strong identity. Concerning the development of a national identity, Ukrainians are only beginning to develop this. The questions, to which nation we belong are yet to arise.

Understanding among nations. We need to involve more Russians, to achieve the level of nationwide understanding. We need to respect others, even if our opinions differ.

The possibility to talk without being blamed as extremist was great. After turning away from media and propaganda we come upon more things we have in common. And we have a lot of similarities. I don’t see that big differences.

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