15.01.2019

Russian-Western Blind Spots: From Dialogue on Contested Narratives to Improved Understanding

The competing, radically divergent Russian and Western mainstream historical narratives on the evolution of European security since 1989 are a crucial impediment to a way out of the common confrontation and the return to diplomacy, dialogue and cooperative security.

In cooperation with the Institute for Law and Public Policy, ILPP (Moscow), inmedio implemented a German-Russian dialogue project in 2018. Using a mediative dialogue approach, some 20 experts from academia, thinks tanks and NGOs as well as journalists and cultural exchange/dialogue practitioners met near Moscow in September and in Berlin in November 2018 to analyse and reflect on the Russian and Western narratives on what went wrong since the end of the Cold War regarding the deterioration of Russian-Western relations. The project was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office under the ‘Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia’ Programme.

Reconstructing the core threats of the Russian and Western mainstream narratives from a meta-perspective, a number of collective ‘blind spots’ that figured prominently in the narrative of one side but were overlooked or neglected in the narrative of the other side, could be identified. They can serve as ‘bridges of understanding’, by focussing on aspects of a conflict narrative, where a shift of perspective – stepping into the other side’s shoes and relating to the emotional meaning – seems to be comparably easy and possible without compromising on one’s own core values.

If we do not want to let go of the vision of a positive turn, at some point the future we will need to arrive at a situation in which we are able to refer to the time period from 1989 until today without attaching blame to one side only. That does not mean negating the differences but finding a way of describing and interpreting them from meta-perspective. It is worthwhile preparing for this moment by starting already now to reflect on and analyse the competing narratives.

The dialogue group drafted a joint report which is available for download here (a Russian version will be uploaded, soon). The report was presented at the foreign office on January 16th, 2019 and will be presented in Moscow as well.

For 2019 we are planning to continue working on the narratives in a trilateral Russian-Ukrainian-German dialogue format.

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Russian-Western Blind Spots: From Dialogue on Contested Narratives to Improved Understanding