Zug um Zug Demokratie festival
creating a space where participants can talk about sensitive topics, share their opinions and discuss each other's positions,
even if they are fundamentally different.
Examples of topics discussed during the festival
  • How did the war affect my identity?
  • My experience in Germany as a Russian-speaking person
  • How do I talk to my loved ones about sensitive, controversial issues?
  • What topics do you find interesting?
Art in resistance to black and white thinking
Science in resistance to black and white thinking
Project events
Trip to Leipzig 2024
Travel with networking, barcamp tours and other activities that help combat stereotypes and polarization in society.
8-9. April
Art&Science Weekend
Two-day event with venues around the city, united by the theme of fighting polarization in society.
20-21. April

What happened in 2023
Playback theatre performance "Miracles of the passing year"
Playback theatre is a form of improvisation, where the audience tells stories, and actors and musicians immediately play them out on stage, revealing them through movement, speech and melody. This time we invited the audience to recall some vivid event of the passing year 2023, which they can call a miracle. For example, tell about an unexpected meeting, a new inspiring hobby or a successful resolution of an unpleasant issue. The guests shared their own miracles and heard the stories of others to remind themselves once again: life can delight and surprise!
2 December
Trip to Leipzig
The final event of the project, a joint trip to Leipzig. On the train we will organise a barcamp - we will discuss the project results, listen to guest speakers, network and just have a good time. In Leipzig we will attend a tour of important historical places.
14-15 October
Improvisation workshop
Playback theatre actors and a professional improviser presented a unique mix of their techniques and performances. The workshop was conducted in English and the participants included people from different countries - India, South Africa, Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Portugal, USA, Germany. Most of the participants didn't know what improvisation and Playback Theatre were before, but everyone managed to instantly establish contact with their group partners, relax and feel the here and now.

One of the assignments was to give an association to Berlin and show it in images. It was so impressive and powerful when the team turned into a whole city with tourists, neighbourhoods, U&S-Bahn. Especially the words "freedom", "equality", "happiness", "democracy" were named.

The participants spent their last minutes in a friendly conversation, sitting in a circle on the floor. Everyone shared how Berlin had influenced them, followed by a discussion on how to get away from black and white thinking and make the world a better place. Everyone shared their impressions of the workshop and the new experiences they had learnt.
26 July
Theaterhaus Berlin Mitte
Playback theatre performance "Mum, I'm in Berlin"
Playback theatre is a form of improvisation, where the audience tells stories, and actors and musicians immediately play them out on stage, revealing them through movement, speech and melody. This is modern social theatre, where black and white thinking is erased, where dialogue and the discovery of new meanings are possible.
18 July
Workshop "How to read the news and not go insane?"
During the workshop participants shared their stories of information consumption: someone endlessly hangs out in news channels, someone is drowning in anxiety from reading even one news, someone runs away from news publishers, unfortunately not far away, but into other social media and realises that he can't stop, and someone is already aware of his problem of dum-scrolling. At the workshop everyone shared their working and proven methods of solving such situations.

The ideas and methods of the participants can be divided into two main areas:

- How to limit the incoming flow of information or how to limit oneself in absorbing negativity;
- How to learn how to "process" news that knocks us out and makes us anxious.

Here are some examples of methods that work:
  • Setting up programs to monitor and limit screen time on your smartphone;
  • study literature on how to distinguish real news from fake news,
  • limit the number of duplicate sources of information (leave no more than one news channel that reflects the most objective information in your opinion without unnecessary emotional tone);
  • limit communication with people who continuously broadcast negative news, build boundaries against the toxic environment.
  • shifting the psyche from a state of anxiety to a state of conscious fears: when the level of stress after reading the news is off the scale, take a piece of paper and a pen, write down everything that scares you after reading the news, write down options for overcoming it and what you will do if the worst happens.
  • walks in nature, where you can yell from the heart away from other people's eyes and ears, it helps not to store the unspoken in our body;
  • digital detox - this is an absolutely necessary practice for modern mankind, one way to accomplish this for yourself is to go to a place where there is guaranteed to be no signal and no internet, for example, hiking in the mountains, forests or water rafting;
  • hobbies where your brain is forced to shift from thinking about the news to other activities: chess, complex board games, rope park, learning dance elements and choreographies - anything where your brain has to be maximally occupied with controlling the here and now.
28 June.
Reforum Space Berlin
Science Slam
The event featured three scientists talking about their own research. Each had only 10 minutes to speak simply and interestingly about their work. Here are a few insights on the topics.

The presentation, "Unmanned Cars and Feminism":

  • the guidelines for how unmanned cars should take decisions about what to do in a classic carriage situation have not yet been developed;
  • studies have been conducted on how people deal with such ethical issues, but the answers differed from country to country, so we cannot take these studies as a basis for creating algorithms;
  • the research did not include different minorities, which means the system is already inherently discriminatory;
  • now the cars just stop when they don't know what to do, but that's not how a system should work.

Presentation "Children of migrants through the eyes of teachers":

  • there are different strategies for public policy on migrants: integration, assimilation, segregation;
  • states and individuals sometimes insist on assimilation, although it is not the most effective way both for migrants and for the country;
  • there is a ranking of the world's happiest migrant countries, with Finland in first place and Russia in 51st place;
  • in Russia, teachers and volunteers working with migrants aim at assimilation;
  • bilingual children develop creativity better than children who are completely forced to completely adapt to the language of a new country.

Presentation "Digital certificates and the trade of trust":

  • everyone regularly confirms the use of security certificates, for example, you are all familiar with the "lock" symbol in the title bar of a website that guarantees "secure connection";
  • these "locks", security certificates, are issued by private companies, of which there are only about 15 in the world;
  • sometimes, by confirming the use of a security protocol in an application on your phone, you give the application the ability to track all your activities;
  • everyone should think for themselves about the security of information transmission and consumption, because existing tools can provide "imaginary trust".

At the end of the meeting, according to the volume of applause from the audience, we chose the presentation that seemed to be the most interesting for the audience - "Migrant children through the eyes of teachers".
23 June
Reforum Space Berlin
Performance of playback theatre Between
The idea of the format is that the audience shares stories from their lives, and the actors try to translate them into small sketches on stage. The performances are very emotional - with laughter and tears, connecting and important for all participants. We would like to share some feedback from the event with you:

- "...heard the stories of others in a special way, without judgement, but with understanding and acceptance. This is so rare nowadays. It seems that you have to argue, that you have to prove your point of view. But it turned out to be more important to just listen to the other person."
- "...I thought that despite the abundance of information now, we still don't hear different voices, because the media presents information in a certain way, you can't talk to people on the street about difficult topics, and friends are a comfortable bubble of habitual communication, carefully selected and refined after many years. But to hear the story of a seventy year old German woman in love like this, or a young queer guy, or a woman who is building a relationship with her grandchildren... It's very far from my usual social circle, but it's out there in our world. I am absolutely sure that playback is broadening my horizon."
- "I realized that my ideas about age were changing and that all my prejudices were being scattered through the stories I heard at the performance. It was touching and it went straight to the heart. I guess I wish I could really listen to people's stories, even those with different values, maybe to understand them better. The atmosphere at the performance helped me to listen to each story and understand what it's like for a girl in a world where men break boundaries, that a woman in her 70s also falls in love all over again and lives life to the fullest, what it's like to be an immigrant and think about home all the time, hating the question "where are you from?"""
19 June
Neue Bühne Friedrichshain
Workshop "Protest Art or 'It's written on the fence'"
At the workshop participants learnt what "artivism" is - a way of expressing civic position or protest through street art. They studied examples of such art in Russia and around the world on the topics of pandemic, arrest of political prisoners and Russia's war against Ukraine.

During the workshop the participants tried to come up with their own campaign. First, they had to write all the thoughts and ideas that came to them that day on a sheet of paper. To get started, they could reread messages with friends and colleagues to recall topics of concern. Then the participants read each other's notes in groups and chose the most interesting idea. After that they tried to give it an artivist form.

We would like to share one of the ideas that was born. During the days of the meeting, the Kakhovskaya HPP was destroyed, and everyone was watching the situation with tension. One of the groups suggested making projections on key buildings in Berlin, for example, the Brandenburg Gate, showing the flood level and the change in level over time. Everyone in the group really liked this concept. We now know how artivism can emerge, and that not only artists, but any group of people with some kind of statement can be creators.
8 June
Reforum Space Berlin
Lecture "'Philosophical steamer' and 'philosophical scooter': intellectual emigration between the 1920s and 2020s"
During the lecture by science journalist Olga Orlova, participants learnt that comparing waves of intellectual emigration helps to assess their scale and causes. This is important to know because we live in a science-centered world, and if we understand where and why intellectual human capital is moving, we have a deeper understanding of how this world is changing.
5 June
Reforum Space Berlin
THE RUN refugee rave performance
The performance consisted of personal stories of the actors themselves: Russians, Ukrainians, Spaniards, passing from one to another - about their path, war, emigration, identity, acceptance. Different sketches resonated with the audience: a conversation between a mother and a girl leaving to fight for Ukraine; Russians emigrating, continuing to listen to the Russian media; the change of one king by another, which goes unnoticed.

After one of the performances, there was a Q&A session with the cast, as well as small discussions on three topics:

- what gives you strength in a difficult moment,
- your identity, its multiple facets, and its development,
- how good are you at asking questions and listening when opinions differ significantly.

It was very interesting to hear how different views on the same issue can be for people with and without immigration experience, hetero- and homosexual people, people who have been through war or other difficult life situations. Through these trusting small group conversations, it is possible to hear the attitudes and views of people with a different history and try to understand how they see the world around us.
1-2 June
Ballhaus Prinzenallee
Community meetup "I am from Russia. Should I be ashamed of it?"
The participants' opinions on the issue of identity and self-identification were divided immediately. There were those who said that "we should erase the "Russian" from ourselves, because this identity is one of the reasons why the war started. Another part of the group did not hesitate to say that they were Russians and did not agree with the principles of collective guilt and collective responsibility. The third point of view was that national identity is not as important as, for example, belonging to a professional group and one can pay less attention to what country one was born in.

It was important for us that at the end of the meeting several participants said that such meetups help to get away from black-and-white thinking, but to make it work we need to organize them more frequently and on different topics.
26 May
Reforum Space Berlin
Community meetup "Complicated conversations about complicated things with loved ones"
The main topic that Russian-speaking families are arguing about now is the war in Ukraine. Participants shared their stories: some stopped communicating with their loved ones altogether, some interrupted communication for some time, some discuss everyday life but do not mention the war in Ukraine in their discussions.

The most difficult question was what to do? Unfortunately, none of the group had a definitely working, practice-tested way of dealing with such situations. Participants shared two ideas:

- Ask as many questions as possible about the other person's position. Not to argue, not to judge, not to try to prove why it is wrong, but only to ask, in as much detail and depth as possible;
- To put the value of the relationship, love and warmth for each other above different opinions. To try to keep the relationship alive so that there is an opportunity for dialogue now and in the future.
18 May
Reforum Space Berlin