Ukraine: crisis or rebirth for Europe // Vladimir Sorokin’s Norma

19:00 Uhr
TheaterForum Kreuzberg Kreuzberg Eisenbahnstr. 21, 10997 Berlin

Satellite Event of the international Battle of Ideas Festival. Panel Discussion "Ukraine: crisis or rebirth for Europe?" and theatre performance "Vladimir Sorokin’s Norma."

Panel Debate: Ukraine: crisis or rebirth for Europe?

One impact of recent events is to expose how important foreign-policy decisions can be for our everyday lives – for example, the decision to rely on Russian gas. The very real possibility of further longstanding military conflicts in Europe reminds us that foreign affairs is not simply for experts who meet at international summits, but something we should all take an interest in and try to understand.
But what lessons should be drawn from the war? It has become increasingly clear that Germany, as one of the biggest countries in Western Europe, will not be spared hard decisions, and may need to take sides in future conflicts. The idea that tensions can be settled through trade or money has proven to be an illusion of the post-Cold War era. Has Germany’s reaction to the war been morally adequate?
Could, and should, it have done more to support a country fighting for its freedom and sovereignty?
More broadly, the Ukraine war is reigniting the question of securing national interests. It has reminded us that national sovereignty and national borders are issues for which people – even in Europe – seem willing to fight for and risk their lives. Is this the return of History? Is there anything we can learn from our past, in our quest to deal with the foreign-political challenges today? Are there any goals or values, which we might need to re-establish, as the war and its effect are felt all over Europe? And what issues are at stake for us?


  • Volodymyr Ishchenko
    research associate at the Institute of East European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Jakub Majmurek
    film and art critic; columnist, Krytyka Polityczna, Poland
  • Jacob Reynolds
    partnerships manager, Academy of Ideas, London
  • Sascha Tamm
    head of North America/Latin America Unit, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom; columnist and podcast host, eigentümlich frei

Performance: from Vladimir Sorokin’s Norma

Norma, written in the early 1980s by Vladimir Sorokin but only published in 1994, is the most radical fictional product of Sots-Art, the Russian version of Pop Art. Its style recreates the banal cheerfulness, faux-naturalism and hard-boiled tone of official Soviet writing before utterly blowing it up. A remarkable work of anti-totalitarian fiction, it has never been translated into English.
The story begins with writer Boris Gusev being arrested while going out to get his newspaper. He refuses to answer the KGB’s questions as they search his apartment. But they find the manuscript of a novel called Norma (‘The Norm’). They immediately send the manuscript to headquarters, at Lyubyanka, where a 13-year-old boy is given the task of reading it.

  • Grigory Kofman will perform an extract from the novel, ‘The chief prosecutor’s speech’, taken from chapter seven of the novel.
  • Vladimir Sorokin, born in 1955, is regarded as one of the most influential figures in postmodern Russian literature. He is known particularly for his vivid experimental, and often controversial, works that parody the Socialist Realism of the Soviet Union.

Entrance to this event is €5 to be paid at the venue, entrance is free to students.