Sergey Medvedev is the managing director of Dekabristen e.V., a German-Russian NGO that aims to build exchange programs for young professionals and social innovators from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and regions in the South Caucasus. While interviewing Sergey we learned much about his journey from Russia to Germany, why he loves working for the Dekabristen e.V. as well as why drinking Samogon and singing Russian Perestroika rock songs at the bonfire back in Russia form some of his fondest memories.
Where are you from?
I come from Voronezh, a town on the Voronezh river south-western Russia.
What is the strongest memory you have of your hometown?
Honestly, the city of Voronezh is quite boring. So, I was happy to leave my hometown one summer to go camping and to work as a volunteer on archaeological expeditions. It was incredibly fun to spend three weeks in deep forest and steppe away from civilization, electricity and supermarkets. We would cook for 50 people on open fire. The food was quite often awful, but only a few people cared and complained. After eight hours of hard work, swimming in the river and playing beach volleyball you had an appetite to eat literally anything. In the evening, the whole camp gathered around a big fire, whilst also providing food for the mosquitoes, played a guitar, drank Samogon and sang Russian Perestroika rock songs and rom the rock new wave of the 90s. Samogon is a sort of craft vodka with a bad smell. It was very popular towards the end of 80s during the prohibition time when vodka suddenly vanished from the shop shelves. Samogon was traditionally made by grandmothers in the countryside and it was actually illegal. Enough reasons to try it as a teenager, isn’t it? But the coolest and perhaps the one sweetest temptation was Sgushyonka – a brand of Russian sweetened condensed milk. So we ate Sgushyonka with much appetite while the mosquitoes ate us alive.
What did you do in your hometown?
I studied international relations and began a PhD before I moving to Berlin.
When, where and with whom did you first move to Germany?
I got to know Berlin in 2006 and 2007 through several short-term stays as a PhD student as a part of a joint program between the Voronezh and Humboldt universities. At the end of 2008, I finally made the move to “Charlottengrad”, the nickname of the west Berlin district Charlottenburg that is home to an established Russian community.
What is your profession?
Before graduating with a master’s degree in politics from the Free University Berlin, I worked for a few of years as an assistant for a research project focused on the Russian political elite and state controlled media at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik). In 2016, I worked as a project manager at the German liberal Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Moscow. Since 2017, I’ve been working as a managing director of small German-Russian NGO, Dekabristen e.V. and been holding a number of workshops on social entrepreneurship in Germany and Eastern Europe.
What does Dekabristen e.V. do?
Our task is ensuring capacity building and exchange programs for young professionals and social innovators from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus und regions in the South Caucasus. I love my job because it corresponds with my values and desire to support community initiatives, social entrepreneurs from ex-Soviet republics and independent journalism.
What do you love – or hate – about Berlin?
I love diversity of cultures, food and various community drives of Berlin districts. I believe Berlin is a city where everyone can find their own networks, comfortable environment and harmony.
What’s your contribution to make Berlin a little bit more beautiful?
Our latest project is the Red Square Festival. Not only will it be a spectacular cultural event with Russian accent but also the Red Square is a festival that works on an interdisciplinary level with artists, innovators and community activists from Germany and (Eastern) Europe.
What is your favorite place in Berlin?
I like banks of the Spree river, canals and cafes with Biergarten along the water fronts of the city. Really I love Berlin at whole as it is. Even the GDR blocks in Linienstrasse in the center or in Lichtenberg has its own fascinating identity that contributes to the unique image of the city. I think these cultural contributions are underestimated at the moment; currently they are often demolished in an attempt to rid the German capital of horrible nightmare still in people’s minds 1950/60s – those which anyone living there at the time is willing to forget forever. I like Berlin, because it’s a social and inspirational city. Even after 10 years living here one can still discover beautiful streets or events away from the tourist trails. There are still, nice neighborhoods, hidden parks or small shops with niche goods. And am always left wondering how these places have managed to survive in the Facebook-Amazon-era?
To find out more about Sergey and his work go to the Dekabristen e.V. Facebook page.
Red Square Festival is organized by Dekabristen e.V. will be held on May 12, 2018 at Kulturfabrik Moabit. The festival aims to bring together music, art and civic initiatives into one multidisciplinary celebration. To find out more about the Red Square Festival visit their Facebook page, attend their Facebook event and/or read more about Red Square festival on Berlinograd.com.