Sowing the seeds for a future peaceful coexistence in Europe

by Eva-Maria Föllmer-Müller

On 11 September 2022, in Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, this year's Göttingen Peace Award was presented to the German-Russian youth exchange project "Music for Peace – Музыка ради Mира". The young participants are from Müllheim (southern Germany) and Tver (central Russia). The award ceremony took place during a concert "Young civil society joins hands" with the German and Russian young people. Andrey Korjakov – director of the “Teatr Premier” from Tver and Ulrike and Thomas Vogt for the “Ensemble MIR” were recognized on behalf of the ensembles.
  The award ceremony was first postponed due to political tensions, then cancelled and finally took place with Russian participation.
  Thomas Vogt, a music teacher from southern Germany, was asked in a conversation with the culture portal Russia what he thought of the “demand in the German public” to “boycott Russian culture”.
  His answer was: “I think it is terrible to defame Russian artists and Russian culture in this way. It is dangerous to burn all bridges now because culture has always been and still is available to societies as a mediator. […]
  The great violinist Yehudi Menuhin once said: ‘Music is the mother tongue of all people’. Everyone can understand music across all human and political boundaries. Music goes from heart to heart. This is what the young musicians experience, but also what the listeners perceive. Music is an emotional experience.
  War and violence, primarily take place on the physical level, even when hatred and unleashed emotions are triggers. Tools of war are material: tanks, warships, missiles. Unfortunately, a tremendous amount of money is spent on these tools of war.
  Peace lives and thrives on the spiritual, emotional level. In playing music together, participants learn to listen to each other, develop an understanding for the voice of the others; resonate to a common rhythm, get to know each other. The goal for each musician is to create harmony with the others, to be part of a greater whole and to communicate empathically and benevolently. In this social-symphonic body, there are no winners and no losers. These are the ‘peace tools’ we want to give young people through music. In this respect, music can build bridges for understanding and friendship even in politically difficult times.”1
  With the Göttingen Peace Prize, the Dr Roland Röhl Foundation honours the important civil society contribution of the project to the relations between Germany and Russia. “The civically committed artistic exchange of the German and Russian young people is intended to show that, despite the fatal political situation in Europe, friendly and trusting cooperation across borders is possible,” reads the Foundation's statement.2 The ensemble “MIR” began in 2019 as a musical youth exchange with the “Teatr Premier” in the Russian city of Tver on the Volga. At that time, 40 German young people travelled to Russia for 10 days, lived with local families and rehearsed together. Afterwards, both ensembles gave successful concerts in Tver and Moscow. A few weeks later, the concerts were followed by a return visit to southern Germany.
  Since then, the couple Thomas and Ulrike Vogt from Müllheim have been working together with their Russian partner Andrey Korjakov, Director of the "Teatr Premier". The projects are intended to "set an example for peaceful, friendly and trusting coexistence in Europe on a civil society level through direct personal contact. (
  Up to 70 young people between the ages of 15 and 22 participate in these projects. This resulted in joint scenic stage programmes with music, dance and theatre, which are then performed in both countries. During the Corona pandemic, which made mutual visits impossible, various joint video projects were realised. The most recent video project “You are stronger than your shadow” was released on 6 February 2022. It is about dealing with problems and temptations that young people are often confronted with: Drugs, theft, bribery, bullying.
  Particularly this project is not only exemplary for meaningful peace work, but also a wonderful example of successful prevention work.
  The video part was recorded and produced in Russia with 40 actors, the song, composed by Andrey Korjakov, was recorded, and produced in Germany with 35 young musicians. At the beginning of the video, it is stated: “You are stronger than your shadow! Seduction and violence, greed and addiction lurk everywhere in the world. Can you resist?” In the middle of the video comes the turnaround: “We can all resist if we transform the dark side within us. If we meet in love and friendship, together we can walk the path to a peaceful, bright future.”
  You can watch the video here: It’s worth it.  • 


Ensemble MIR

The Ensemble MIR (Music for International Relations), founded in autumn 2021, brings sophisticated musical programmes with dance choreographies and acting elements to the stage.
  Ensemble MIR emerged from the musical company of the Lise-Meitner-Gymnasium Grenzach-Wyhlen. The young people from South Baden develop their concert programmes in cooperation with the youth theatre group “Premier” from Tver as part of an exchange in both countries. The ensemble is open to music-loving young people who want to work for peace in the world.


Thomas Vogt (music teacher) and Ulrike Vogt (musician) have carried out numerous large musical projects with young people since the 1980s. Peace projects have always been at the centre of their work. After his retirement in 2021, Thomas Vogt and Ulrike Vogt continue the “Music for Peace” projects with the MIR ensemble. With a performance by their youth orchestra from the Müllheim Waldorf School, they framed the “Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Concentration Camp Prisoners” in St. Petersburg in front of an audience of over 900 people from all over Europe.


Teatr Premier, Twer

The award-winning youth theatre ensemble “Premier” from Tver in Russia was founded in 1992 under the direction of Andrey Korjakov. Since then, there have been several theatre productions a year with various children’s and youth ensembles at a high level. The repertoire covers a wide spectrum from drama to comedy to musicals. In 2012, the theatre was awarded the title “People’s Theatre”.
  The creative team around Andrey Korjakov wants to present a theatre world that conveys universal values and focuses on the spiritual development of a person.
  Andrey Korjakov, director of Teatr Premier, graduated from the Pedagogical Faculty of Tver State University in 2002. In 1992 he founded the children’s theatre studio “Premier”, which later developed into a full-fledged independent theatre. He is the director of the only musical school in the region, where children and young people are trained in acting, dancing and singing. He also directs the annual children’s musical festival.
  The musical theatre pieces, both the texts and the music, are mostly written by him. His works are not only loved by the audience but have also received several awards. In 2017, Andrey Korjakov was awarded the Prize of the Governor of the Tver Region “for achievements in the field of culture and art”.


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