Cover Osteuropa 3-4/2017

In Osteuropa 3-4/2017

The Art of Seizing the Moment
Restitution between Expertise and Diplomacy: from the Engine Room of German-Russian Cultural Relations

Wolfgang Eichwede

Deutsche Fassung


In art restitution, traumatic history and dramatic present are densely intertwined. This applies in particular to the relationship between Germany and Russia. A look back over 30 years of cooperation and conflicting actions in relation to looted and stolen art reveals a history of opening and gift-giving, struggle and failure. Academia and society have shown ways and forged connections where bureaucracy and diplomacy have lost an awareness of common ground in the interplay of German claims based on international law and Russian defensive legislation inspired by national patriotic principles. So it was that during the 1990s, the right moment for reaching a major settlement was missed. However, time and again, in individual cases, it has been possible, through skill and commitment, to circumnavigate the legal barriers. Thus, in culture, social relations remain that have not been destroyed by the current political upheaval. These relations cannot overcome the conflict between Russia and Germany, but are at least able to resist the process of drifting apart.

(Osteuropa 3-4/2017, pp. 181–199)