Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute Opens in Berlin

From the website of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Berlin:

The DOC Research Institute celebrates its launch in the Humboldt Carré in Berlin

Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, former German ambassador to the UK and Russia delivers a welcome speech… German General A.D. Harald Kujat will also participate in the DOC’s launch event in Berlin.

DOC’s co-founders, Founding president Vladimir Yakunin, Co-chairman Walter Schwimmer and Professor Peter W. Schulze will give a presentation outlining the DOC’s history and mission…

Also involved are

philanthropist Ruben VardanyanMichael Stürmer, chief correspondent at Germany’s leading newspaper Die Welt, Michael Harms, executive director of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, Armen Sarkissian, Armenian Ambassador to the UK and Jean-Christophe Bas, founder of Global Compass… Professor Edward Demenchonok from Fort Valley State University presents his special report on the topic “New Babarians at the Gate”.

One wonders what Die Welt‘s chief correspondent thought a few days later, when his paper published an op-ed by Karl Schlögel under the headline “Die gefährliche neue Liebe der Deutschen zu Russland” (“The Dangerous New Love of Germans for Russia”), which lead in by describing the DOC as “Propaganda-Krieg gegen den Westen” (“Propaganda against the West”). Schlögel, “a German historian whose work focuses on Russian modernism and Stalinism”, thundered (translated via this site):

You do not need to be an advocate of conspiracy theories to know that the relocation of the think tank from Vienna to Berlin was carried out with precision timing. Russia’s rich men, who stigmatize and persecute independent newspapers editorial, journalists and all sorts of initiatives, have had the audacity to take the war for “cultural hegemony” to foreign soil.

Without naming names, he also referred to “intelligence services, orthodoxy and oligarchy —all rolled into one person”, and added:

The institute’s choice of personnel is telling: a former head of the most notable German political trust to promote social democracy; a qualified university lecturer from Rostov-on-Don, Russia; a “talk show general” (who can’t even read maps); diplomats who cannot keep their temper under control… They are all clearly Putin fans, who are more in love with Putin rather than Russia…

The launch of the DOC was also covered in a feature article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, details from which appear in English in an article published by Deutsche Welle:

In a feature article, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” described DOC as an “instrument of Moscow’s hybrid warfare” whose main intention was to create an “alternative civilization to the American.”

In [2014], Yakunin was placed on the US State Department’s sanctioned list in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Perhaps for this reason, the German government has been attempting to extricate itself from any overt association with the DOC. “FAZ” reported that Matthias Platzeck, former Brandenburg state premier and chairman of the German-Russian Forum, was originally scheduled to speak at Friday’s opening but was then only named as a participant, while Ronald Pofalla, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s former chief of staff, canceled his speech.

Yakunin and his “Dialogue of Civilizations” think-tank has been of interest to the blog on a number of occasions. His “soft power” initiatives that have wooed a wide – and in some ways bizarre – array of academics, religious figures, left-wing activists, and emeritus European politicians, and although Deutsche Welle states that only “few” US figures have been involved, his American links include meetings with Allan Carlson and Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families, working with the LaRouche movement to promote a petition critical of the US and Europe, and arranging for New York University Press to publish a book of interviews with “the world’s foremost thinkers” (one of whom is Yakunin himself).

Meanwhile, his related World Public Forum website posts a strange mix of materials, ranging from UN press statements to Counterpunch articles, to pieces  exonerating Russia from the downing of MH17 and (perhaps predictably) criticising the sanctions against him.

In Russia itself, Yakunin has been the impresario for Orthodox events such as the 2011 tour of the Virgin Mary’s belt, on loan from Mount Athos, which he stated would promote “family values” in the country. He is also involved with bringing the “Holy Fire” to Russia from Jerusalem every Easter.

Yakunin is often described as being a member Putin’s inner circle, but it’s not quite clear to what extent this remains the case: in 2015 he resigned from his role running Russia’s railways, and he has since been under investigation.