As of May 26th, 2021, the German Russian Exchange (DRA, Berlin) has been declared an “undesirable organization” in Russia by the Russian General Prosecutor's Office. This is hard and unjustified news for the DRA, its partners and everyone in Russia and Europe advocating dialogue, an open society and democratic rights.
The allegations against the DRA are absurd. The DRA has been committed to fostering German-Russian-European exchange for almost 30 years. In times of political tension, a persistent dialogue is more important than ever. Declaring the DRA as an “undesirable organization” in Russia aims to disrupt this exchange and to intimidate those who promote cooperation and an active civil society in Russia.
Together with its partners in numerous countries from France to Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Armenia, the DRA fosters encounters, dialogue, and collaboration between people in Germany and other European countries. The DRA is committed to democracy and human rights, peaceful coexistence, European integration and remembrance, but also social and cultural participation as well as civil and environmental education.
Examples of the DRA's work in Russia include projects in the North Caucasus to reduce religious tensions and to improve socio-economic conditions; study trips for representatives from the fields of administration, education, business, media and civil society from Russia and Germany; projects on climate and environmental education for young people and on rural development; or cooperation with cultural organizations from Pskov to Omsk to provide people with disabilities an easier access to art and culture.
During all years of its existence, the DRA has provided tens of thousands of people with additional expertise and intercultural experience through specialist and educational programs, volunteer stays, resource centers and projects to overcome conflict. In addition, our work has made possible personal contacts that have shaped the lives of those involved for many years or even forever. By co-founding and developing important international platforms, the DRA has brought civil societies in many countries closer together. Finally, for years the organization has been a member of the Petersburg Dialogue which promotes cooperation between civil societies in Germany and Russia.
The ban is a turning point for the work of the DRA and one more strike against the democratic civil society in Russia and its chances for a joint international, sustainable and modern development. With a heavy heart we end our work in Russia and the cooperation with our Russian colleagues and partners with immediate effect in order not to endanger them and their work. We regret that for now we will not be able to continue our cooperation with them and we thank them for their support today and in all these years. We wish them success, strength and courage, and we continue to feel deeply and amicably connected to them and their country.
We declare solidarity with the other NGOs that were simultaneously declared "undesirable" in Russia: The Center for Liberal Modernity (LibMod) and The Forum of Russian-speaking Europeans, but also with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EDPE) on which the same unjustifiable status was imposed three years ago.
We will of course continue our work in Germany and other Central and Eastern European countries, in the EU, the Caucasus and the Balkans. We will continue to give people from and related to Russia a voice, especially to those who work for international cooperation, a democratic, free society and for a strong civil society and who respect human rights, international law and the right to development of the individual. For us, these are basic conditions for an open, peaceful European territory. We are convinced that the power stemming from such convictions will be stronger than the restrictions and barriers that can be imposed by a few against the interests of their own citizens and against the principles of good international diplomatic relations.