Project

KUHNYA - Novosibirsk, Siberia

Kuhnya promotes the free exchange of opinion, cultural diversity and new forms and methods of social dialogue. The centre will become not only an instrument for support of independent public culture, but also play an active role, influencing cultural and social policies in the region.

The Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University and the Open Siberia Agency have jointly created an independent public centre for international co-operation and life-long learning in Novosibirsk in 2006.  This venue offers public debates, innovative community projects, as well as a yearly Spring Academy in collaboration with partner organisations in Siberia for an audience of creative professionals, socially active business leaders, as well as citizens in professional communities in the city of Novosibirsk and  other Siberian regions.

The kitchen ("kukhnya")

In the framework of Russian and Soviet tradition "a kitchen" has specific resonance: kitchens used to be the place for long conversations on the most important issues, for sharing ideas and shaping the true social values and for developing the true civil society. There is a special Russian term for these "kitchen conversations"..  According to preliminary findings of our 2005 city-wide research "The Third Place," over 60% of working professionals in Novosibirsk still use their kitchen as a place to meet new people and exchange ideas. The idea is to remove the kitchen conversation into the public arena so that the European idea of a public center can adapt to the local environment of Novosibirsk.

The Dutch partners Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University and Felix Meritis provide methodological assistance in the establishment of the Siberian centre, as well as in consulting personnel, introducing cutting edge management strategies and building the centre's programming. Their experience of international cooperation and training in various fields of culture in the broadest sense of the word will assist the Siberian centre with organising the Winter Academy, establishing partnerships with various European organisation and networks of cultural cooperation in European Union.

Target group

Kuhnya reaches out to cultural workers, journalists, scientists, experts, officials, leaders of local and professional communities, local NGO's, and creative professionals. Programmes are developed for socially active citizens and consumers of creative industries and culture.

Novosibirsk

Siberia represents two-thirds of the Russian territory east of the Urals. For many people, Siberia means miles of impenetrable taiga, oil, coal, gas and diamonds, a place of exile and the gulag, or Soviet construction projects. But it is also a dynamically growing cultural region, where traditional arts of indigenous people, the legacy of exiled intelligentsia, high tech and contemporary art are to be combined to produce a unique cultural and social phenomenon.

Novosibirsk, the informal capital of Siberia, has a population of 1.5 million people. In the Soviet days, the local economy mostly grew because of the heavy metal industry (predominantly, defence industry,) as well as science. Both industry and science suffered significant losses during the reforms. Presently, Novosibirsk is recognised as a centre of science, trade and finance and the most active zone of Russian hi-tech industry and software development. The status reflects the decision of the federal government to build in Novosibirsk the first technopark in Russia.

Public life in Novosibirsk is characterised by scarcity of opportunities for people to socialise outside of their workplace, but there are groups that gather people according to their professional interests or hobbies (associations, clubs, NGOs.) In the city, there are many young people with an active attitude. As a positive factor, the overall economic growth is important, as well as the fact that the middleclass has leisure interests outside of their work and personal life, as well as a need to participate in the community. There is a huge economic and mental gap between the educated people and the pauperised population. The creative class, intelligentsia, and people employed in science and education are estimated to constitute 20% of the population. The interest and need for education in society are increasing.  Many people who got their education in 1980-1990 need additional education adjusting them to the economic and social changes, but the universities are not flexible enough to reconstruct their curriculums for actual short-term extended education.

New environments

The isolation of the intelligentsia and young creative classes of large Russian cities make it impossible for them to build their own identity and contribute to the socio-economic transformation of Russian cities.

In Novosibirsk, the creative industry is represented more than in neighbouring industrial towns: from IT industry and programming, to advertising, crafts and television. However, the people who work in the creative industry, as well as in science and culture, need a unifying factor and open creative spaces for meetings, exchange of ideas and community building. One of the few sources of independent opinion trusted by progressive audiences is the Internet-based media, with net forums as a place for debates and exchange of opinion. 

For more information  please contact :

Joanneke Lootsma joanneke@amsu.edu

www.kuhnya.nsk.ru

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