1989 - 1997

New institutes in the Eastern Europe

The fall of the Iron Curtain allows the Goethe-Institut to expand its activities into the countries of Eastern Europe. Founding the first institutes in former Eastern Bloc countries frequently demands a great deal of creativity and innovative spirt from those involved. The network of institutes is not only expanding abroad though, and the first institutes in the former GDR open their doors in Weimar and Dresden in 1996 and 1997.

Openings in Eastern Europe

  • 1988Budapest (Hungary)
  • 1989Sofia (Bulgaria)
  • 1990Prague (Czech Republic)
  • 1990Warsaw (Poland)
  • 1991Krakau (Poland)
  • 1992Moscow (Russia)
  • 1993Minsk (Belarus)
  • 1993St. Petersburg (Russia)
  • 1993Riga (Latvia)
  • 1993Bratislava (Slovakia)
  • 1994Kiev (Ukraine)
  • 1994Tbilisi (Georgia)
  • 1994Almaty (Kazakhstan)
  • Das Gebäude des Goethe-Instituts Prag in den frühen 1990ern.
  • 1992 Moskau Eröffnung
  • Bratislava Außenminister K. Kinkel (r), Generalsekretär H. Harnischfeger (l) und Institutsleiter P. Hubrich
  • Einladung zur Eröffnung Riga
Institute director Jochen Bloss saved the bugged plastic rose from the GDR embassy. Photo: Marie-Christin Gabriel, Goethe-Institut

1990

The Goethe-Institut Prague opens
“A recording device was present whenever the ambassador received his guests.”

Learn more

1990

The Goethe-Institut Prague opens
“A recording device was present whenever the ambassador received his guests.”

The fall of the Iron Curtain not only leads to new Goethe-Institut locations in Central and Eastern Europe; it also exposes curious goings-on from daily life during the Cold War. In Czech Prague, the Goethe-Institut takes over the empty GDR embassy and finds more than just abandoned furniture.

The locations proposed for the new institute are not all that appealing: they are either too far outside the city or too loud. So Carola Bloss, wife of soon-to-be institute director Jochen Bloss, suggests an alternative: “The GDR embassy was just standing there empty and the rent had been paid through December 31st by the GDR,” Jochen Bloss recalls. The caretaker gives him the keys, and the rooms are still completely furnished when they move in on October 4. Dishes, stationary, even the plastic rose on the ambassador’s desk are all still in place. A cleaner hands it to Carola Bloss with the words: “It was always with the ambassador, so I can give it to you.” The couple later spies a small, black dot among the petals, which turns out to be a bug. “That means,” Jochen Bloss says, “a recording device was always present whenever the ambassador received his guests at the round table.” He has saved the bugged plastic rose to this day.

Klaus von Bismarck, President of the Goethe-Institut from 1977 to 1989, endows the prize in 1991 Photo: Adolf Clemens

1991

President endows Klaus von Bismarck Prize
For the unseen heroes

Learn more

1991

President endows Klaus von Bismarck Prize
For the unseen heroes

The Goethe-Institut is active worldwide with many locations, so unpredictable situations arise from time to time. Then on-site staff need to step in, take responsibility and try creative approaches. The Klaus von Bismarck Prize has honoured such extraordinary efforts since 1991.

Narayan Muhuri, a guard at the Goethe-Institut in Kolkata, spends a total of 85 days, just under three months, alone in the institute building in spring 2020. Instead of isolating with his family during the coronavirus lockdown, he keeps the server room and air conditioning up and running. When cyclone Amphan sweeps through the city in May, he prevents damage to the building. Leela Chinoy assists him in maintaining the building’s safety. Head of Administration since 2020, she has worked at the institute since 1980 with a six-year break. Both receive the 2020 Klaus von Bismarck Prize for their outstanding dedication. Endowed in 1991 by the Goethe-Institut’s fifth president, the annual award goes to two staff members in recognition of “many years of notable service in promoting the Goethe-Insitut’s mission or extraordinary dedication in exceptional circumstances.”

Interview Dittrich van Weringh © Goethe-Institut Archiv

1992

The Goethe-Institut Moscow opens

Learn more

1992

The Goethe-Institut Moscow opens
“Ms Dittrich, you have to set up Moscow.”
The former director of the Goethe-Institut Moscow, Kathinka Dittrich van Weringh, remembers the time when a Goethe-Institut was to be founded in Moscow after the end of the Cold War. The new institute was opened in 1992 in the former GDR embassy in Moscow, which had a few surprises in store.
1995
750,000

1995

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl welcomes the 750,000th participant ready to start a language course at the Goethe-Institut Mannheim.

1995

Now also an online network
The www.goethe.de website goes online

Learn more

1996

The first Goethe-Institut in the former GDR opens in Weimar; the Goethe-Institut Dresden follows a year later.

1998­2007


Upheaval in the era of terrorism

Next period