Pipelining Friendship

Pipelining Friendship

- a research project

In 1963, the construction of the pipeline “Druzhba” reached the EVW (petroleum processing plant) in Schwedt, GDR. From then on, the Soviet Union supplied oil to the EVW, where it was processed into heat and fuel.

As the name “Druzhba” suggests, the pipeline was not only an energy supply artery for the GDR, but also the technical manifestation of a friendship between the former Soviet Union and the GDR.

It is this dual function of the pipeline as an energy and friendship system that our latest research project titled “Pipelining Friendship,” addresses. This double function is still effective today: since Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine, the oil from the pipeline is perceived as “politically contaminated” and the friendship pipe as an enemy channel – as Putin’s metal arm.

Both sides of the pipeline ventilate these tensions: pumps are shut down, embargoes are imposed, leaks are hammered into the pipeline, and feedstock processing sites like today’s PCK refinery in Schwedt face massive restructuring.

In these turbulent war times and on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the pipeline’s commissioning, we go in search of the pipeline “Druzhba” in Schwedt. In curated dialogue formats between former constructors of the pipeline, workers in the PCK refinery, friendship experts and elementary school students of a 4th grade, we ask on site about the founding myths but also about the unprocessed residues of this fossil and forced friendship.

Our initial research questions are:

How do different generations from Schwedt remember the construction of the pipeline?

What can the pipeline apparatus – its pipes, cavities, pumps and reservoirs – tell us about the friendship between the former Soviet Union and the GDR?

What are the dis/articulated abjects of this German-Soviet friendship, and how do they structure contemporary East German perspectives on Russia’s war of aggression?

The main goal of the project is an emotional examination and confrontation of the dual character of the “Druzhba” pipeline.

This confrontation takes place in a historical perspective and with the involvement of different generations from Schwedt: the ‘founding fathers’ generation, their grand/children and the upcoming Zoomer generation.

In our project we put special focus on female voices and perspectives for the “friendship” between the former Soviet Union and the GDR was constructed as an alliance between “two brothers”.

“Pipelining Friendship” is highly topical and connectable to contemporary questions and discourses on:

– Soviet traces in the cultural imaginary of East Germany

– concepts of friendship and their technical manifestations, outsourcings and abysses

– the energy crisis as war

The project “Pipelining Friendship” is supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

  • Production: Panzerkreuzer Rotkäppchen
  • Communication: Simon Strick  
  • Financial Management / Social Media: Maria Ullrich
  • Researchers: Anna Stiede, Richard Pfützenreuter, Susann Neuenfeldt, Maike Möller-Engemann
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