The Goethe-Institut is a cultural association founded by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1951. It established offices all over the FRG, as well as in foreign countries, to offer German language courses and to promote German culture to foreigners. Austria has the similar Österreich Institut, established much later but with similar goals.

Did any similar organization exist in the German Democratic Republic? That is, was there some state-supported chain of institutes, operating under a unified branding, where foreigners could learn the German language and attend cultural events? If so, how did these institutes compare with the Goethe-Institut in terms of number and location of branches, courses and events on offer, price of language lessons, customer base, etc.?

1 Answer 1


Yes, similar but with different priorities (advantages of their politicsl system).

In Europe, they were represented in Finnland, France and Sweden.

Otherwise mainly in block free states in Africa and the Middle East.

There were, all togeather, 11 centers.

For Paris, language courses are not meantioned.
For Africa and the Middle East this may have been different.

Kultur- und Informationszentrum – Wikipedia
Ein Kultur- und Informationszentrum (KIZ) (oft genannt: Haus der Freundschaft der DDR) war für die Deutsche Demokratische Republik ein Mittel der Außenpolitik, um durch kulturelle und Bildungsarbeit die Position der DDR international stärken und Verbündete zu finden. Sie unterstanden erst der Gesellschaft für kulturelle Verbindungen mit dem Ausland, die ab 1961 in der Liga für Völkerfreundschaft (LfV) aufging. Die KIZ sind mit den Goethe-Instituten der Bundesrepublik (seit 1952) vergleichbar.

A .cultural and information center (KIZ) (often called: GDR Friendship House) was a means of foreign policy for the German Democratic Republic to use cultural and educational work to strengthen the GDR's position internationally and to find allies. They were first subordinate to the Society for Cultural Connections with Foreign Countries, which merged into the League for Friendship of Nations (LfV) from 1961. The KIZ are comparable to the Goethe Institutes in Germany (since 1952).

DDR-Kulturzentrum Paris – Wikipedia
Das der DDR-Botschaft zugeordnete Institut bestand unter anderem aus zwei Veranstaltungssälen für Konzerte und Filmvorführungen, einigen Ausstellungsräumen sowie einer Bibliothek mit über 3000 Büchern.
Für die DDR war diese kulturelle Einrichtung (ein Informations- und Kulturzentrum unter elf weiteren) von großer Bedeutung und zeigte, dass „Kulturbeziehungen ein wesentlicher Bestandteil der politischen Gesamtbeziehungen und ein konstitutives Element ihrer Außenpolitik“ waren. Das hierbei verfolgte Ziel war die Abgrenzung von der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, welche in Paris seit 1961 ein Goethe-Institut unterhielt, sowie die zivilgesellschaftliche Annäherung gegenüber Frankreich.

The institute, which was assigned to the GDR embassy, ​​consisted of two event halls for concerts and film screenings, several exhibition rooms and a library with over 3000 books.
This cultural institution (an information and cultural center among eleven others) was of great importance for the GDR and showed that "cultural relations were an essential part of overall political relations and a constitutive element of its foreign policy". The aim pursued here was the demarcation from the Federal Republic of Germany, which had maintained a Goethe Institute in Paris since 1961, and the civil society rapprochement with France.

  • 1
    That article doesn't mention whether the KIZ offices offered language classes. Do you happen to know whether they regularly did so? (This is the aspect I'm most interested in.)
    – Psychonaut
    Feb 23, 2022 at 11:59
  • 1
    @Psychonaut For Paris (see added information), it was not the case. Feb 23, 2022 at 13:30

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