Tracks East by Tracks – A very different magazine reporting on the war in the Ukraine | A Q&A with Wolfgang Bergmann

War: Is there Neuro-Scientific-evidence explaining the lust for war? Something that explains why humans feel the need to kill each other? Is Mankind still lacking the evidence of the benefits for civilized behaviour? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘Yes.’

The regime lead by Putin is the latest proof of the absurdity and brutality of how humans can mistreat other humans on a large scale. The war by Russia against the Ukraine shows that even in the 21st century, the abuse of warfare reveals some form of archaic and inhuman condition which should actually have been overcome a long ago.


As the war in Ukraine rages on and with the number of deaths rising and the scale of devastation growing, the demand for explanations increases exponentially. The TV magazine Tracks with “Tracks East” undertakes an attempt to investigate the cultural perspectives of this hostile and horrific crusade by the autocratic regime in the Kremlin against its neighbouring country.

The series of Tracks East consists of ten episodes, featuring media coverage from various journalists, activists and artists from Eastern Europe (mostly from Russia and Ukraine). The journalistic core is an in-depth evaluation of the specific cultural, political and social issues that have arisen from this war.

Tracks East has been broadcasting since June 7th and is available online in both German and French through the Arte channel on Youtube with subtitles in Ukrainian, English, Spanish, Italian and Polish. Additionally, a Russian language version will be streamed as part of the Russian Youtube channel of Deutsche Welle.

To start with it is recommended to watch one of the weekly episodes of „Fake News: Doschd x Tracks East“, a pretty outstanding and even humorous report in English by Masha Borzunova, a former journalist at the previously banned Russian TV station Doschd.

ESNS-Exchange asked Wolfgang Bergmann, Managing Director ARTE Deutschland GmbH and ARTE – Coordinator of ZDF, about this special edition of Tracks East:

Tracks is widely known as being a TV magazine dedicated to popular culture and music. The variety of eligible topics for Tracks East instead has been significantly expanded, taking in both political and society issues. However, in terms of media coverage the subject of “culture” ranks pretty low during times of war. With this in mind, what are your expectations for Tracks East when the current news situation is mostly driven by horrific news caused by the war in Ukraine?

Wolfgang Bergmann, Geschäftsführer ARTE Deutschland (ZDF)
Copyright ZDF – Arte

Culture is an integral part of life and it is life that is being ended, threatened dramatically and altered by war. With Tracks East we created a platform to witness this shift through the eyes of those at the very forefront of it: journalists and content creators from Eastern Europe and Russia; they determine which topics are relevant and how they are being discussed. No more Westplaining, more listening. What we learn from them is that culture as such, as well as the lives of creative individuals, are dramatically changing. We see filmmakers, DJs, and artists that have taken to arms to defend their country. Outside of the immediate war zones, artists from Ukraine, Russia and post-Soviet countries turn into activists against the war. Creatives in neighbouring countries to Russia and Ukraine are fighting the fight against propaganda and for their own identities, while for some, continuing their work is an act of resistance itself. 

The first edition of Tracks East is entitled “Truth between the frontlines.” In fact, on the battlefield of “truth”, we see a massive advantage by Russian propaganda forces that apparently in Russia at least, seems to reach very far.

Isn’t it rather disillusioning for a journalistic driven magazine to report on this issue, being aware that this edition will probably not receive the attention it deserves in Russia?
The cooperation with Deutsche Welle allows for the contents to be distributed via their Russian speaking channel on Youtube with a significant reach in Russia and into the Russian speaking communities outside of Russia. First and foremost though, our programme is made for our Arte audience and that is everybody in Germany and France and, through Arte Europe, Poland, Italy, the UK and Spain. Here are two examples for the distribution via Deutsche Welle:

The Truth about War: Who to Believe, or Where Does Propaganda Lead?
Правда о войне: кому верить, или К чему приводит пропаганда?

Protests against the war in Russia still possible? On resistance against all odds
Протесты против войны в России еще возможны? О сопротивлении несмотря ни на что

Besides the war by Russia against Ukraine there are currently many more ongoing brutal conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, the Republic of The Congo and Syria. How meaningful is the special edition of Tracks East as a driver for the general journalistic profile of a culture magazine such as Tracks?
The Russian invasion represents a decisive turning point for ideas, thoughts and visions for Europe which is at the editorial core of Arte. Tracks East is one of a variety of journalistic reactions to this shift; it is not the only one and the Ukrainian war is not the only conflict we closely follow in our various programmes.

Tracks East: Propaganda and Truth

More on Tracks is available on:

Text: Manfred Tari