Linguistic landscapes for peace in Berlin

The case of the Friedensdemo for Ukraine in Berlin (27.02.2022)

On 27.02.2022, three days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Berlin organized a march for peace in Ukraine.

Friedensdemonstration in Berlin (27.02.2022)

Image 1 shows one of the signs that can be considered a proxy for the semiotic and multilingual landscape of this event: the symbol of peace and the languages present the most in the signs.

Image 1. A multisemiotic sign for peace.

It should be noticed that most of the signs were just about demonstrating disgust, distrust and a complete repulse towards the chef of the Russian Federation, in a rather conventional, straightforward manner. Most of these signs are about individually condemning this person: “FCK PTN” or “stop Putin”. Such a condemnation is also made through the association of this person with broader historical narratives (such as Nazism and Terrorism), visible in images 2 to 4. 

Other typology of signs is not about condemning the invader troops and their regime but rather about showing support to the victims: “save Ukraine”, “hands-off Ukraine”, “help Ukraine now”, “we stand with Ukraine”, “stop the war”, “no war” or “weapons for Ukrainian heroes”. This support is shown through diverse semiotic resources, the most obvious being the use of blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag (images 6 and 7), by the people taking part in the event, combined with symbols of peace (image 5) or slogans for peace.

Among bilingual and multilingual signs, we find mostly English, German and Russian. The use of Russian is associated with addressing the invaders, while the use of English is much more related to showing solidarity towards Ukrain or addressing a wider international community/audience, through expressing what is perceived to be core common values. Other combine peace slogans in different languages: democracy and peace.

Through this brief tour, we can see that, despite being an organized event, most of the signs are produced by the people participating in the march and they seem to have been spontaneously crafted, in a symbol of natural and solidary identification with the cause of peace.

by Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer

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