Dr Karin von Bismark, CEO, Vorstandsvorsitzende WCR e.V

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What is the Wirtschaftsclub Russland?

The Wirtschaftsclub Russland is an umbrella organisation for German- speaking business people in Russia. We created it because we saw approximately 5 years ago that there was a need to bring Germans, Swiss and Austrian business people together with the Russian business community in an informal way. Now we have expanded and are not only working with the German speaking community.

We hold events throughout the year, our last one being ‘Building European Bridges’ on the 1st of April, when we invited Olympic Medalists Alexander Schachner and Wolfgang Fasching.

In these tense times, it’s good to look at the positive side of things and unite people. This is the business club’s underlying mission. We are neutral, not religious or political, we believe in bringing people together. That’s what can actually move the world forward. We hold cultural events, we promote sports, do networking and discuss relevant business themes. With the aim of connecting business people in Russia with their counterparts in western Europe, apart from our meetings in Moscow, we also hold events in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Zurich, Vienna and in Berlin.

How is it financed?

Just by membership fees and sponsors.

Are you able to do everything you want to do, or are you limited by lack of financial support?

We are not able to do everything we want to do, but not due to a lack of money. Sometimes we would appreciate it if people were more active, but people are all very busy and events take some time and effort to organise. But when we want to do something, we always find people who want to support us, and it works very well. Of course we are always happy to receive more funding from companies and individuals who support the idea of bringing people together, who use the business club as a platform for their communications.

How do you help German companies enter the Russian market?

Mainly by bringing people together. Of course we have specialists for law, logistics and many other areas in our club, but we don’t sell services. We just bring the right people together. If somebody says: “I want to go to Russia, who do I need to speak to?” we say, “why don’t you talk to those people,” we introduce them to people we personally know and recommend. We work very much by word of mouth referrals, and talking directly to the right people.

What about helping Russian companies export to Germany?

It’s exactly the same thing. We work together with German local associations, who want to bring business to this area. Our website is now in Russian, English and German, so this is also transforming our events. Also, and this is very important, we have founded an umbrella organisation under which East European Business Clubs from Ukraine, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland all get together. So if people are interested in doing business in Kazakhstan, we can also connect them with people there. We have already had one meeting in Kiev, now we have one in Berlin, the next one will be in Siebenbuergen, Romania, in September.

A lot of business associations have problems in deciding what is more important: business or culture, when compiling agendas for their events. How do you handle this issue?

We don’t even want to distinguish between them, because what we notice is that we have two different target groups. For example the Russians who come to our meetings prefer to come to casual events. Russian business people don’t usually go to business events as such, but they come to good casual events. Nevertheless they do business there. It’s as much about business as about bringing people together. Our next big event was the economic congress and banquet on March 23 and 24th in Moscow in the Kempinksi Batschughn. All info about our events is on www.wirtschaftsclubrussland.org

What is your gut feeling about how things are going to go in Russia over the next year or two?

Our motto is bringing people and companies together. We do this by working with individuals on a personal level. On that level, things are fine and we believe they will remain the same, and that’s what we try to focus on. If individual relationships are working, then the other things will follow. At the moment we have a lot of hiccups in the press and the media, everybody is jumping on bad news, but we focus on the good news and on the working relationships that we have, on the relationships between Russia, Germany and Europe, on a personal level. That’s what we are concerned about.

Do you personally like living here?

I love a lot of things about Moscow. I love the hype, the energy. I like sunsets on the Moscow River in summer, I like cold days when it is minus 20, blue skies, I like a lot of things here. I have started to love Russian people, and to understand the culture. But I also loved to live in Frankfurt and Switzerland, so as they say: ‘wherever you place your head, that’s your home.’