Ukrainian Minister of Culture Calls for Russian Culture Ban

By Francisco Salazar

Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko has called for a boycott of Russian Culture.

In a letter to the Guardian, the minister said, “Russia isn’t just physically attacking Ukraine; it is also trying to destroy our culture and memory. In the occupied territories, Ukrainian libraries have been liquidated, the word “Ukraine” has been erased, and Ukrainian museums have been destroyed. Our ministry of culture and information policy has recorded more than 800 cases of destruction: monuments and works of arts, museums, valuable historical buildings.” 

“This war is a civilizational battle over culture and history. On 5 September this year, Vladimir Putin signed a decree that refers to the ‘Russian peace.’ The Kremlin made clear in the document that culture was a tool and even a weapon in the hands of the government, and that it would actively use all the opportunities available to it, from promoting Russian ballet to protecting the rights of Russian speakers abroad, in order to advance its interests.”

The Minister noted that for Putin, “Russian culture is an instrument of his nation’s imperialist politics” and “has been used by members of the Kremlin to justify their terrible war. Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, recently cited Alexander Pushkin’s poem To the Slanderers of Russia on television.”

He ended the open letter by stating, “Boycotting Russian culture is an important step. We’re not talking about canceling Tchaikovsky, but rather about pausing performances of his works until Russia ceases its bloody invasion. Ukrainian cultural venues have already done this with him and other Russian composers. We’re calling on our allies to do the same. Already, many of the theatres and cultural venues that previously refused to perform Russian music or to cooperate with Russian artists who support the war have since renewed their ties.”

The letter comes as many institutions are set to perform Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” and the Teatro alla Scala is set to open its season with “Boris Godunov.” It also comes as Oper Frankfurt is performing “The Enchantress” and only a few months after General Manager Peter Gelb said that he would not boycott Pushkin.

The letter has already seen many companies respond such as the Royal of Ballet noting, “The presentation of great historic works such as ‘The Nutcracker,’ performed by an international roster of dancers, should send a powerful statement that Tchaikovsky – himself of Ukrainian heritage – and his works speak to all humanity, in direct and powerful opposition to the narrow and nationalistic view of culture peddled by the Kremlin,” said a spokesperson for London’s Royal Ballet.”

Meanwhile, the London Symphony’s Chief Executive Kathryn McDowell noted that it would continue to perform Russian music of the past and was only working with Russian artists “who are not identifying with the current leadership.”