Canceling Russian Culture Plays Into Putin's Hands

Boycotts even of war's opponents wrongly divide art by nation, professor writes
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2022 5:09 PM CDT
Canceling Russian Culture Plays Into Putin's Hands
Performances by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, shown answering reporters' questions in Milan in November, have been canceled in other countries though she has announced her opposition to the war in Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

(Newser) – There's a problem with canceling performances by Russian artists, which the Western allies have been doing since Ukraine was invaded. It's Vladimir Putin's kind of thinking, Kevin M.F. Platt writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times. That logic is reflected in Putin's rationale for the invasion, says Platt, a professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania: There are Russians living in Ukraine. Russians and their culture, wherever they're found, belong to the Russian state. Russians who decline the honor are traitors.

The cancelations have been imposed with a broad brush, affecting "Russian" artists with no connection to the Russian president, such as soprano Anna Netrebko and pianist Alexander Malofeev—both of whom came out against the war. The result is division into distinct national cultures, Platt says, a concept tied to the rise of ethnic nationalist ideology in the19th century. "Even then, this idea didn’t correspond to reality," Platt writes. "The forces of migration—as well as the more destructive means of war, conquest and colonialism—have insured the mingling of people, languages and cultures throughout history."

Platt suggests supporting Ukrainian art and culture without canceling Russian contributions. For one thing, there's always been dissent in Russian art that will be missed if the rest of the world ignores its culture. That's a course that fosters antagonism between nations, resulting in closed borders and minds. "That is precisely the world that Mr. Putin seeks to create with his war," Platt writes. You can read the full piece here. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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