Activists from all over the world have been calling for a boycott of Russian culture for months, as punishment for Vladimir Putin’s relentless aggression in his war against Ukraine. But it seems that soon there will be no need for radical measures: Russia is destroying its artistic and cultural projects on its own.
In a video uploaded to YouTube this week, the head of Moscow’s department of culture, Aleksandr Kibovsky, stated that a recent decree signed by Vladimir Putin “Strengthening Russian traditional, spiritual and moral values” gives the Russian authorities the green light to cleanse the country’s cultural scene of all “Western influences.”
“The presidential decree gives us, the cultural authorities, guidelines to provide state support only to projects that meet the requirements”, Kibovsky said Monday. “Now we feel a hangover from everything that the [the West] it has been feeding us for many years… It is sad that we needed the special operation regime to get to this.” Turning to the West, Kibovsky added: “We are no longer your monkeys.”
Citizens across Russia have already taken steps to avoid the wrath of Russian authorities under the new policy.
“Some libraries and bookstores jump ahead of the state censorship bandwagon and pull books that have not yet been banned off the shelves,” Alexandra Vakhrusheva, former director of the Turgenev Library in Moscow, told The Daily Beast. “The names of banned theater directors are removed from theater billboards, and schools have received ‘recommendation letters’ from the ministries of culture and education advising children to wear costumes from Russian fairy tales and not from Western animation characters.
Earlier this month, the Parents’ Council, a Russian children’s rights group in Khabarovsk, bought all copies of Summer with pioneer tiea book about a romantic relationship between two Soviet boys, so they wouldn’t end up in Russian homes.
One of the members of the Parent Council published a video of himself destroying the books. “I’m glad to be a part of saving our youth, our Russian civilization from Western pseudo-values of horror and darkness,” he said, as he tore the book’s pages to pieces. “We are not the West, we are a state with a history of 1,000 years.”
Russian children traditionally go to “Elochka” carnivals during the holidays, but the guidelines for this year’s events are different for some families. The Russian city of Chita has resorted to censoring children’s carnival costumes, telling parents to dress their children only in the “style of Russian culture.”
“This is the end of culture as we know it.”
One of the costumes they have had trouble with is the teddy bear character Huggy Wuggy, from the American survival horror game “Poppy Playtime.” “Huggie Waggie’s character negatively influences children’s perception of the outside world,” the Chita education committee. he said in a statement.
Until recently, Russian cultural freedom was protected by law. The fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago saw a creative boom in Russian ballet, film and literature. New formats, fresh ideas and international artists were welcomed, and Russian art swept the world’s biggest exhibitions and won international awards.
Legislation adopted in 1992 forced the authorities to help finance artistic and cultural projects throughout the country. But today, officials insist that a malicious Western infiltration is at stake. “Western neocolonialism did not have to occupy us, they influenced us to create a pro-Western native elite,” Kibovsky insisted in his video.
So what alternative can the Kremlin offer to strengthen traditional values?
The Chairman of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Motviyenko He suggested that the authorities should purchase traditional musical instruments, such as the Russian balalaika, and distribute them to regional clubs and houses of culture in Russia. “Let’s calculate how much it’s going to cost, so that the program can be done in 2 or 3 years,” Motviyenko said.
The push for a more “traditional” Russia has left many across the country furious.
“Kibovsky is now talking about ‘art councils’ that are going to decide which play to stage or which film to allow in theaters; the councils will include members of patriotic military societies,” Ksenia Larina, one of Russia’s leading cultural critics. he told The Daily Beast. “This is the end of culture as we know it, as culture cannot be divided into pro- or anti-Western.”