Culture has always been a weapon for Russia. Previously, the now-debunked notion about “brotherly peoples” was actively promoted. Moreover, in 2022, Putin began to speak bizarrely, claiming that Russia was the one who created modern Ukraine. Russian propaganda works on all cultural fronts, using language, religion and education as a tool.
With the beginning of a full-scale invasion, Ukraine kept boycotting Russian culture on its own territory and called for the rest of the world to do the same. Ukrainian cultural figures appealed to international colleagues and partners to sign a petition for cultural sanctions against Russia. Many artistic, cultural institutions, streaming platforms, exhibitions, and festivals worldwide have already announced the cessation of any cooperation with the aggressor country.
The Ukrainian Book Institute, Ukrainian PEN, Book Arsenal, and Bookforum Lviv have all urged the international book community to refuse any book collaboration with Russia.
This ranges from the abolition of the participation of Russian publishers, cult centres and authors in book exhibitions and festivals to the cessation of distribution of books by Russian authors on all available platforms.
Key Ukrainian book chains and bookstores, namely Yakaboo, Ye Bookstore, and Family Leisure Club, have severed ties with Russian publishing houses. Some have already announced that they will no longer sell any of the aggressor country’s products and have made significant charity contributions to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Ukrainian community of comic book producers has called for an end to all cooperation with Russia, including purchasing and selling Russian comics. In early March, the State Committee of Ukraine for Television and Radio Broadcasting prohibited the import of any publishing materials from Russia into Ukraine, confirming a nationwide trend.
The world’s largest book festivals deny Russia’s presence with their national exhibit stand. The Frankfurt Book Fair has already made this decision, which is a key event in the book world. The Bologna Book Festival also supported this position.
Some writers, including the world-famous American writer Stephen King, have announced that they will not sign new contracts with Russian publishing houses.
Spotify, the popular music streaming service, announced the closing of its Russian headquarters and later ceased offering Premium subscriptions.
World celebrities support Ukraine and admire the country’s tenacity. Madonna, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Tom Odell, Janis Filippakis, and other celebrities are appealing to Putin to stop the war. Imagine Dragons, Iggy Pop, Brainstorm, Green Day, The Neighborhood, Tommy Genesis, Franz Ferdinand, Apashe, Foals, and The Killers are among the bands and musicians that have already cancelled scheduled concerts in Russia.
Russian musicians who have planned performances abroad have also experienced some problems. Valerii Gergiev, a Russian conductor who supported Putin’s regime and signed a letter supporting the annexation of Crimea, has lost his contract for a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall, one of the world’s most prominent concerts halls. The performances of the Russian pianist Denis Matsuiev were also cancelled.
Theatre and cinema
The Ukrainian Film Industry Association called for a boycott of Russian films. The call was supported by the European Film Academy, which withdrew Russian films from this year’s European Film Awards.
In reaction to a letter from Ukrainian film critics, FIPRESCI (International Film Press Organization) announced that its members would boycott Russian and Russian-organized film festivals.
Dozens of cultural institutions are completely severing cooperation with Russia, including the leading American Metropolitan Opera and Royal Opera House in London, the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater, the Estonian National Opera and others.
The Kyiv Theater of Russian Drama and Comedy has changed its name to the Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Theater.
On the Twitter social network, the unofficial account of the Ukrainian Theater on Podil sent the A.S. Pushkin State Museum in Moscow in the same direction as the Russian warship. Representatives of the museum wrote that they would transfer all funds raised on Defender of the Fatherland Day (a former state holiday in Ukraine celebrated on February 23, the legacy of the Soviet system; now a state holiday in Russia) to the so-called DNR and LNR refugee fund.
World associations of artists, sculptors, folklorists, designers, and representatives of other creative spheres are withdrawing participants from Russia from their communities and thematic exhibitions and festivals. Thus, there will be no Russian project at the 59th Venice Biennale, the leading exhibition of contemporary art. Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses have cancelled a Russian art sale scheduled for June 2022 because Russia invaded Ukraine.
Creative competitions and communities, such as the European Design Awards, Awwwards, Cannes Lions, Red Dot Award and others, took a pro-Ukrainian position and refused to cooperate with representatives of the aggressor country.
The International Council of Folklore Festivals and Traditional Arts (CIOFF) has suspended the membership of Russia and Belarus.
Bloggers and influencers
Ukrainians are massively banning pro-Russian bloggers and influencers who support the Putin regime or veiledly speak out for peace, as if “not everything is so clear.” More and more hashtags #SlavaUkraini and #stoprussia appear in the comments under their even neutral-tone posts, which they do not have time to delete.
Kim Kardashian, Timothy Snyder, Malala Yousafzai, and Richard Branson, among other worldwide influencers with millions of followers, have publicly shown their support for Ukraine on social media. The majority of Ukrainian bloggers now focus on military support and write their blogs from time to time.
On February 26, more than 200 providers blocked services broadcasting Russian channels. The next step is to ban the main Internet resources that provide retransmission of Russian channels. On the same day, the Ministry of Culture and key media groups appealed to international television providers to shut down all Russian news channels.
Netflix has also implemented cultural sanctions against Russia, with 20 Russian TV channels being removed from the platform. YouTube has blocked the broadcast of Russia’s First Channel, Russia 24, Russia 1, TASS, RIA News, RBC, and many other propaganda channels.
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