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RUSSIAN WORLD The cancellation of Russia

The director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky, gave an interview that caused a great uproar: in it, he defined the war as a “self-affirmation of the nation”, and attacked the so-called cancel culture. Russia would be one of the main victims of this culture of cancellation, which has left the main Russian museums out of the “Groupe Bizot”, the international organization that oversees major exhibitions and in which the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the British Museum, the Prado and several more. Other institutions have also announced their refusal to cooperate with the Hermitage, the largest museum in Russia and one of the most important in the world.

President Putin had already railed against the attempt to “erase” Russia. During his speech on March 28, on the occasion of the Cultural Workers’ Day, he gave as an example the ostracism of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff, who were excluded from concerts in the West. In addition, he alluded to the censorship of Russian writers and books, beginning with Dostoevsky himself. In Italy, the controversy over the attempt to block a course by the writer Paolo Nori precisely on Dostoevsky is remembered, a scandal that greatly contributed to the promotion of the latest book by the Bicocca University professor.

Similar accusations were reiterated by the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, and the writer and Duma deputy, Zakhar Prilepin. A denunciation of the Russian representatives in UNESCO was particularly harsh, as the Signal column of the Meduza website recalls. A session was also held at the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum on the theme “Cancel culture: an unprecedented challenge for communication”. The information policy of countries in the post-truth era”. In the West, the “substitution culture” is a practice that consists of condemning public figures for their statements or actions, which a sector of society considers immoral or As a result of these campaigns, the negative protagonists are expelled from the cultural debate and may lose their jobs, or be subjected to legal proceedings.

For the Russians, the problem is much broader and refers, as Putin explained, to “public ostracism, boycott or total silencing, forgetting the obvious facts, the books and the names of the great historical and figures, literary figures or simple people who do not correspond and do not conform to current standards, however absurd they may be”. To tell the truth, Putin was puzzled, not so much by Pushkin and Tolstoy, but by the lack of recognition of the heroic merits of the Red Army in the fight against Nazism. And for the “substitute” exaltation of American merits, which is often called the “rewriting of history.”

Rewriting history is, on the other hand, one of Russia’s specialties, and since ancient times. Already in Kievan Rus, Prince Jaroslav the Wise had appointed his own Metropolitan of kyiv, Hilarion, after choosing him from among the local clergy without waiting for an appointment from Constantinople. He entrusted him with the laudatio of his father, Baptist Vladimir the Great, and Hilarion delivered a wonderful Discourse on Law and Grace, one of the founding texts of the “self-determination” of the Russian people. Hilarion compared the founder of the Kievan State to Constantine the Great “equal to the apostles”, but forgot to associate him with the “new Rome” of the Eastern Empire. Rus’ is placed on the same level as the original Churches.

Rome raises praises to Peter and Paul, since through them he acquired faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God; Asia, Ephesus and Patmos praise Saint John the Theologian; India praises Saint Thomas; Egypt to Saint Mark; every land, city and town honors and glorifies its teachers, who taught the Orthodox faith… the grace-bearing faith spread throughout the land and reached our Russian people.

There is no trace of Byzantium, the “mother church”, which had already fallen victim to cancellation culture and been replaced by the Russians. Therefore, it is not surprising that Moscow and Constantinople have broken relations because of kyiv, in that ecclesiastical diatribe three years ago that sanctioned the need for the current “special defense operation”.

On the other hand, the apostolic character of the Byzantine Church was recovered with one of the most symbolic fake news in ancient history: the narration of a journey by Peter’s brother, Saint Andrew the Protoclite, who is said to have prophesied in the Asian coast the birth of a future capital of the Christian world. To make sure that nothing was missing, the old Russian texts extend the legend of the journey of Andrew, protector of the Church of the East, to the hills above the Dnepr – in this case, also with a related prophecy. In some “Nordic” variants it even reaches the great lakes of the lands that were later colonized by the Varyghi and where the “new city” of Novgorod would rise, which for a long time would compete with kyiv for the primacy of ancient Rus’. The dualism of the two capitals was reproduced in modern times: between Moscow and St. Petersburg, the “window on Europe” of the most sumptuous imperial palaces of Versailles, and the Hermitage – now repudiated by Europe itself.

Russia has always tried to bend events to gain an advantage and to “erase” dissenting internal voices in its own culture, as was the case with Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and with many writers and artists of its heyday. As early as the end of the 15th century, Josif of Volokolamsk, an “ideologue” monk still referred to by Orthodox Russia’s views of moral superiority, had written a “manifesto” of official culture. The aim of the manifesto was to condemn the heretics of the time, the “tonsured” and “Judaizers” who since the fourteenth century had introduced demonic temptations to reform the Church and rediscover the Jewish roots of European culture in holy Russia. In that book, the Prosvetitel or “Illuminator”, Josif recommended to be vigilant and not trust the word of heretics even if they seem to agree with the true doctrine: “You have to search your soul and reveal your error” to punish them properly. The same is happening today, not only with those who dare to criticize the government and the army for the war against Ukraine, but also with those who show their perplexity in the expression on their faces, plausible as punishment for the “passive support of the discredited of the armed forces”.

When illustrating the principle of the Russian Church, Josif referred to her as “state governess”, gosudarstvo-ustanovitelnaja, one of the favorite expressions of the current Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill. It is no coincidence that the Prosvetitel is one of the most sumptuously reissued and disseminated classic texts in the years of the Putin/Kirill reign along with many others that demonstrate the historical foundation of Russia’s salvific mission to the entire world. It is not, therefore, about Western “malicious interpretations” of Russian culture – like those of the current decolonization campaign in Ukraine, which leads to the demolition of monuments and excludes references to exponents of the occupiers’ culture. This is also called leninopad, the “fall of Lenin”, and begins with the destruction of the many remaining statues of the revolutionary dictator.

Ukrainians are well aware that even the most harmless writers and poets can be used as “imperial” propaganda tools. Without going any further, Piotrovsky himself has confirmed that art is a “lethal weapon” of the Russian war throughout the world. Paradoxically, the Ukrainians should also cancel the grotesque and impetuous genius of Nikolai Gogol, son of the Ukrainian land whose soul he wanted to portray. However, Gogol ended up extolling Russia’s unstoppable race towards her destiny, towards glory or ruin, like the hero Chichikov of Dead Souls who sought success in falsehood, and could not find the path to redemption.

The history of culture, in Russia and in all countries, is an area in which the calls of the spirit, both personal and collective, are continually rediscovered, and the fame of so many of its protagonists is the object of favor or rejection, often already in life, and in so many times after death. You can try to erase and reject Russia for many reasons, from its past and from its present. However, this means amputating a part of oneself and one’s heart, just like Putin’s ferocious armies bombing and destroying the land where the Russians were born. The self-destructive madness of contemporary cancellation culture unites East and West, Russia, America and Europe, and the current war is nothing more than the great punitive sanction of all towards all.

At the end of Signal’s commentary on this subject, an episode from 1968 is recounted: on August 21 of that year, the USSR Symphony Orchestra was on tour in London. The theater was packed to capacity, but there was an atmosphere of dismay. The night before, the Soviets had decided to invade Czechoslovakia to put an end to “Prague Spring”, one of the prototypes of the “special defensive operation”. However, as soon as Mstislav Rostropovich started the music, the audience erupted in loud applause, listening to Czech composer Antonin Dvoržak’s cello concerto from start to finish. Rostropovich led the entire night with tears in his eyes, but was not replaced.

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Written by Editor TLN

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