Zakharova – Western campaign to cancel Russian culture

The West has horrified itself by launching a campaign to cancel Russian culture, which has taken very strange forms indeed. This is not righteous indignation but a feeling they are trying to inspire in people. It is being done by “professionals.” Take a statement made by Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Glinski, who said that “Russian culture must disappear from the public space.” Who are you, Mr Glinski, to say things like that? Who has given you the right to say this? It would take more than a billion years to thoroughly study the subject he wants to cancel. He is not even aware of the boundaries of Russian culture. How can people in charge of culture speak about cancelling the culture of entire nations? On the other hand, this has happened before, in the 1930s and 1940s, and this is exactly what we are fighting against now.

Here is another thing that is stranger than fiction but turned out to be true in the 21st century. The National Gallery in London has altered the title of French impressionist Edgar Degas’ drawing Russian Dancers. They are no longer Russian now. Such things happen. They have become normal in the West, where a man wakes up one morning to declare that he is a woman. And next day s/he can become a non-binary person. You can also change nationality, as in the case of Degas’ painting, especially since he died long ago. And they have done it. It’s only a name, you don’t have to request a new ID or have a sex reassignment surgery. You just cross out the name. They cancelled history long ago. They were tearing down monuments across Europe so that their children don’t ask their mother and father, or rather Parent A and Parent B, about monuments to soldiers in red star caps. Culture must be cancelled to eradicate any link to history.

The names of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff have been removed from concert bills in several countries. The Netherlands has cancelled the tour of the Anatoly Kvasov State Academic Song and Dance Ensemble of Don Cossacks. This will definitely make life better in the Netherlands.

They are banning Russian writers and their books. The University of Milano-Bicocca has cancelled a series of four lectures about Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which were to be delivered by writer Paolo Nori, so as “not to cause polemic” and, of course, to avoid any questions. There can be no disputes in the state described by George Orwell, nothing but the truth. The Italian university’s decision was reversed the following morning, but the precedent has been created. Teatro Rina e Gilberto Govi in Genoa has cancelled the annual Dostoyevsky festival, and it has not changed its decision. I urge you to re-read Dostoyevsky’s Demons, which is about what we see happening today. It is a unique, a truly immortal novel. You can cancel it, but this won’t make it disappear.

We note with regret that Russophobia is rapidly gaining ground in the West, and that the unthinkable measures being taken there are destroying the fundamental principles of civilised behaviour. The aggressive promotion of “cancel culture” is turning into the cancellation of culture and is fraught with a complete loss of one’s bearings in the contemporary world. You cannot say now who you are dealing with, a man, a woman, or a non-binary person and which sex that person prefers to be at this time of the day. It is difficult to say who wrote or painted what, because the name can be changed overnight. It is difficult to see the difference between the truth and lies. What happened in our history? Monuments are destroyed, museums are closed, and history textbooks are rewritten. It is no longer clear who attacked who, but not because there are no factual data but because the dates, directions, figures and geography have been changed. Everything has been changed. What do you want from people? Do you want them to lose any touch with reality? Public ostracism, the cancellation and banning of facts and names is a path towards self-destruction.

We know about the Western attempts to “cancel” the Red Army’ contribution to defeating Nazism during World War II. We have been speaking about this every week for the past decades. This is happening right now. The Russian flag has not been raised at the Karlshorst Museum in Germany, where the Nazis signed the official act of surrender in 1945, and the building’s official name plaque – the German-Russian Museum – has been obscured with black tape. What is that place dedicated to? Who was there? Tell me now, who liberated who? Did the West Germans liberate the East Germans? What is the new version?

This “cultural” mayhem, or rather “uncultured Sabbath”, increasingly reminds me of medieval obscurantism, when it was not barbarism or pagan rites but Christianity and the New Testament with its compassion to thy neighbour which offered the Holy Inquisition the rationale for burning books. Why not throw people into the same fire, while they were at it? Doesn’t this remind you of anything? They were guided by good intentions and knew how to motivate people. World War II also started with high ideals, by telling our ancestors how to live, who is “pure” and who is not, which race has a greater right to exist than another one. The analogy with the Nazi campaign in Germany to destroy undesirable books is even more terrifying. The same campaign has been carried out in Ukraine year after year with all kinds of books perishing in the fire: history books, ethnic and cultural literature, religious and children’s books. They even banned cookbooks. Why? Because they did not want to share the borsch beetroot soup with anyone. Only one nation, one ethnic group could own it. There was no way they could share it with others, so that housewives could cook it their own way in every town and region. They did not want to compromise. This is precisely what we are talking about: xenophobia, Nazism and extremism in all their forms.

As part of the cancel culture, we have been facing attempts to black out specific cultures from the public space to give way to others. This has happened quite a few times in European and American history. Sometimes they do this simply to glorify something, and not necessarily against our country. This is what they do, in general. China has been treated this way a couple of years ago when it faced accusations of creating the coronavirus, as if it all came from a bat. This did not work out, but China still suffered a lot from this campaign. Sinophobia became the talk of the town, especially in the United States. Before that, there were attempts to cancel other countries. In the early 2000s, there were attempts to cancel French culture when Paris refused to support Washington in its campaign against Iraq. It went as far as attempts to stop selling French fries because the name referred to France. I am not even mentioning films, etc. This is how it happened: not a single talk show would spare the French for their principled position, which turned out to be the right one. At the time, the French leadership had the determination and independence to look and the facts and realise what is true, and what is a lie.

This cancel culture dates back decades, centuries, and even more. This may not be a direct analogy, by the ancient Romans introduced the term Damnatio memoriae, which stands for “condemnation of memory.” When a person died, he had to be removed from the public memory, forgotten. This did not happen naturally. Instead, the Romans went to great lengths to erase all traces of the person subject to this procedure. Interpretations may vary, but the facts are there.

The colonial powers of Europe and America sought to black out all references to ethnicity in their protectorates and destroyed dozens of invaluable cultural heritage artefacts in the process. Michel Foucault would use the term “cultural imperialism” to refer to these ugly practices. Entire societies became subaltern social groups. Researchers of colonialism like Antonio Gramsci and Gayatri Spivak taught that the cultural footprint left by these societies remained invisible for the mainstream culture with the West knowingly maintaining this status quo.

The Third Reich masterminds reached unreachable heights in the 1930s (unreachable until recently, since new heights, or rather new lows, have now been reached) when they removed all references to the way Jewish scientists and art figures contributed to Germany’s development and culture, as if these people never existed. It all starts in the beginning, by highlighting the achievements of just a single ethnic group or a few chosen races. Other races also existed, but this does not matter.

This phenomenon was aestheticised and adopted at the highest level. They called it the “cultural aryanisation.” There was a programme, tenets, ideologists and those who implemented this concept and oversaw compliance.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, there was this witch-hunt against communism for rooting out everything “communist” in the United States – the infamous McCarthyism. The ideology has not changed. There is now cancel culture and a new cultural genocide. This time it targets everything related to the great Russian heritage without sparing anything. There is nothing new about this. The West has been suffering from this malady for ages.

It would be impossible to imagine something of this kind happening in our country. For centuries, the Russian masters of literature, music and fine arts created their masterpieces for humanity as a whole and served as moral and spiritual beacons for entire generations, enriching the world culture. At the same time, Russia has always appreciated and promoted works by foreign artists regardless of the relations it had with their countries of origin. The year 1812 is quite telling in this regard. Just reread War and Peace. Quite impressive, isn’t it? We believe that culture must remain in a league of its own. This is our heritage, a well of pure drinking water enabling humanity to preserve itself. It helped promote people-to-people ties at all times and facilitate dialogue, find common ground, mutual understanding, and simply survive.

Zdroj: Министерство иностранных дел Российской Федерации

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