After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia became, for the Western world, a sort of pariah. There were several fronts opened by the West against Russia: political, economic, and, ultimately, cultural. In Europe, in particular, countries such as France took a severe institutional stance to break off relations with everything related to Russian culture. The United Kingdom said that the cultural battle is an open front in this war. Those who have been mainly harmed are none other than Russian artists.
This issue has become tremendously controversial. The Spanish newspaper ABC collected several cases of censorship against Russian artists and also testimonies of several philosophers such as Gabriel Albiac, Javier Gomá or Fernando Savater, who gave their opinion about this political-cultural phenomenon in Europe, where the cancel culture is being used “to fight against Russia.” All this in a particular context: the invasion of a sovereign country by a nuclear power.
However, although there are many economic sanctions and particular cases that are effective in supporting Ukraine (such as going after the assets in the West of Russian bourgeois allies of the Kremlin), there are some decisions that are simply meaningless and discriminatory in nature, as they don’t affect Putin’s regime at all and do affect ordinary citizens or Russian artists.
Netrebko and insufficient criticism
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, who has been associated with the Putin figure, condemned the Russian-initiated war, but, even so, was canceled from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “I am opposed to this war. I am Russian and I love my country, but I have many friends in Ukraine and the pain and suffering right now breaks my heart. I want this war to end and for people to be able to live in peace,” Netrebko said on Instagram. It wasn’t enough to get around the cancel culture.
The soprano, in addition to the Met Opera, also broke all her commitments with La Scala in Milan, the Zurich Opera, and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Basically, her career has been hit hard for not being tough enough on Putin. The paradigm of separating the artist from his work apparently died, as Netrebko’s is one of the many cases of cancellation against Russian artists.
Not only stars are canceled
Perhaps the closeness to Putin of established Russian stars somewhat explains the cancellation against them. However, why are Russian artists who are not close to Putin and are just starting their careers being canceled?
Alexander Malofeev, a prodigious Russian pianist in his early twenties, was preparing his first major performance at the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) for March 9, 10, and 13. However, Ukrainians living in Montreal sent an email to complain against the Symphony which decided to cancel Malofeev.
The young Russian, like other artists, took a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine on his social networks. “The truth is that every Russian will feel guilty for decades because of the terrible and bloody decision that none of us could influence and predict,” the pianist wrote. It was also not enough to dodge censorship.
Punishment on Russian freelancers
Last Monday, March 7, the freelancing platform Upwork Inc (UPWK.O) stopped operating in Russia and Belarus, joining the dozens of Western companies that have stopped operating in the two Slavic countries. With that, thousands of Russian freelancers were left without their source of income.
The question is: how is this supposed to affect Vladimir Putin or his regime? In the end, the Russians who rightly suffer from the Russian government’s policies on a daily basis are being left without an income. Ordinary people, with low monthly salaries.
Other tech companies that left Russia were Netflix and Twitch. In the case of the latter, Russian streamers have also been left without a way to generate profits.
“We will not treat Russian citizens.”
According to an exclusive by the German news agency RLT, a private clinic in Munich —to show its support for the Ukrainian people— announced that they would no longer treat Belarusian and Russian citizens in their facilities.
“The invasion of the Russian army with the help of the Belarusian government is condemned by us in the strongest possible terms,” reads a missive revealed by RLT. “Therefore, we will not serve any Russian or Belarusian citizens with immediate effect and until further notice.”
This is nothing more than a simple case of discrimination against Russian and Belarusian citizens abroad that was widely rejected on social networks making the clinic rectify itself.
However, it is not an isolated case in the West, as the rejection of the invasion ordered by Putin also generated scenes of persecution against Russians. For example, in New York, and despite its unequivocal condemnation of the Russian invasion, several Russian-owned restaurants were vandalized. Also, some of their staff were harassed and insulted simply because they were of Russian descent. A fact that demonstrates part of the Russophobia generated in the West in recent weeks.
The cancellation of history
A few days ago, Fyodor Dostoevsky, probably the most brilliant Russian literary pen in history, was spared a couple of cancellation attempts in Italy. However, who was not spared from censorship was the historic Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra decided to remove the performance of Tchaikovsky’s The 1812 Overture from its upcoming concerts.
“In light of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, with the agreement of St David’s Hall, feel the previously advertised programme including the 1812 Overture to be inappropriate at this time. The orchestra hope you will continue to support them and enjoy the revised programme,” the Orchestra, which decided to cancel one of the greatest composers in history, said on its website.
The decision to cancel Tchaikovsky is not only discriminatory against Russian culture, but also rather stupid when one reviews the life of the Russian composer, as the man not only lived in Ukraine for a long time, but loved this country.
Russians don’t deserve this
It’s bad enough having to live in an autocracy or having had to leave your country for, on top of that, coping with the world’s judgment based on nothing other than your nationality. No, Russians don’t deserve to be persecuted, censured, or punished for being Russian. It’s crazy just to have to explain it.
Today Russians, unfortunately, are running out of jobs in the midst of a brutal economic crisis looming over them. Their national teams and national teams cannot play internationally. Entertainment companies will no longer operate in Russia. In some parts of the West, they are insulted and discriminated against. And their culture is suffering censorship from those who claim to defend freedom. This not only hurts innocent Russians, but it does nothing to harm Vladimir Putin, who even looks favorably on this phenomenon, for he will exploit it to push his own narrative behind closed doors, trying to exacerbate Russian nationalism.