President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the West of trying to cancel Russia’s rich musical and literary culture, including composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninov, in the same way he said it had cancelled “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.
Speaking in a meeting with leading cultural figures broadcast on national television, Putin complained of the cancellation of a number of Russian cultural events in recent weeks and compared it to actions taken by Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
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“Not so long ago, the children’s writer J.K. Rowling was also cancelled because she … did not please the fans of so-called gender freedoms,” Putin told the meeting, referring to controversy sparked by the “Harry Potter” author’s opinions on transgender issues.
“Today they are trying to cancel a whole thousand-year culture, our people,” he said. “I am talking about the gradual discrimination against everything linked to Russia.”
“The last time such a mass campaign to destroy objectionable literature was carried out, it was by the Nazis in Germany almost 90 years ago,” Putin said.
Several events involving Russian cultural figures who have voiced support for the war have been cancelled, including some involving Valery Gergiev, general director of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre, who spoke to Putin during Friday’s meeting.
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Gergiev has been dismissed as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic and lost the chance to conduct at Milan’s La Scala after he failed to condemn Russia’s invasion.
Spain’s Teatro Real, one of Europe’s major opera houses, has cancelled performances later this year by Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet. The auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams have cancelled sales of Russian art in London.
A much smaller number of events have been cancelled due to their association with dead Russian cultural figures.
The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra dropped a concert of Tchaikovsky’s music from its programme, and media reports have said orchestras in Japan and Croatia took similar decisions.
Rowling quickly distanced herself from Putin, posting an article on Twitter critical of the Kremlin and its treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics,” she wrote.
Russia has denied attacking civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, but Western powers say it has repeatedly hit civilian targets in what they call an unprovoked and unjustified invasion.
The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra said it had been subjected to “hate speech and vicious comments” after cancelling the Tchaikovsky concert.
“Basic humanity takes precedence over art and history,” it said in a Facebook post. “When the humanitarian crisis is over the discussion about ‘woke’ and ‘cancel culture’ can have its place.”
Photo Credit: Getty