Ukraine’s Latest Demand to the West: Boycott Russian Culture

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 30: Dancers of the St. Petersburg Ballet during the performance of &#
Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press via Getty Images

Ukrainian culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko has issued a new demand to the West to halt performances of Russian music, Russian ballet and boycott other forms of Russian culture, arguing Ukraine is in a “civilizational battle.”

Culture Minister Tkachenko argued that Russia was engaging in a cultural war as well as a physical war against his country, claiming that the Russian armed forces have destroyed 800 objects from monuments to works of art and museums.

In an opinion article for the Guardian newspaper, Tkachenko wrote, “Russian culture has been used by members of the Kremlin to justify their terrible war,” and claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that Russia and Ukraine are “one nation.”

“Boycotting Russian culture is an important step. We’re not talking about cancelling Tchaikovsky, but rather about pausing performances of his works until Russia ceases its bloody invasion,” Tkachenko said and added that Ukrainian cultural venues have already banned Russian works.

“We’re calling on our allies to do the same. Already, many of the theatres and cultural venues that previously refused to perform Russian music or to cooperate with Russian artists who support the war have since renewed their ties,” he said and argued they should perform works by Ukrainians instead.

“Rejecting representatives of Russian culture who support its totalitarian regime and preventing concerts of Russian performers who openly support its war of aggression are conscious steps for a mature democratic society to take,” he said.

On Wednesday, pro-Ukrainine activists slammed Italy´s most famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala, for opening its new season with a performance of the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s
opera Boris Godunov after they and the Ukrainian consulate in Milan sent a letter demanding the opera house cancel the performance.

La Scala general manager Dominique Meyer defended the performance saying, “In doing ‘Boris Godunov,’ we don’t do propaganda for Putin. … This is a great masterpiece in the history of art.”

“I don’t want to hide when I read Dostoevsky or Pushkin. These are masterpieces we respect so much. Nothing in this production goes against Ukraine,” Meyer added.

Critics say a top European opera house performing Russian opera this year is a propaganda coup for Putin.

Earlier this year at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several Russian performers were individually targetted by boycotts, including piano prodigy Alexander Malofeev, who was dropped from performing with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in March, despite being against the war himself.

Soprano Anna Netrebko was also removed from her engagements by the New York City Metropolitan Opera earlier this year because she would not condemn President Putin.

“Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward,”  Met General Manager Peter Gelb said.

The move came after conductor Valery Gergiev was also dropped by his management company in late February over this ties to President Putin and was later removed from his position as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic by Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter for not publicly condemning the Russian invasion.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)



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