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3 Jan, 2023 21:10

EU country wants ‘mental quarantine’ on Russian culture

Lithuanians should block out Russian works of art they previously considered “acceptable,” the nation’s culture minister has said
EU country wants ‘mental quarantine’ on Russian culture

Lithuanians should not enjoy Russian culture as long as a conflict is raging in Ukraine, its culture minister, Simonas Kairys, told national broadcaster LRT this week. The minister was echoing the ideas of his Ukrainian counterpart, Aleksandr Tkachenko, who earlier called on the West to boycott Russian culture altogether.

Kairys accused Moscow of using Russian culture as a “weapon” by supposedly sending Russian pop culture artists to Lithuania on dates “important for the Lithuanian state.” While stopping short of supporting what he called an “authoritarian” administrative ban on Russian culture, the minister said he favored a “mental quarantine” on it.

Both individuals and institutions should demonstrate personal awareness, Kairys maintained, adding that “we must abandon works [of art] that seemed acceptable to us before.” He also praised those Lithuanian cultural figures, who “consciously responded” to his ministry’s recommendations.

Some of Lithuania’s culture figures appear to have taken a similarly defiant stance towards Russian culture. The head of the Scanorama film festival, Grazina Arlickaite, called for a “smart boycott” on Russian culture, adding that showing or watching Russian films amid the conflict in Ukraine would be “insensitive.”

The former head of Lithuania’s National Opera and Ballet Theater, Gintautas Kevisas, told LRT that “just like oil, culture is Russia’s weapon,” adding that “since it is a weapon, everything is clear.”

Kairys’ statements prompted a sarcastic response from Moscow. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Lithuanian official “a lack-of-culture minister” in a Telegram post, and said he has managed to put himself into “mental quarantine for quite some time."

Western nations have seen calls for boycotts of Russian culture since the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine last February. Numerous Western cultural institutions have removed Russian-linked works in response to the conflict. The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra in Wales dropped music by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky from a concert and the Royal Opera House canceled a tour by the Bolshoi Ballet.

Netflix paused production earlier this year on ‘Anna K’, an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel ‘Anna Karenina’. Russian President Vladimir Putin has likened to Nazi book burnings such efforts by the West to weaponize “cancel culture” against Russian composers and writers.