Vladimir Putin has accused the West of discriminating against Russian culture, comparing the treatment of Russian cultural figures to that of ‘cancelled’ Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
In a televised meeting Friday with leading cultural figures, Putin said the West was “trying to cancel an entire millennial culture, our people”, citing cancellations of events involving Russian artists to protest against the invasion of Ukraine.
“They are now engaging in cancel culture, even removing Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff from the posters. Russian writers and books are now canceled,” Putin said.
A number of events involving Russian cultural figures who have expressed support for the war have been cancelled, including concerts by award-winning Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, a friend and supporter of Putin, who was part of the reunion of Friday.
Some events involving deceased Russian cultural figures have also been scrapped, with the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra dropping Russian composer Tchaikovsky from its programme, a move widely criticized by Western cultural figures.
Putin said in his speech that the last time such a campaign was waged against “junk literature” was when Nazi supporters burned books in the 1930s.
He then compared the treatment Russia received with the controversy surrounding Rowling’s comments about transgender people. “Recently they canceled children’s writer Joanne Rowling because she – the author of books that have sold hundreds of millions of copies worldwide – has fallen out of favor with fans of so-called gender liberties. “, Putin said.
On Friday, Rowling distanced herself from Putin’s comments by sharing a post about imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Twitter. “Criticisms of Western cancel culture are perhaps no better made by those who are now massacring civilians for the crime of resistance, or imprisoning and poisoning their critics,” the British author wrote, adding the hashtag #IStandWithUkraine.
In the past, Putin has repeatedly expressed his disdain for Western “liberal” values, likening cancel culture to the coronavirus. Asked last year by a Russian journalist about Rowling, Putin said he ‘adhered to the traditional approach – a woman is a woman, a man is a man, a mother is a mother, a father is a father’. .
Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said Putin’s speech on Friday provided another insight into the Russian leader’s “distorted” view of the West. “Putin uses the information he receives from advisers and then creates his own reality of the West,” Kolesnikov said. “He hears about extreme examples happening in the West and then convinces himself that this is the trend. He doesn’t like nuance.
Kolesnikov said Friday’s encounter with Russia’s cultural elite was meant to show the Russian public that the West was waging a parallel culture war against the country, four weeks after Moscow invaded Ukraine. “Putin wants to tell Russians that they are under siege, also culturally. In his eyes, the West is engaged in a merciless war against traditional Russian values,” he said.