Culture as an instrument of war


The processes taking place in the cultural sphere of Russia after February 24, 2022 are not only the forced departure of a number of cultural figures, the closure of independent art spaces and criminal and administrative cases against artists.The cultural sphere includes hundreds of museums, cultural centers, leisure centers, youth houses, galleries, libraries, theaters, concert halls, etc. in all regions of Russia. They are subordinate to the municipal and regional authorities or directly to the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, are financed from the budget and do not stop their work all this time. Among them there are those who tried to distance themselves as much as possible from what is happening, continuing their current activities in such a way that no reality seeps into it, and there are also those who, under duress or at the call of their hearts, became participants and organizers of propaganda events. We have analyzed the data on the activities of Russian cultural institutions this year (2022) and their activity in social networks and want to talk about how culture is becoming an instrument of Russia's war of conquest against Ukraine.

How did we collect information for this material? First, we used open data from the Ministry of Culture, for example, a dataset with cultural events from July 2016 to January 2023. This table contains "information about events and activities in the field of culture, data about which are entered on the digital platform PRO.Культура.рф. The set of these data is obviously incomplete, these are only the events that the organizers entered on this digital platform (and we do not know how obligatory this procedure was for employees of cultural institutions), it can be assumed that there may be more such events. In total, this set contains 2,568,904 events of cultural institutions throughout Russia. Secondly, we parsed the official groups of various institutions on VKontakte and used TGStat to collect materials in Telegram channels.

All official cultural activity, which in one way or another relates to this war, can be divided according to its functions into five large groups:

1) normalization of the entry of the occupied territories into Russia (posts, events), integration of the occupied territories, their involvement into cultural exchange;
2) expression of loyalty to the authorities (video appeals of employees of institutions expressing support for the decisions of the president, participation in z-rallies, organization of relevant events, flash mobs);
3) expression of support for Russian soldiers, including analogies with the wars of the past;
4) participation in campaigns to collect things for the military, residents and institutions of the occupied territories (actions "We are together", collection of books for the libraries of Donbass, Kherson, Zaporozhye, etc.);
5) participation in propaganda (both dissemination of information about the propaganda actions organized by the authorities and participation in them, as well as independent holding of “patriotic” events, organization of exhibitions with materials falsifying data about what is happening in the war in Ukraine in favor of Russia, creating a myth about heroic soldiers of this war).

Let's look at some examples.

Below are the posts of Russian cultural institutions with translations.

Belgorod Art Museum #wearetogether
Everyone can support the participants of the special military operation and their relatives
(an advertisement for the collection of humanitarian aid for Russian soldiers)
Octobre, 20

Novosibirsk Art Museum
On September 1, the "Books to Donbass" campaign started at the Novosibirsk Art Museum. The action is carried out throughout the country jointly by the “United Russia” party and the Ministry of Education.

Novokuznetsk Art Museum
National Unity Day
Creative teams of Kuzbass and Donbass "We are together" congratulate on the Day of National Unity

Novokuznetsk Art Museum
Almost 2 thousand books for the libraries of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions were collected by the participants of the #WeTogether project at the Tavrida.Art festival. Even more interesting information on Объясняем.рф (information portal organized by the authorities)

Far Eastern Art Museum
Dear friends! We bring to your attention a tour of the exhibition "Feats of Past Glory"
To be continued…
#ZаРоссию #ZаНаших #Своихнебросаем (#ForRussia #ForOurs #We don't leave our own people — these are hashtags used by Russian propaganda with a latin letter Z)

Krasnoyarsk Art Museum named after V.I. Surikov
Lectures, excursions and the signing of an important agreement - this is how our Night of the Arts 2022 festival went: “Art unites”.
We signed a cooperation agreement with the Donetsk Republican Art Museum

Ulyanovsk Regional Art Museum
Employees of the Ulyanovsk Regional Art Museum take part in a rally-concert in support of the President's decision to accept the will of the people of Donbass and the liberated regions who want to hold referendums on joining Russia.

Chelyabinsk Museum of Fine Arts
The Chelyabinsk Museum of Fine Arts joins the “Children of Donbass. We wanted to live" campaign.
The memorial complex, created in memory of the children who died from shelling, was opened in May 2015. On a slab of red granite, the inscription is engraved in gold letters: “Avenue of Angels. In memory of the dead children of Donbass.
Today, July 27, in the city of Yasinovataya there will be a rally dedicated to the Day of Remembrance at the ritual site. We call on everyone to honor the memory of children, victims of the war in Donbass.

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