Culture as an instrument of war

Art "unites"


The all-Russian action called “We are together” is now designed to help the families of military personnel, “while part of the male population of Russia defends the interests of the country,” and the Russian military itself. According to open data from the Ministry of Culture, from March 2022 to January 2023, at least 35 actions were held throughout the country with the hashtag #wetogether in the title. Cultural and leisure centers, libraries, children's music and art schools, cultural institutions and art colleges, theaters from all over the country participated in these actions dedicated to helping the military or spreading stories about the so-called Special War Operation. At the same time, the same hashtag continued to be used to advertise other actions: for example, billboards with New Year greetings on the streets of Novosibirsk also contained the hashtag #wetogether, creating the illusion of universal support for military operations. This hashtag itself was invented a long time ago: both it and the eponymous site were previously used for volunteer actions in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, for actions dedicated to the Day of National Unity and the so-called “Day of the reunification of Crimea with Russia”.

Open data from the Russian Ministry of Culture

Cultural institutions have long been involved in the information service of the authorities: they publish posts and hold events for certain dates, thus promoting the necessary narrative. After the annexation of Crimea, cultural institutions began to regularly celebrate the "Day of Reunification", publishing posts with paintings depicting Crimean landscapes and posts about Crimean artists, and using the hashtags #крымскаявесна, #мывместе и #КрымНаш (#Crimeanspring, #wetogether and #CrimeaIsOurs).

Since 2014, not only Crimea, but also Donbass has been included in the cultural sphere of Russia in a similar way through cooperation with Donetsk museums and with the Donetsk Union of Artists. Now cultural institutions continue to publish posts with stories about paintings depicting the landscapes of Donbass, invite Donetsk art critics to conferences, hold exhibitions of Donetsk artists. It is noteworthy that other territories are much less involved in such a “cultural exchange” (for example, the Ministry of Culture takes into account the events of Donetsk in its data, but not other occupied cities).

In total, more than 100 events dedicated to Donbass were held in Russia in 2022: these are meetings in libraries, exhibitions in art museums and galleries, and concerts. For example, in the museum-estate of russian poet G. R. Derzhavin in St. Petersburg, they figured out how to combine the tasks of propaganda and honoring Alexander Pushkin: there was an exhibition “I erected a monument to myself. Drawings of the Children of Donbass”, the works for which were provided by the art museum of Donetsk “Art-Donbass”.

In Penza, employees of the Penza Museum of Local Lore conducted “interviews with residents of Donbass, revealing the emotional world of the vanished past, reproducing the chronicle of experienced historical events through the eyes of their direct participants”, and based on them formed the exhibition “Donbass - Penza: from war to peace” (October-November 2022). In July, the Bryansk Regional Art Museum and Exhibition Center opened the exhibition "Unconquered Donbass" with the works of Moscow artists Alexei Kryukov and Maxim Fayustov, "who have repeatedly been on creative trips to Donetsk, Lugansk, Debaltsevo, in the villages of Izvarino and Logvinovo." There were museums that held an "exhibition of one painting." This is exactly what the State Art Museum of the Altai Territory in Barnaul did in March, presenting a painting by I. D. Chashnikov called “Donbass”. The Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow showed ingenuity and invited military personnel and members of their families to the tour "Prokofiev's Donetsk Childhood". The philharmonics and conservatories of different cities hosted concerts by the Donbass Ensemble and performances by the pop-symphony orchestra from Mariupol.

Even the “Night of the Arts” festival this year, timed to coincide with the Day of National Unity, was held under the slogans “#wetogether” and “#ArtUnites”. In accordance with the propaganda agenda, the Krasnoyarsk Art Museum included in the program of events the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Donetsk Republican Art Museum.

These are just a few examples of how cultural institutions work to create the impression that the occupied territories are part of Russia and normalize the annexation of these territories in the eyes of Russians.

Below are the posts of Russian cultural institutions with translations.

The Center for Creative Initiatives
The Center for Creative Initiatives joins the All-Russian action "We are together". March 18, 2014 is inscribed in the history of Russia as a day of restoration of historical justice. Eight years ago, the inhabitants of the Crimean peninsula chose their own path — the path of returning to their native harbor.

Kuzbass Art Center
Today, in the multimedia hall of the Kuzbass Center for the Arts, as part of the Crimean Spring festival, a photo exhibition "Crimea and Russia: 8 years together" was opened. [...]
March 18, 2014 is inscribed in the history of Russia as a day as a day of restoration of historical justice. Eight years ago, the inhabitants of the Crimean peninsula chose their own path — the path of returning to their native harbor.

(Please note that the text of the posts is repeated verbatim - author's note)

Union of Artists of Russia
People's Artist of the Lugansk People’s Republic Kondrashov S.N. "Ours are coming", 2022. Oil on canvas.
October 11, 2022.

State Art Museum
Our museum has opened the exhibition “I erected a monument to myself…”, dedicated to Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin!
25 children's works, where the characters of the great poet come to life, came from the Donetsk People's Republic.
(Many of the exhibitions mentioned were shown several times in different cities - author's note)

Vyatka Art Museum | Kirov
Virtual exhibition within the framework of the Internet action "Crimean Spring" in the work of artists.
Crimean nature has inspired Russian artists since the 19th century. [...] As part of the online campaign, the museum publishes a selection of works by famous Russian artists from the collection of the Vyatka Art Museum.

Museum of Fine Arts of Kuzbass
On May 27 at 13:00, the museum hosted the grand opening of Ksenia Galkina's personal exhibition "For Russia"
(“Zа Россию” — the name is written through the Latin letter Z, a symbol of the Russian invasion — author's note).
The exhibition dedicated to the events in the Donbas is an expression of the position of the author — mother, artist, citizen.

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