Does it make sense to boycott Russian writers and creators because of Putin?

The world outrage caused by the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine has, in addition to the intrinsic tragedy, some collateral effects for the culture of the offending country that has directly and very clearly seen how the cancellation of Russian artists and creators has cascaded on our stages and in the world. This is not counting initiatives as strange as the citizen petition to the Florence City Council to tear down a statue of Dostoevsky.

Today the Russian arts, music, literature and cinema are viewed with suspicion, if not with absolute rejection, and sometimes it is difficult to maintain that distinction that the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, called for between the Russian Government and the people Russian, because the dividing line between the two is subtle and complex, since many private activities also have official financial support from the Russian government.

With what law?

The Barcelona City Council has wanted to establish a clear border, but most of the time it is complex to draw, and it is the request to the cultural institutions of the city not to ban Russian artists if they openly demonstrate against the war in Ukraine. The measure is, at least, debatable and expresses it this way Xenia Dyakonova, born in Saint Petersburg and based in Barcelona since 1999. Poet, literary critic and translator, she has translated authors such as Anton Chekhov and Anna Politkovskaya into Catalan. “I have artist friends and if they come here and are forced to speak out against the war, when they return to their country they will go to jail. On the other hand – he laments – with what right are they going to interrogate them? & rdquor ;. On the other hand, and happily, Dyakonova is giving a seminar on ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ these days and she is about to offer a conference on Mikhail Bulgakov at the Nollegiu bookstore, on whom the slightest shadow of possible suspension has weighed.

A month and a half ago, one of the most interesting current Russian writers, Maxim Osipov, came to Barcelona to present his book of short stories and spoke very freely against Putin. He explained that a good part of the current Russian intelligentsia is critical of the Russian president, that intelligentsia that the West can end up canceling without nuance, mainly because there is a great lack of knowledge of who is who in the current Russian literary panorama, both here and even in the Russia itself. And it is that the current Russian writers are forced to express their complaints in small magazines and alternative communication channels that rarely reach the general public. “Putin has cut off those channels of communication,” he explains. Andrei Kozinets, translator of the great Vassili Grossman-. The president of Russia is an enigmatic figure, isolated from the real world, does not use the internet and is informed based on the dossiers provided by his subordinates. I don’t think he was interested in reading, to the extent that he was interested in Stalin, who read everything because that meant exercising control over thought. In addition, then the word of a poet or a writer had enormous potential then, of course much more than now & rdquor ;.

Writers against Putin

Kozinets, born in the Soviet Urals and raised in Belarus, has lived in Barcelona for decades, says that you have to be careful with the word ‘Russophobia’, which has been used by Putin to inflame nationalismor of a basically uninformed population. “I would not use the word Russophobia in the cancellations that cultural institutions are carrying out. The sanctions should basically be aimed at personalities who have positioned themselves in favor of Putin. I think there is a difference between those who have not positioned themselves out of fear against the war and those who have done so in favor of it. I think of the late Eduard Limonov or Zajar Prilepin, translated into Spanish, a very talented author who wrote a shocking book about his war experience in Chechnya. What is incomprehensible is that he has now supported the Donbas separatists. They have been openly pro-Putin, but it is not the norm & rdquor ;.

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Having been historically placed under the Russian boot is something that marks the citizens of the countries of the former Soviet orbit. The Czech-Catalan writer Monika Zgustovà He has very clear memories of the invasion in Prague, which forced his parents to emigrate to the United States. “In Czechoslovakia then, learning Russian was compulsory, but I loved that language for its great cultural weight even knowing that it was that of the invader and that around me inevitably aroused great hatred & rdquor ;.

Zgustovà understands the rejection “because we need to make our rejection against that monster of absolute evil that is Putin”, but warns that Shostakovich or Anna Akhmatova may also be found in the same canceling package, tragically retaliated against by the absolutist power of Stalin. “Even Dostoevsky, whose statue they wanted to tear down, was able to write a novel like ‘The Possessed’, a political rejection of the climate of violence to which moral nihilism can lead & rdquor ;.

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