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TOPIC: russian culture

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Putin Reads Tolstoy: The Case For A Hard Line Against Russian Culture

From ballet to opera to classic literature, Russia has turned its culture into an instrument for its own expansion. The West must fight back, Ukraine's culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko writes in an op-ed in German daily Die Welt. It's time to stop supporting Russian artists and seek out Ukrainians instead.


KYIV — At first glance, it seems only a small administrative act: on Jan. 25, Vladimir Putin changed the mission of his country's state cultural policy. Its task now includes "protecting society from external ideological expansion."

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Behind this change lies the idea that there are "unfriendly states involved in activities aimed at undermining the cultural sovereignty of the Russian Federation." What is at stake is nothing less than the "protection of historical truth."

Culture is thus a tool and even a weapon in the hands of the state. Russia actively uses it to promote its interests — from making Russian ballet and other symbols of Russian culture (Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Piotr Tchaikovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich) popular, to protecting the rights of Russian speakers abroad.

It is time to do something about this.

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Is Masha And The Bear Russian Propaganda, Cartoon-Style?

Packed full of Russian culture, the children’s cartoon “Masha and the Bear” is a very popular cultural export. But does that make the little girl and her furry friend pro-Putin propaganda? Reflections from a conflicted parent in Germany.


BERLIN — The worst aspect of parenthood is that at some point you realize you have become what you never wanted to be – your own parents. You say things to your children that you hated to hear when you were a child. And the first few notes of a cartoon’s theme tune are enough to set you on edge.

For my parents, it was “Tom and Jerry” and Udo Jürgen’s “Thank you for the flowers”. For me, all it takes is two seconds of the hyperactive brass section from the frenetic popular Russian cartoon series “Masha and the Bear”. And now unfortunately, I have to pay attention when it comes on.

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Because we must treat Masha with caution. At least, if we view the little girl in her traditional Russian smock, who lives in a gatekeeper’s cabin between the steppe and the woods in an unnamed part of today’s Russia, as part of the long arm of the Russian propaganda machine. And if we then decide that, given the mass killings committed by Russia in Ukraine, her rightful place is on the list of boycotted Russian cultural offerings, alongside the opera singer Anna Netrebko.

No one can honestly deny that the series – which started on the Russian internet in 2009 and is produced by the Moscow-based Animaccord Studio, which receives no state funding – is a cultural export in the same way as ballerinas and piano maestros, synonymous with Russia like vodka or Kalashnikovs. There have been 14 seasons so far (aimed at children aged 3 to 5), and the program is shown in 150 countries and more than 40 languages.

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