Russia’s new/old cultural war

In The Moscow Times, John Freedman illuminates a striking parallel between the hysterical, xenophobic cultural attacks being directed against cultural figures in Russia and those carried out at the height of Stalinism:

“I’ve seen this before. Not in my lifetime, no. I saw it unfold before my astonished eyes in crumbling, yellowing newspaper clippings from the late 1920s and early 1930s. I saw it in stack after stack of microfiche materials. I saw it in the letters, poems, stories, plays and memoirs of those who lived through the nightmare of a culture collapsing on itself and its citizens…

Headlines and calls to ‘Attack!’ and ‘Ban!’ Accusations of ‘Unpatriotic!’

Is this 1933 or 2014?”

He brings out in the specific example of the writer Nikolai Erdman and legendary theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold, documenting their work and the persecution they suffered. (Incidentally, the work sounds amazing, as do some of the contemporary plays being denounced by the powers that be. Can someone please do productions in Prague so I can see all these plays? Please?)

This leads him to ask the inevitable and frightening question: “Are we on the verge of seeing it happen again?” The evidence, which is being piled on almost daily with new attacks and denunciations, does not lead to a very promising answer.

Photo – Vsevolod Meyerhold in the 1930s

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