A Breakdown of Cultural Institutions Banning Russia

Photo: Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Musicians and celebrities including Green Day, Louis Tomlinson, and disgraced comedian Louis CK have canceled events in Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine, and the ongoing ban of Russian cultural exports has spread to global institutions. Artists and organizations have begun speaking out against Russian involvement in various cultural events. The boycotts have affected almost every corner of the cultural sphere from Warner Bros. delaying releases of films like Turning Red and The Batman in Russia to the Met Opera and Cannes Film Festival releasing their own statements and barring Putin-allied artists from taking part in their events. Read on for the statements and plans from institutions limiting Russian involvement.

Met Opera will “no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him.”
In a February 27 Facebook video, Met Opera general manager Peter Gelb made a statement standing with the people of Ukraine and denouncing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country. He declared the Met will end its partnership with Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, which was slated to stage a production of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin there next year. Instead, the Met will stage the opera itself. The decision stoked speculation that the Met may cut ties with Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko, who was tapped to star as the title character in Turandot in April. Netrebko addressed the situation on her Instagram, which has been made private, asserting that she is opposed to the war but believes “forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.” Netrebko previously endorsed Putin’s campaign and publicly wished she was Putin’s lover after rumors erupted that the two were romantically involved.

Carnegie Hall cancels performances by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra.
Russian director Valery Gergiev was set to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall in May before the venue cut ties with him, citing current events and COVID-19. Gergiev is an outspoken supporter of Putin’s regime; the two met in 1992 before Putin awarded him with the Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation prize in 2013. Although numerous affiliated institutions have asked Gergiev to release a statement, he has maintained his silence on the matter as of March 1. Carnegie Hall also canceled two May performances by the Mariinsky Orchestra, which would have been led by Gergiev. On March 1, Gergiev was fired from his position as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic for his refusal to take a stance.

FIFA bans Russian teams ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
After Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic refused to play against Russia in the World Cup, FIFA and UEFA barred Russian teams from participating in international competitions. Russia was slated to play for one of the final slots in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup tournament. “Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said in a statement posted to their websites. “Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace among people.”

International Judo Federation and World Taekwondo strip Putin of his honors.
The International Judo Federation suspended Putin, a judoka, from his title as honorary president, citing the war. This motion comes after European Judo Union president Sergey Soloveychik resigned from his role February 27. World Taekwondo removed Putin’s honorary ninth black belt, a blow for a politician who has spent his term emphasizing physical strength.

Venice Biennale removes the Russia pavilion; Ukraine pavilion responds.
Russian artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov and curator Raimundas Malašauskas announced February 27 that they were leaving the Venice art show of their own volition to protest the war. The Biennale backed their decision in a statement: “The Biennale expresses its complete solidarity for this noble act of courage and stands beside the motivations that have led to this decision, which dramatically epitomize the tragedy that has beset the entire population of Ukraine.” On February 24, the team behind the Ukrainian pavilion posted a statement that, although it hopes to represent Ukraine at the show, “we are not able to continue working on the pavilion project due to the danger of our lives.” Despite removing the pavilion, Venice will still allow independent Russian artists to participate. “For those who oppose the current Russian regime, there will always be a place in the exhibitions of the Biennale,” the organization announced March 2.

Eurovision bars Russia from competing.
The Eurovision Song Contest, which is known for copious amounts of body glitter and choreographed tracks, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On February 25, the day after the European Broadcasting Union asserted that Eurovision was a “non-political cultural event,” it reversed its decision to let Russia compete. In a new statement, the EBU maintains that its verdict was “apolitical” but mentioned that “the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring competition into disrepute.” Ukraine chose rap trio Kalush Orchestra as a replacement for Alina Pash, who withdrew after backlash concerning a 2015 trip to Crimea.

European Film Academy banned Russian films from the European Film Awards.
The European Film Academy expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian filmmaking community and condemned Putin’s actions in a second statement after an initial February 24 one was blasted by Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa in an inflammatory open letter. “The Academy will therefore exclude Russian films from this year’s European Film Awards and we end our support for each element of the boycott,” the EFA wrote.

Cannes Film Festival bans Russian delegations pending the outcome of the war.
The Cannes Film Festival announced on March 1 that it would deny entry to any individuals with ties to the Russian government “unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people.” It is unclear whether Russian films will be barred from the official selection, but Cannes added that it salutes “the courage of all those in Russia who have taken risks to protest” including “artists and film professionals.”

National Hockey League penalizes Russia.
The National Hockey League will refrain from doing business with Russian partners, suspend all of its Russian-language media sites, and remove Russia’s hosting privileges for future hockey competitions. “We also remain concerned about the well-being of the players from Russia, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL clubs, and not on behalf of Russia,” the league wrote in a statement. Czech Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek urged the NHL to “immediately suspend the contracts of all Russian-born players” before criticizing Alex Ovechkin, an athlete who has voiced avid support for Putin in the past. “He’s my president, but I’m not in politics,” Ovechkin replied.

BBC pulls Doctor Who from Russian airwaves.
The BBC will demand that Russian stations pull popular programs including Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing from their slates. BBC’s executive team will no longer license content to Russian customers, and Russian networks have been urged not to air shows that have already been purchased from the BBC including Sir David Attenborough’s The Green Planet. Although there’s a chance Russian networks will not comply with these demands, the decision places pressure on state-owned and state-aligned broadcasters such as Russia 1, which has ties to the Kremlin.

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