06/29/2022, 09.21
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Putinism conquers the Hermitage

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The director of the St. Petersburg museum says art is a form of militarism and imperialism.  Journalist Pavljučik advises him to look at photographs of destroyed Ukrainian families. Director Nevzorov: "Today in Russia the last bastion of decency has fallen. Fascism knocked on the door of the Hermitage, and they opened it."

Moscow (AsiaNews) - An interview given to Rossijskaya Gazeta by Hermitage Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky is stirring contraversy after he explained how Russian art exhibitions abroad should be organized as "powerful special operations," because "we are all militarists and imperialists," and war is nothing but "the self-assertion of the nation." According to the Russian "patriarch of art," Russia is a part of Europe, and it is Europe that must unite with Russia as a new Soviet Union.

Indeed, the authority of the director of Russia's leading museum is comparable to that of the head of the Orthodox Church, and his assessments cannot be dismissed simply as "Putinian propaganda." According to Piotrovsky, Russians "are closely linked to European culture and Europe itself, and this is not erased by the special military operation in Ukraine."

Recalling the many wars that have characterized European history, he assures that "we have been and can be more Europe than the Europeans themselves, more than other classic nations of Europe, and certainly more than the European Union, which is looking more and more like the Soviet Union... We will never be isolated, we will absolutely remain a part of Europe, with equal rights and with equal value to others."

The Hermitage director extols Russian patriotism, as "a sense of one's own historical dignity," and if it is not the war that has to accomplish this, "there are many other things to be done and no less important, because our country is changing world history, and we have to be part of it." Piotrovsky is 78 years old and an Arabist philologist who has worked at the Hermitage since 1991, the son of another historical director, Boris Piotrovsky, a proponent of the museum's greatness from 1964 to 1990. Mikhail was also a deputy in Putin's "United Russia," and worked closely with the Kremlin leader, even serving on the committee that prepared the constitutional amendments passed in 2020.

Even within the limits of the current "Putin purges," which prevent all forms of dissent, there has been no shortage of outraged reactions in the Russian cultural world, and in public opinion in general. Journalist Leonid Pavljučik advised Piotrovsky to look at the photographs of destroyed Ukrainian families: "The director is an intelligent man capable of great visions, there is no point in arguing with him about these insane statements...I hope those photos will also appear in his dreams, during the night."

Writer Viktor Šenderovič observes that "the way to fall in love with the ideal of Big Brother always passes through suffering and slaughter, and often through the most exaggerated fantasies...Piotrovsky is allowing the survival instinct of his own power prevail." Another journalist, Viktor Mučnik, recalled that "love of art does not prevent anyone from becoming a cannibal...even Nazi hierarch Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main organizers of the final solution against the Jews, loved to play the violin."

Publisher Sergey Čapnin, a former Moscow Patriarchate contributor, believes that Piotrovsky's is "not simply an interview, but an oath of allegiance, published in an official press organ," and like many others, including Moscow Patriarch Kirill, this perspective "is now without return." Theater critic Anton Khitrov calls the interview a "fascist manifesto," similar to those already expressed by director Konstantin Bogomolov and other men of official culture, "it is the time when each of us must decide who we want to be, history will judge us by how we have been in 2022."

Well-known director and TV presenter Aleksandr Nevzorov concludes that "today in Russia, in St. Petersburg, the last bastion of decency, reason and respectability fell: fascism knocked on the Hermitage door, and they opened it."

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