Speakers of the panel discussion “Russian culture and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine”
During the discussion, the speakers addressed the interdependence of Russian culture and politics during the war. The event took place in cooperation with the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center’s partners in Germany: the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit (Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom), Thomas Dehler Stiftung (Thomas Dehler Foundation), and Ukrainischer Verein Augsburg e.V. (Ukrainian Association Augsburg).
The speakers of the discussion included:
Alina Ponypaliak – expert at the Ukrainian Centre for Security and Cooperation, PhD in History.
Heinrich Olschowsky – honorary professor of Polish studies at Humboldt University in Berlin.
The discussion was moderated by Constantin Groth – a candidate of historical sciences, program officer at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and the Thomas Deler Foundation.
We express our gratitude for the assistance in organizing provided by Kateryna Matei, representative of the Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation in Germany.
In the midst of the full-scale war, the world witnessed the true essence of the “great Russian culture” in museums across Kharkiv, Irpin, Bucha, Borodyanka, and the bombed center of Odessa. The war, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians and destroyed numerous Ukrainian cultural monuments, revealed the nature of Russia and the Russian people, as well as the concept of “Russian culture” and mentality.
Russian culture has been artificially constructed by appropriating the achievements of other nations, such as their cuisine, ballet, opera, literature, and more. Despite this, Russia has successfully promoted its own brand on the global stage for centuries.
“In the hybrid war, Russian cultural centers and institutes established in Europe with Kremlin support played a significant role. Through these institutions and a pre-established network of connections, Russians propagated propaganda and exerted influence to sway our Western partners towards Russia or, conversely, towards isolationism,” commented Alina Ponypaliak, an expert from the Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation.
For a long time, Russia has used culture as a tool in its hybrid war, both against Ukraine and the West. In Ukraine, this manifested as the replacement of our cultural and historical heritage with artificially created Russian elements, diminishing the significance of Ukrainian culture as rural and irrelevant compared to the “great Russian culture.” In the West, Russian culture served as a cover to elevate Russia to the level of other nations and divert attention from its chauvinistic and terrorist nature.
“The concept of culture primarily pertains to the mentality of a nation. Therefore, it is crucial today to question the responsibility of all layers of Russian society, including its culture, for the destruction and crimes against humanity they are committing in Ukraine,” noted Heinrich Olschowsky, Honorary Professor of Polonistics at Humboldt University in Berlin.
The Russian culture that Moscow has showcased to the world over the past year and a half consists of genocide, mass killings, and crimes against humanity, with Ukrainians as the victims. Reassessing this culture in the West, particularly in countries like Germany that were under prolonged Soviet influence, is essential for understanding Russian state formation as a phenomenon and shaping a future strategy towards Russia.
We express our gratitude to the partners of the Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation, the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit, Thomas Dehler Stiftung, and Ukrainischer Verein Augsburg e.V., for their support in organizing the event and their participation in the Ukrainian struggle.