On April 4, 2022, the 40th day of Russia’s full-scale invasion, their troops shelled a road near a bus stop in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. One person was killed and five were injured in the missile strikes. And in Mariupol, another southern city that stood heroically but fell to the invaders, 150,000 civilians were trapped under shelling and deprived of food.
Also on April 4, Ukrainian and Russian ballet dancers performed together for peace in Naples. They fundraised around €50,000 to pay for Ukrainian refugees in Italy. Was it good for Ukraine? Or for Italy?
This particular story didn’t make it to big news. But it was still helpful for Putin.
Around that time Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the vast State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, spoke of the importance of cultural bridges. He did it to avoid seizure of arts on loans. He succeeded and thanked Fondation Louis Vuitton profusely, as returning the works was a matter of honor for them.
In June 2022, Piotrovsky has opened up about the war. “First and foremost, it is my country and I must be with it… Our country is carrying out great global transformations… We are all militarists and imperials [trying to be funny],” he is quoted by The Art Newspaper (London/NYC).
By now we know that the Russian army destroyed or damaged over 250 museums and institutions in Ukraine. 2,000 art objects are estimated to have been looted, and special squads exist to track down and expropriate antiquities such as Scyth artefacts from archaeological digs, to relocate to Russia.
Russia weaponized its culture with the purpose to manipulate intellectuals worldwide whom they classified as gullible enough to serve as useful idiots. And the likes of the Hermitage museum director and the ballerinas are actually a weapon that is poised to pierce your heart. Please just beware of it.
And also please do know that the Russian invasion has been destroying the culture mercilessly and indiscriminately, be it pre-Slavic artifacts, a theatre named after Pushkin or a local library.