Op-Ed: On Modern Russian Culture: Epilogue to the Prologue

Dear Readers:

We are finally at the end of our torturous journey through the Inferno of Modern Russian Culture.  With Lyttenburgh playing the role, both of Virgil, and one of Satan’s Little Lashers.  (You know, those little demons, who poke and lash people who totally deserve it.)

Before turning the mic back over to Lyt, though, I must rudely and inexcusably abuse my editorial power to make one further point of my own; and this is reply to Lyttenburgh’s own comment which he posted this morning, to the effect that Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky will not be bent by the censorship of the mob.  Lyttenburgh wrote:

I reiterate once again. These shockingly life-like stuffd animals, hanged around famous paintings in a way that would make any fan of BDSM and animal mutiliation proud and salivating – this is “art”. People who come to the Hermitage museum, who pay rate steep price for the tickets, who usually come from the backgrounds of those, who are willing to come and appreciate the art in the first place – they are “the crowd”.

Despite all this controversy, the exhibition won’t be closed – that’s the power of Piotrovsky. It will continue no matter what till April 2017.

Что делать?

I started to reply to Lyt’s remark in the Comment section, and then decided to put my reply way up here, at the top of the blogpost.  Why?  Because I can.  So, here is my comment.  I have an idea what to do about all this nonsense.  My modest hope is to rally the “thinking-tariat” to rebel against this faux art.  But not in the nihilistic, or a violent way.  I do not condone attacking exhibits (however bad), nor tossing urine on Jock Sturges photographs which I do actually think are quite good, and do constitute real art, but that’s just my personal opinion.  No, my friends, as an ethnic Russian it is my duty to propose an alternative solution to the perennial Russian question:  “Well, what should we do about it?”  A two-pronged attack, namely:  (1) Hire that little boy who pointed out that the Emperor is not wearing any pants; and (2) Find a few REAL artists somewhere as allies, who can point out what it takes to actually be an artist, namely studying for many years, learning to draw and paint, obtaining a degree and/or serving an apprenticeship, mastering the craft, etc.  Recruit some of these artists to turn against the fake artists.

Here is the plan:

(1) Those people out there who have the ability to go to the Hermitage:  Do go there, and see all the good exhibits, and then stand in front of these stuffed animals, point at them (preferably in a group), and say the words:  “This is not good.  This is not real Art.”

Он управлял теченьем мыслей
И только потому страной.

Why will this form of protest be effective?  Because it undercuts those who seek to “rule our minds” by totally confusing us, as to what is good, what is bad.

(2) There are easily identifiable metrics which denote a good painting, or a good sculpture.  Metrics include:  Complexity of style, use of angles, shading, perspective, skill of brushwork, etc.  These stuffed animals do not display any of those characteristics of Good Art.  Hence, they are not good, and the people should make it clear that this attempt to “baffle them with bullshit” has not succeeded in its goal!  But in order to do this effectively, they need to, like I said, recruit allies from among the ranks of the artistic intelligentsia.  Find the good ones, turn them against the bad ones.  Reward the good ones, ignore the bad ones.

And now, having rallied the masses to battle with my “cunning plan”, I hereby drop the mic once again and return it to Lyttenburgh, for his final words on the matter:


“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”

– W. B. Yates. “The Second Coming”

Culture is a sum of all material and spiritual values of society. And Russian culture is sick. Saying that “meh, the whole world has the same problems” does not change the fact that it is wrong, that our culture is sick, and someone else’s problems do nothing to normalize an obviously unhealthy situation.

“Excuse me, Sir! I lost my Falconer!”

In previous chapters, I described the current state of affairs, sides of the conflict and its general trends. The proverbial gyre is turning in the more widening circles, faster and faster thanks in no small measure to the wondrously abhorrent social media. The center cannot hold any longer. Or, if you prefer – ordinary people do not want to live according to the previous rules and norms, with which the artistic intelligentsia saddled them, while the kreakls do not want to change anything in either their lifestyle or the artistic method. The only question is the following – will it be Revolution from the Top, controlled and initiated by the state, which will curtail most of the excesses and do the damage control – or will we end up with the Revolution from the Bottom, bearing all the telltale signs and characteristics of Russian Revolt.

Because the people, narod, won’t back down. It’s fed up with inconsistency and hypocrisy. It’s sick and tired of the fact that things held dear by it are routinely belittled, offended, smeared with dirt, laughed at and hated by the ones, who deem themselves socially, culturally (and, perhaps, a little bit racially) superior than them under the uncaring gaze of the State. The same State which, finally and to the people’s approval put on a shield of traditional values and other thing held dear by most of Russians, but which does nothing to defend them, instead either allowing – or deliberately organizing and funding – things and events, running contrary to the proclaimed ideals.

Nowadays everybody is an Art Critic.

The very moment when the feudal class absconded itself with the obligatory service to their feudal liege and the country, and began living life of privilege and excess, at the expense of their peasants, the whole system become doomed to extinction. It was probably most shockingly visible in the XVIII century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, aka the Rzeczpospolita (“Republic”), with its quarrelsome szlachta, all-powerful magnates, powerless kings and masses of serfs, whom their betters called bydlo, i.e. “cattle”. By the end of the century this state ceased to exist, partitioned among its less all-permissive neighbors. Or one can recall French aristocracy in years previous to the Great French Revolution.

Old feudal order was thoroughly trashed, but some of its ideals proved to be progress- and time-resistant. Ideas generally are very hard to kill, so its no wonder that centuries later we now see a significant number of people proclaiming their superiority before both the state and the “commoners”, who bitterly hold onto their rights and privileges (and ask for more), who deny that they should be judged, but who judge others –who deny responsibility, and demand compliance. Naturally, ordinary people (and, sometimes, the State) disagree with that.

Self-proclaimed Aristocrats of the Spirit must learn about responsibility. They must learn, that whoever “orders the music, also dances the girl”. Use whatever term you like – either “producer’s meddling” or “censorship”. It doesn’t matter – they must realize, that, no, they are not a new nobility or the new priest caste. They are just a tiny strata of service experts, who, as it’s been always the case, must fulfill the (social) order of those, who pay them money. If they disagree with this approach – they are also free to go and find themselves a rich patron of the art, who would be willing to cover all of their expenses, while asking for nothing in return sans the chance to behold a True Art. After all, it’s said, that the prospect of the death by hunger tend to concentrate one’s mind wonderfully. What is surely no longer deemed acceptable, is for the state’s (i.e. people’s) money to be squandered on those, who either despises both the people and the state and/or fails to comply with the conditions of the societal order.

Right now artistic intelligentsia, thanks to its well publicized views and actions have lost all respect among the people – and, hopefully, it will soon lose any power as well. People view them as alien and hostile element, and the state grows doubtful of the necessity to furnish these parasites (and we know that parasite creatures both harm the host body, feed from it, but can’t live out of it), especially in such testing times. Respect and moral authority are things not to be taken for granted, or inherited from one’s parents – they must be earned and maintained by diligent and constant work plus a healthy degree of humility.

The great Russian poet A.S. Pushkin wrote, that there is only one other contemporary poet in Russia, of whose work he is genuinely jealous – N.M. Yazykov.  Yazykov worked in a different epoch with different ideals, worries and concerns. And yet, isn’t it a sign of a true talent and genius, when words can still reverberate most powerfully across the centuries and into the present day? In his poem “К не нашим” (“To those who are not one of us” – 1844) Yazykov writes:

О вы, которые хотите
Преобразить, испортить нас
И онемечить Русь, внемлите
Простосердечный мой возглас!
Кто б ни был ты, одноплеменник
И брат мой: жалкий ли старик,
Её торжественный изменник,
Её надменный клеветник;
Иль ты, сладкоречивый книжник,
Оракул юношей-невежд,
Ты, легкомысленный сподвижник
Беспутных мыслей и надежд;
И ты, невинный и любезный,
Поклонник тёмных книг и слов,
Восприниматель достослезный
Чужих суждений и грехов;
Вы, люд заносчивый и дерзкой,
Вы, опрометчивый оплот
Ученья школы богомерзкой,
Вы все — не русский вы народ!


Вам наши лучшие преданья
Смешно, бессмысленно звучат;
Могучих прадедов деянья
Вам ничего не говорят;
Их презирает гордость ваша.
Святыня древнего Кремля,
Надежда, сила, крепость наша —
Ничто вам! Русская земля
От вас не примет просвещенья,
Вы страшны ей: вы влюблены
В свои предательские мненья
И святотатственные сны!
Хулой и лестию своею
Не вам её преобразить,
Вы, не умеющие с нею
Ни жить, ни петь, ни говорить!



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3 Responses to Op-Ed: On Modern Russian Culture: Epilogue to the Prologue

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    Our dear host yalensis argued most profoundly for some members of Russian creative class to express their “positive” feedback on this on that event, to balance what their “evil twins” are producing daily.

    Ah. Well… That’s the problem.

    My lengthy article was, in fact, a big refutation of Konstantin Raykin’s complains made in his infamous speech. Granted, I was not “anvilicous ” so, yes, some anvil’s were not dropped (as the trope goes). Still, I guess I spent enough time providing real life examples and evidence to argue against all Raykin’s points.

    Namely – the supposed lack of “crafts solidarity” (rus. “цеховой солидарности”). Monsieur Raikin and other high tier kreakls have nothing to worry about – the whole creative intelligentsia strata is thick as thieves when it comes to support one of their own. Hell, of their own can be charged of anything – it doesn’t matter, for solidarity also propagates handshakability. And handshakable individual can do ANYTHING without fear of retribution.

    Now, let us plunge into the ugly sea of nonhadshakability, populated by those who dare to deny the tenets of what constitute the True Meaning of Whatever. What do we see here?

    Well, mostly, nothing. No one dares to go against the current so Raykin’s cry about the supposed “lack of craft’s solidarity (c)” is insincere. Actually, I’ve spent enough time providing real life examples so that anyone should have learn by now that the so called kreakls of Russia re thick as thieves when it comes to reaction to anything threatening them as (yeah, you guessed it right) a “craft”.

    There was a reason why only Zaldostanov (and later – Ramzan Kadyrov) spoke out against Raykin’s speech.

    Are there “loyal” members of the creative class, not engaged in the fashionable Fronde to the government? Yes, there are. Unfortunately, they are personified in the figure of Nikita Mikhalkov. A person that currently has absolutely no moral authority whatsoever, and only known for his elastic political views and utter devotion to the idea of remaining in Kremlin’s good graces, no matter who is power. He and other’s like him not only lack the moral authority, so that their words would be listened too by the general public – they also lack any real influence on “artistic circles” as well.

    Consider the Russia’s modern history (i.e. the events of last 25 years). Which of them are really “liked” by the artistic intelligentsia, so that they’d devote some of their creative juices to highlight them? Well, the one’s that portray Russia as really shitty place to live in, of course! Maybe it’s inborn elitism of anyone, who feels their superiority over “crowd” and “rabble”, which makes them detest everything liked by the people and like everything hated by them. That’s why we won’t hear poems (nay – odes!) from Dima Bykov non-ironically celebrating Crimea’s reunion with Russia. That’s why we won’t see on a stage Russian troops portrayed as liberators of Tskhinval. That’s why we won’t see any huge theatrical troupe or performers taking tours to Crimea – or Donbass – because all of them are afraid of becoming unhandshakable or sanctioned.

    And that’s why we won’t see a condemnation of sick and perverted “exhibitions” coming from within ranks of the creative class. To do this is to indirectly side with the “rabble” and the government of This Country. For them its akin to become a nark and informer to the prison guards. Not that they won’t like to become one (they are rotten enough to be ones if the price is right), but they are afraid of being shived by their fellow “prisoners”.


  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    Here our dear UCG joins the debate , and comes up with direct and uncompromising solution to a problem. A solution, befitting any Bolshevik! Bravo! 😉

    ^ Rare photo depicting UCG seconds before he voices his opinion of the general state of affairs of Russian culture to a starry eyed kreaklessa.

    Honestly, the idea of “throwing out to the cold” (rus. “выкинуть на мороз”) a good number of these parasites really resonates with me in very positive way. Still, I have some questions before we begin the Purge.

    You write absolutely correct that “ When such a program was first introduced, the objective was to spread Soviet Culture to the World”. Key word here – Soviet. As I explained in Part I, culture had always been a tool of propaganda. Let’s not shy away from this word, which only means the “spread of smth”. Like the spread of ideas and values, of what is considered to be a norm, or ideals in this or that society.

    Now, there is Soviet Union no more and Russia Federation – according to the constitution – is ideology free country. Yet we inherited a system of stimulating Culture and Art based on its potential ideological value. All our present woes could be traced back to this dichotomy and contradiction.

    UCG, are you suggesting that we should scrap the Ministry of Culture outright – like it’s been done in all those countries, “freed” from the SU in the aftermath of Perestroika? To stop funding all (ALL) theatres, film studios, circuses, operas etc? Do you want all these Distinguished Artists kicked on the street?

    Because these ruling gerontocrats of the Art consider that they have already “suffered” in the past under most brutal Regime and now they are just enjoying their justly reward. And because This Country is always ruled by tyrants and despots, all future Aristocrats of the Spirit feel entitled to whatever they manage to grab from the state. Imagine the volume of scream that these distinguished Personas of Art would raise should the State start “terrorize” them via cutting of the funding. Imagine the Pressitudes of the World putting on a shield Konstantin Raykin and other’s like him, who would be denied the funds. They will surely spin it as a brave struggle of these Big Names against the Man.

    “In California we use the attendance as the main metric.”

    Won’t work in Russia. In the past we had exactly this system. In tough time theatre owners would distribute billets among, say, schools, state enterprises or even the military. Sometimes, they’d even do it for free. Next they strike a deal with those put in charge of the future “attendees” – to turn up during certain days when they expect the commission from the Ministry of Culture to visit them, so they could point to the full hall and claim that they are having a “full-house”. Ministry of culture happy at such turn of event would then surely give that theatre much coveted “13th salary” at the end of the year.

    Sure, actually selling as much tickets for a full price as they try to portray during this masquerade would be more profitable for the theatre – because, I remind you, all income stays with theatre, no matter the source. But they simply can’t hope to accomplish that!

    “The Soviet did a really good job, but there’s a reason why the Imperial Age of Literature was called the Golden Age, and the Soviet Age, the Silver Age.”

    Erm, no – the Silver Age was pre-Revolutionary 2 decades (with Akhmatova, Bunin, Chekhov, Tsvetayeva and others). Soviet Age didn’t receive any “precious metals” nickname. And, by all appearances, currently we live in the Dark Ages of culture.

    “In Lytburger’s interview there’s one guy who didn’t fail, and he was the one who wanted a metrics system. The others revolted against him.”

    Krok is part and parcel of this whole rotten system, too cowardly to suggest anything “revolutionary”, that would possibly extricate his fellow kreakls from their comfort zone. Here his interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda. He furiously handshakes Kirill Serebrennikov (you know, the actor who “starred” in the Leviathan and pretty much in total agreement with the central “message” of the movie). He also delivered another blow to my sanity by quoting yet another piece of data concerning the state funding of theatres.

    His theatre was the most successful income-wise in Russia. For each ruble “invested” by the Ministry of Culture he earned 2.5! And he earned them – sponsors gave only 7 out of 520 million rubles to them. For comparison – already mentioned by me in the chapter about Ministry of Culture theatre “Modern” is clearly failing behind all possible standards of what should be considered a “successful cultural institution”. It’s is not as debt ridden or plainly money losing one like Raykin’s “Satyrikon”, no. But direct governmental funding amounts to 86% of the money total which constitutes the “budget” of the “Theatre Modern”, meaning that it’s only profitable by 14%. “Pushkin’s Theatre” depend on the government funds for only 34% of its “budget”, meaning that its profitable by 66%.

    And then Konstantin Krok loses it. He once again reiterates that the state must keep funding even unprofitable theatres, that the favor of private sponsors is a fickle thing compared to the stead stream of governmental (read – people’s) money, and that the Art is always loss incurring. Take away the state funds from Satyrikon, Modern or Pushkin’s theatre and they won’t survive. Even his own theatre, despite being profitable, needs state funds to pay his actors above the average rates (101 340 rubles on average, 200 000 max). To “survive” he’d have to either fire half of his personnel, or to increase the price of the tickets.

    And that was the “best” of them, Artistic Directors, UCG. Even him is too faithful to the system as it is.

    In the ideal world we (well, Russian Ministry of Culture, actually) would have stop pussyfooting long time ago. They’d gather all those fashionable artistic parasites and, don’t caring for the rank or age, give them a speech right from “Glengarry Glen Ross”.

    Ministry of Culture must formulate to them that there are 2 ways of creating Art for people’s money – “My way, or a highway”. All who disagree with this are free to go to Kickstarter. The whole system of our Culture was created in mind of producing world-class objects of art serving to, yes, propagate and extol certain values. Let’s be honest with ourselves and use it to exact this purpose, or let us scrap the whole thing altogether and allow the Invisible Hand of the Market () free reign.

    Unfortunately, we still, as a country, are devoid of ideology. Liberal capitalism doesn’t appeal to us anymore, but no one is willing to come back to the socialism either. With this ideological void filled by virtually nothing but a couple of hastily cobbled together and often contradictory and insincere ideas, like the official support of the patriotism and the traditional values (which so far, remains only a declaration of intent), the Government can’t really claim such a thing from the Artistic Aristocracy. It simply doesn’t know what should be this “state order”.


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