Ukraine War Day #378: The Western War Against Russian Art

Dear Readers:

Yesterday we talked about a genuine Ukrainian artist, Lesya Ukrainka. A person whom the Ukrainian people can rightfully claim as their own cultural heritage. But today, sadly, we must speak about cultural appropriation and outright thievery! I have this piece by reporter Andrei Rezchikov. The topic is the disgraceful rewriting of art history, on the part of major Western museums. We have discussed this issue before, under the rubric of “Stolen Valor”. By which, I mean that Western art curators are attempting, for political/propagandistic reasons, to rob Russia of her artistic heritage and attribute some of her greatest works to “Ukraine”. In order to beef up the latter’s standing in cultural history, while denigrating Russians as mere barbarians who cannot produce any culture equal to that of the West.

Stolen Valor

Now, I hasten to add, it’s not like the entity known as “Ukraine” does not have its own artists, musicians, writers, and the like. They do. We saw that with Lesya Ukrainka, for example. It’s just that Westies are trying to give Ukrainian Nationalists gifts that they do not own, nor deserve.

painter Arkhip Kuindzhi

We start with an exhibit from the Metropolian Museum of Art, a painting by Arkhip Kuindzhi. You will see in his American wiki, I think the way they describe him is actually okay: “… was a landscape painter from the Russian Empire of Pontic Greek descent from the area of Mariupol (modern-day East Ukraine). ” In other words, the man was ethnic Greek, born in Mariupol, which was then a subject of the Russian Empire, now considered to be part of modern-day Ukraine. (Well, we can quibble that last bit, Mariupol is part of Donetsk Peoples Republic now, but whatever, wiki can still insist that Donbass is Ukraine for the next few decades, if they wish to be stubborn.) But anyhow, aside from that quibble, I think it’s okay to add context by pointing out the current location of a place where a famous person was born. For example: “Immanuel Kant, born in Königsberg, Prussia, which is now a city in the Russian Federation…” What is not okay is to claim that Kuindzhi is Ukrainian. Just because he was born in a place that later was enfolded into Ukrainian administrative borders. “Immanuel Kant is therefore Russian, and can be considered as a great Russian philosopher…”

In other words, it is NOT okay to take Kuindzhi’s paintings and claim them as part of the Ukrainian cultural legacy. Any more than claiming Kant’s philosophical works as part of the Russian intellectual legacy. Kuindzhi’s legacy belongs to the Russian Empire, with some nods to his Greek ethnic heritage.

Anyhow, the issue is that the Metropolitan Museum took it upon themselves, in an excess of Virtue-Signalling, to change the citation on Kuindzhi’s famous painting “Red Sunset on the Dnieper” to read: “Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, Ukrainian, born in Mariupol in 1841, died in St. Petersburg in 1910.” Right. Kuindzhi was a Ukrainian, like Kant was a Russian.

Red Sunset Over the Dniepr River

“I would like to file a complaint…”

The Russian news agency RIA sent numerous inquiries to the Metropolitan Museum staff asking them to explain their modification of Kuindzhi’s nationality. They received no official reply at first. However, one of the curators there, requesting anonymity, reported that the modification was a reaction to the conflict in Ukraine. She herself was surprised to learn that Kuindzhi “had suddenly become a Ukrainian.” Later one of the spokespersons for the Information Bureau of the museum huffily told the Russian correspondent, that the museum docoumentation goes by the city in which an artist was born. Since Kuindzhi was born in Mariupol, and since Mariupol is currently a part of Ukraine [yalensis: Not any more, but whatever…], therefore he is a Ukrainian. When the correspondent pointed out that Mariupol was, at that time, a city of the Russian Empire, the museum worker just shrugged and said “in that case, he didn’t know what the issue was all about.”

yalensis: I just googled the Metropolitan Museum site, and I noticed they may have partially conceded to their critics. They still call Kuindzhi a Ukrainian, but concede that he was born in the Russian Empire. Baby steps. They do make sure to insert into their entry some contemporary propaganda about Russians destroying the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, in an airstrike. The entry reads thusly:

Red Sunset

Arkhyp Kuindzhi (Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi) Ukrainian, born Russian Empire
1905–8 [yalensis: So… he was born between the years 1905-1908. It took 3 years for his mom to push him out, ouch!]

 On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 800

Kuindzhi’s style is exemplified here by the minimalist composition and dramatic light, color, and clouds. The site has been identified as the river called the Dnipro in Ukrainian (Russian, Dniepr; Belarusian, Dnyapro), which runs south through the three countries to the Black Sea. The artist was born along the coast in Mariupol when the Ukrainian city was part of the Russian Empire. Kuindzhi, who was descended from Pontic Greeks from Crimea, spoke Greek, Crimean Tatar, Russian, and Ukrainian, a skill that served him well as he moved around the northern Black Sea and then to St. Petersburg. There he associated with the Peredvizhniki (sometimes translated as the Wanderers), a pioneering exhibition group, and was later an influential teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts.

In March 2022, the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, Ukraine, was destroyed in a Russian airstrike.

Was the Museum Actually Destroyed?

yalensis: When I read (in the quote above) that the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol had been wiped out in a Russian airstrike, I was horrified. So many beautiful paintings lost forever! This is one of the many reasons why war sucks so much.

Watercolor painting of the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol

I hoped that maybe it wasn’t true, so I did a bit of research online. The wiki editors themselves noted that the “update” about the airstrike had not been completely fact-checked, so there was still some hope. I still don’t know what to believe. On the one hand, there are tons of entries out there, for example this one, which claim that the Museum is no more. Just a heap of ashes. The Russians ruthlessly levelled it to the ground (March 21, 2022), along with all of its 2,000 priceless exhibits.

On the other hand, my google searching brought up this pro-Ukrainian piece. Which claims that the “Russian occupiers” looted the museum on August 20, 2022. So, it was levelled to the ground in March, and then properly looted 5 months later? The pictures of the looting show an intact building, just rooms vandalized within. So much for the airstrike.

The only way to really find out if this Schrödinger museum is still there, and if the paintings still exist: Some stalwart reporter (or tourist) needs to visit #58 Georgievskaya Street in Mariupol and see the truth with his or her own eyeballs. If you google it, this entry seems to suggest that it’s open today (Wednesday, March 8), between 9AM – 4:30 PM, although Hours might differ. Cross fingers, maybe it still exists!

Next: More accidental Ukrainians appear in the art world.

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Military and War, Russian History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Ukraine War Day #378: The Western War Against Russian Art

  1. The barbarian Russo-phobes have not only disgraced the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art but also the Metropolitan Opera of New York whose General Manager cancelled the scheduled performance of the great Russian soprano, Anna Netrebko because when asked to denounce President Putin for the “Russian invasion” of Ukraine, she refused to do so. Another great American cultural institution, the Metropolitan Opera of New York City, the barbarian management has shamed and vilified, depriving the many Metropolitan Opera devotees from witnessing and appreciating the wondrous talents of Anna Netrebko. Praise be Anna Netrebko, for whom consciousness takes precedence over career.


    • yalensis says:

      Well said! My older readers know that I used to be a devoted fan of the Metropolitan Opera, I attended many of their livestream performances (in the movie theater) and wrote detailed reviews of their productions on my blog.

      This past season, alas, I have had to boycott them for principled reasons. It wasn’t just because of Netrebko. General Manager Peter Gelb made a disgusting display of his pro-Ukrainian views, even produced a nauseating flag-waving “Evening for Ukraine”, etc. I blame him for whoring out the Met to the Ukrainian Nazis.

      He should have stayed neutral. Classical music should be above politics.


  2. WJ says:

    95% chance the museum is just fine. As in the western media & government lies 95% of the time.


  3. Daniel Rich says:

    @ yalensis,

    Russians are Barbarossa Barbarians!

    You don’t get it, do you?

    ‘We’ westerners are the best thing that ever happened to mankind. Don’t look any further or beyond that ‘fact!’

    Hate Russia!
    Hate Russia!
    Hate Russia!
    Hate Russia!
    Hate Russia!

    Just sing along with the rest of us Russophobes, will you, you Putin fan boy?!



    • yalensis says:

      Well, maybe being a barbarian isn’t such a bad thing, is it? Just like being a Mongol may not be such a bad thing after all…
      Maybe we should just embrace what they call us!

      Me Orc, You Unlucky!



      • Daniel Rich says:

        @ yalensis,

        A Russian tree…?


        Russian athletes…?


        Russian composers…?


        Russian writers…?


        Russian art…?


        <insert chanting of USA!USA!USA!USA!USA!


  4. I noticed this a while ago. Wikifreakia for instance will say that Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was born in “British India”, but any Ukrainian born before 1991 is somehow born in “Ukraine”.

    Part of the attempt to pretend Ukraine existed for millennia, I suppose.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s