In his essay, “Don’t Blame Dostoevsky,” Mikhail Shishkin (Harriman Writer in Residence, 2013) writes that “Putin dealt Russian culture a crushing blow, just as the Russian state has done to its artists, musicians, and writers so many times before.”
Culture, too, is a casualty of war. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some Ukrainian writers called for a boycott of Russian music, films, and books. Others have all but accused Russian literature of complicity in the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. The entire culture, they say, is imperialist, and this military aggression reveals the moral bankruptcy of Russia’s so-called civilization. The road to Bucha, they argue, runs through Russian literature.
Terrible crimes, I agree, are being committed in the name of my people, in the name of my country, in my name. I can see how this war has turned the language of Pushkin and Tolstoy into the language of war criminals and murderers. What does the world see of “Russian culture” today but bombs falling on maternity hospitals and mutilated corpses on the streets of Kyiv’s suburbs?
On March 28, 2022, Shishkin published the essay, “Neither NATO nor Ukraine can de-Putinise Russia. We Russians Must Do It Ourselves” in The Guardian.