Russia Increases Arts Funding as Sanctions Take Hold

April 22nd, 2022

The Russian government will pour one billion rubles ($12.1 million) into cultural projects affected by sanctions related to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, The Art Newspaperreports. The news was originally revealed to Russia’s Tass news agency by Sergei Kirienko, who serves as chief of staff to Russian president Vladimir Putin and who plays a significant role in shaping the nation’s cultural policy.

“These are funds that can and should go toward supporting cultural projects connected with Russian cultural identity, traditional spiritual and moral values, and the support of collectives and cultural figures who have become targets of sanction pressure,” said Kirienko. Since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has sought to squelch dissent through the promise of a fifteen-year prison sentence for those describing the Ukraine action—which the government has cast as a “special military operation”—as a “war” or “invasion.”

Since launching the attack, Russia has been subject to a tremendous talent drain, with a number of artists and cultural workers leaving their posts in protest, some of these departing for neighboring countries. Among those who have demonstrated their dissatisfaction by resigning or leaving are Vladimir Opredelenov, the veteran deputy director of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts; Francesco Manacorda, director of Moscow’s V-A-C Foundation; Simon Rees, artistic director at Cosmoscow; film critic Anton Dolin and theater critic Marina Davydova, both of whom saw their homes vandalized with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol; and Bolshoi Ballet star Olga Smirnova, who is now performing with the Dutch National Ballet.

The war has also affected the artistic careers of Russians living outside the country, particularly those who refuse to denounce the invasion. Recent weeks have seen the departure of Russian billionaire banker Petr Aven, a close Putin ally, from the board of London’s Royal Academy; the shunning of soprano Anna Netrebko, who was dropped by New York’s Metropolitan Opera after failing to vocally condemn Putin and then found herself reviled in her home country after attempting to distance himself from him; and Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, who was fired from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra over his ties to the despot.