Medinsky the Media Magnet
Published: May 19, 2014 (Issue # 1810)
Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky received an honorary fellowship on Thursday a few days late and not quite as planned.
The institution doing the honors was Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy, but a planned ceremony in Italy on May 12 was junked at the last minute. Instead, the honor was publicly presented to Medinsky in Moscow on Thursday. The official reason for the delay and change of venue, according to Radio Svoboda, was a conflict in the Minister's schedule. Or, as many media outlets have reported, the change may have come about as a result of a protest among students and faculty in Venice, claiming that Medinsky was unworthy of the honor.
As reported in The Local, an English-language site for news about Italy, Medinsky raised hackles in Europe a month ago when he suggested that European culture has grown depraved and put forth Russia as "the last keeper of European culture, Christian values and truly European civilization."
On the same day Medinsky was honored by the Italian university, a group of 50 Russian writers and artists condemned the event in an open letter published on Colta.ru. In part, the letter stated that, "The awarding of an honorary degree by a European university to one of the most odious figures in contemporary Russian cultural politics, one who does battle with European values, multiculturalism and tolerance, will inflict damage on the reputation of the educational institution..."
This latest incident does not particularly stand out in the larger scheme of things. It is, however, still another example of how Medinsky, more than any Russian minister of culture in recent memory, has — by choice and by fortune — inserted himself into the story of Russian culture. Most of the time, it has had little to do with culture as art, and much to do with culture as ideology and morality.
It is a sign of the rapidly shifting times, a period in which the public is encouraged to choose sides for or against ideas, policies, opinions and people.
This can be gleaned in an interview published on Wednesday by Izvestia, wherein Medinsky discussed the now-notorious letter composed in March by the Ministry of Culture and signed by hundreds of prominent Russian artists who supported President Vladimir Putin's policies in Ukraine. He claimed that the idea for the open letter came about because "two or three" famous cultural figures, "always the same people," were constantly criticizing Putin's position.
Pages: