“Apart from the regular bullets and tanks, the South Ossetian war between Georgia and Russia has brought forth some alternative methods of warfare. There was an alleged cyber-attack on Georgian Web sites that served as a premonition to the military action. More significant,
though, were the harshly harmonious sounds of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, performed in South Ossetia’s capital last Thursday.”
“The message is clear: South Ossetians are innocent victims; the Russian army, their knight in shining armor; and Georgia’s president Mikhail Saakashvili has a metaphorical toothbrush mustache not unlike
“Russia’s ongoing campaign of disinformation is cruder and less credible … the blatant use of art in the service of partisan (and military) politics during the appearance of the famed St. Petersburg Kirov Orchestra in Ossetia startled the West, where this sort of cultural diplomacy is normally reserved for more positive displays … how, then, do we respond to his vigorous celebration of a long-planned military action that the West likens more to the annexation of the Sudetenland than to a peace-keeping mission in Kosovo?”
“Anyone familiar with the overt mixing of art and politics in Russia, which is reminiscent of Soviet times, should not be surprised by these displays from Ossetia. The more interesting question remains: How does
Russia maintain such an intense hold on like-minded patriots in all strata of society?”
Clearly this sort of propaganda has a long history in Russia, and one could say even a glorious history in the Soviet Union (he who is not somewhat stirred by at least the scale of Socialist Realism is not fully alive) This is simply something they not only do, it is something the Russian soul seems to feed on. People from all strata of society buy into the prevailing rhetoric and swallow whole the “truths” being sold. To many in the west it is a very bizarre thing, intellectuals and artists and the social elite being not only believers in the official line, but propagators of the talking points. While in Washington people would be protesting the war, in Moscow everyone, even artists, are cheering it.
So, what we should get out of this is not shock and surprise that artists are feeding into the Russian Propaganda machine, it is that all Russians seems to buy it. It should amaze us that a whole society is consumed by this rhetoric and so universally supportive of their government that protest or question nothing that is does.
It is this basic fact about what I have come to term, Creeping Fascism, that most bothers me in this whole horrible situation. For it seems to be that when artists begin to work in lockstep in support of the state rather than in criticism of the state, and when people believe in the power of the state over the welfare of the people, then that country is somehow going wrong and may soon be a grave danger to itself and the world.
It is something I have feared for a long time for my own country, the United States, and now which I can see being made manifest in Russia. If this process continues unabated, without any internal checks and balances, then we all have much to fear. Let us hope that Russia can self correct much as we struggle to get our own countries to get back on the right track.
Mark Rein-Hagen is a writer based out of Tbilisi