Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged that the West of trying to cancel Russian culture, including great composers and writers.
“Today, they are trying to cancel a thousand-year-old country,” Putin said in a televised meeting, according to state-run media.
“I am talking about the progressive discrimination against everything connected with Russia, about this trend that is unfolding in a number of Western states, with the full connivance and sometimes with the encouragement of Western elites,” Putin said, continuing to say that the “the proverbial ‘cancel culture’ has become a cancellation of culture.”
The Russian leader’s speech comes as Moscow enters the second month of its war in Ukraine. Since the start of the Feb. 24 conflict, Western countries have placed heavy sanctions on Russia’s economy, Putin, and other top Kremlin leaders.
There have also been reports of the works of classical composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Sergei Rachmaninoff being pulled from orchestra performances despite the composers having died many decades ago.
During the televised meeting, Putin asserted there was a campaign against those Russian composers and writers.
“The so-called ‘cancel culture’ has turned into ‘the canceling of culture.’ [Composers] Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninoff are getting erased from concert programs. Russian writers and their books are also getting banned. Such a massive campaign to destroy undesirable literature was carried out last time by the Nazis in Germany nearly 90 years ago,” he said during the speech, according to state media.
The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra in Wales earlier this month canceled a performance of the Tchaikovsky because of the conflict in Ukraine earlier this month, saying that his “1812 Overture” was militaristic in nature, although it was composed nearly 150 years ago. A university in Italy also attempted to cancel a class on the classic Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.
In the speech, however, Putin did not make mention of the former Soviet Union’s widespread efforts to censor all printed materials, including poetry, fiction, cinema, television and radio broadcasting, and more.
Communist Party censors also banned a number of books by Russian writers, including dissident critic Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who is said to have spent decades imprisoned in the Soviet-run gulag labor camp system.
At one point in his address, Putin made reference to “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, saying that the same individuals who are going after Russian culture also have tried to “cancel” Rowling because “she … did not please the fans of so-called gender freedoms.”
Rowling on Twitter, however, distanced herself from Putin and posted an article to Twitter that is critical of the Kremlin and its treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Reuters contributed to this report.