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Roundtable Discussion “Russian Culture in the Global Context”
A roundtable discussion titled “Russian Culture in the Global Context” was organized on November 3 as a part of the Second Russkiy Mir Assembly.
The speakers included Dmitry Trubochkin, director of the State Institute of Art Studies; Daniil Dondurei, editor-in-chief of Iskusstvo Kino magazine (Art of Cinema); Kirill Razlogov, director of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research; and Igor Zadorin, sociologist and director of Zircon Group. Yuri Belyavsky, editor-in-chief of Kultura newspaper, and Alexander Rubinshtein, associate director of the State Institute of Art Studies, moderated the discussion.
Dmitry Trubochkin opened the discussion by citing Vladimir Solovyov: “A mission is not a privilege, but rather hard work for the sake of a global idea.” He also added a quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky: “The Russian idea must develop into a synthesis of European humanitarian ideas.” Trubochkin said that the public was reminded of the Russian idea in the 1990s, since during this period the country reflected on its unique path to development. According to the speaker, the Russian idea is the way in which the Russian people try to survive in the era of global openness.
Trubochkin also said that Russians are more likely to discuss the various global rankings for the country rather than put pressure on the government to change things for the better. “The world is not indifferent to Russian culture. The key issue is what the Russian people and government imply by the term ‘culture.’ We must be responsible for culture,” he concluded.
Daniil Dondurei spoke about the “convertibility” of the Russian cinema. In his opinion, the most important problem is that the government neglects issues of art and culture (this was mentioned more than once during the discussion). According to the speaker, the local cinema is experiencing a deep crisis due to the lack of financing and a clear state policy toward the film industry. “Currently, television is the key supporter of cinema and the so-called ‘cinematic masterpieces’ are financed only by large television and radio broadcasting companies. Now we are trying, usually with little success, to produce box office hits for mass audiences. Films with bloated advertising budgets are the most popular. Such a trend reduces the average quality of films,” Dondurei concluded.
Oleg Filimonov, the president of the Association of Book Publishers, touched upon another vital issue: the distribution of new films in the CIS countries and abroad. He believes that Russia must use popular channels of distribution to promote the ideas of Russkiy Mir to mass audiences.
Kirill Razlogov emphasized the importance of both Western and Eastern cultures and asked his audience an important question: “How and through what means can Russia join the world culture?” Currently Russia secures its position in the global culture through its money. A large Russian company (AFK Sistema) recently provided Woody Allen with a huge grant for his new films. This fact testifies to a lack of genuine talents within Russia. Razlogov also mentioned some exceptions to the general trend, when certain classic Russian works of literature win favor with mass audiences. This happened with “Anna Karenina,” but only because it “was categorized as a must-read for housewives by Oprah Winfrey,” he joked. This shows that it is vital to find a way in which to reach a mass audience.
Evgeny Sidorov, a professor from the Literature Institute, said, “The world will support us if we act without pressure and propaganda. We must abandon defeatist politics and festivals.”
Igor Zadorin, director of Zircon Group, presented the conclusions from a survey of social moods among the populations of former USSR countries. The key finding is that the
country’s economic situation, appeal to immigrants and political solidarity of its population influence its cultural relationships. According to the research, there are three groups of countries with similar cultural backgrounds. The first group comprises Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, the second Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The third group – which includes Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Georgia – generated the strongest interest among the audience. Zadorin believes that such an unexpected combination of the Baltic states and Georgia confirms the idea that political solidarity among the country’s citizens is vital for support of its cultural ties.
The participants pointed out the importance of such discussions and said it was crucial to exchange opinions constantly on the promotion of Russian culture abroad.