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  • Writer's pictureMariah Nimmons

On Other Fronts - Culture and Information

A NOTE: Our Russia-Ukraine Resources are updated weekly - if you're accessing the page a week or more past the below date, pieces mentioned in this post may have been removed to make room for up-to-date resources.


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Updated Resources - June 7, 2023


Ukrainians are embracing tradition now more than ever in an attempt to extricate their heritage from that of Russia "Young girl in the Ukrainian national clothes" by Oleg Dubyna,CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr)


KEY DEVELOPMENTS

  • Explosion destroys Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant resulting in devastating floodwaters in Kherson, Moscow and Kyiv trade accusations of culpability; attribution still pending

  • Fake ‘State of Emergency’ announcement airs in three southern Russian regions urging residents to evacuate and declaring ‘full mobilization’ in a voice resembling Putin’s that was likely artificially generated

  • Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs reports that of the 50,195 bomb shelters inspected by the authorities, one-third are closed or unusable

  • Russian military lays landmines on an ‘industrial level’ ahead of Ukrainian counteroffensive according to head of landmine clearing organization HALO Trust

  • Thousands of Russians in more than 100 cities around the world join demonstrations in support of jailed opposition leader Navalny on his third birthday spent in prison

  • Belgorod authorities begin evacuating children from Shebekinsky and Grayvoron districts, residents post to social media that authorities are charging 3,000 rubles ($37 USD) for evacuation

  • Armenian Prime Minister rejects notion that Armenia is allied with Russia in its war with Ukraine

  • Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian cities accelerate and intensify

  • PMC Wagner reports exchanging fire with Russian troops after they mined the mercenaries’ escape route from Bakhmut - a video confession from a Russian lieutenant colonel

  • U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, and France join ‘fighter jet coalition’ to train Ukrainian pilots

  • Germany closes four out of five Russian consulates in the country, Moscow promises retaliation

  • Finland hosts 1,000 allied forces from Norway, the UK and the US for joint military exercises in the The Arctic, its first as NATO member

  • Chinese envoy Li Hui says to achieve peace, Ukraine’s allies must ‘stop sending weapons to the battlefield’

  • Black Sea grain deal halted once more after Russia blocks registration of ships to all Ukrainian ports until all parties agreed to unblock the transit of Russian ammonia

  • Russian Justice Ministry designates Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) an ‘undesirable’ organization

  • Drone attack on Moscow leaves several buildings with minor damage and residents of two buildings evacuated

  • Poland closes border to freight vehicles registered in Belarus and Russia

 

"Tens of thousands of Russians join these days in words of support for the Russian military! Among them are residents of the Murmansk region. The truth is on our side!" - this caption accompanies a video created and posted by the Youth Policy Committee of the Murmansk Region on the group's VK page. (via Youth Policy Committee of the Murmansk Region VK page)


WHAT'S ON OUR MIND


Beyond the war’s physical front a second - but equally pervasive - battle rages on the frontlines of culture and information. The war is deemed by some to be a ‘war between brothers’ - a perspective that is disavowed by many in Ukraine as Kremlin propaganda. For others, it’s viewed as a divorce. The ways and extent to which Russian and Ukrainian cultures, histories, and perspectives overlap are debated, often heatedly. The war has left many on either side of the border to reexamine - and for some, to double down on - their personal identity, worldview, and cultural heritage. In today’s collection, we offer insight into how the war is being fought in these societal spheres.


In Ukraine, issues of ‘cultural erasure’ and ‘decolonization’ have been at the forefront of war’s discourse. Today, we offer an interview with a Ukrainian art historian, artist, and curator whose current project sheds light on the role of art institutions in the decolonization processes and how institutional structures changed after 2014. Another piece delves into one of the most visible ways that Ukrainians seek to distance themselves from Russia - the rejection of the Russian language, a native tongue for many, in favor of Ukrainian on both state and individual levels. Across the border, we offer an exploration of the immense pressures and devastating impacts on the family unit faced by the Ukrainian diaspora in Russia.


These cultural and informational battles seep into the lives of everyday Russians, including the youngest. There are concerted efforts to introduce ‘patriotic’ curricula to students of all ages, and one piece in our collection today breaks down a new curricular module titled ‘Fundamentals of Russian Statehood’ that will soon become a graduation requirement in Russian colleges and universities. Another piece explores the surge in nationalistic zealotry amongst younger generations, both online and in the real world, against the backdrop of a broader societal embrace of anti-Western sentiments and glorification of ‘Russky Mir’ - the cultural concept of the ‘Russian World’.


Russians of all ages contend with the pervasive information war that’s been exacerbated by this conflict. We offer one piece that examines the role of state media in shaping public sentiment and fueling the war through the author’s experiment with following only pro-Kremlin media for a day, seeking to understand what an ‘average’ Russian citizen consumes. Another piece focuses on the intersection of digital media, gender roles, and the war. The recently debuted YouTube channel ‘Z-Girlfriends’ features three young female hosts whose stated goal is to support Russian troops in Ukraine. Their format is modeled on the lifestyle content that is popular with young digital natives, but conveys a much graver message.


Beyond both Russia and Ukraine, we learn how the West is also entangled in the cultural conflict. We examine Putin’s efforts to position himself as an ‘anti-woke crusader’ to the American right and its parallels with the Vietnam War. Another looks at the impending demise of the world’s largest Tatar language learning platform that activists and language specialists regard as a critical tool for cultural preservation due to its Western developer's exit from Russia.


Find these insights - and many more - on today’s resource page update.

 

ARTICLES OF PARTICULAR INTEREST

Find these stories and more on our Resource Page

  • Defense Contractor Funded Think Tanks Dominate Ukraine Debate (Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft)

  • Politics returns to Russia (Timothy Snyder - Substack)

  • US cuts data sharing with Russia under New START nuclear deal (Al Jazeera)

  • Unresponsive respondents. Why wartime opinion polls cannot be trusted (The Insider)

  • Ukraine’s Other Battle: Zelensky vs. the Mayors (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

  • Too smart for their own good (Novaya Gazeta Europe)

  • Nowhere to run: Residents point at Ukraine’s bomb shelter problem (Al Jazeera)

  • New START: To succeed, plan for failure (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

  • This is The World Talks, a global experiment by ZEIT Online (Meduza)

  • How war is destroying Ukraine’s environment (Responsible Statecraft)

  • Ceasefire and security guarantees: key points on peace plans for Ukraine (RT)

 


OVERVIEW


In the overview, six visual representations of US aid to Ukraine and a discussion of the four factors that lead to successful peace talks.

 

ARTS


Left to right: Maksim Pokrovsky lead singer of Russian contemporary rock band Nogu svelo (Tatyana 1504 photo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons) Mykhailo Verbytsky, Ukrainian composer, when the notes and music for the Ukrainian national anthem were first printed c 1870 (T. Meyerhoffer / T. Маєргофер, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons), Rostyslav Yanchyshen, a dancer of the Odesa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, was killed in combat near Bakhmut on April 19, 2023 (Ukraine Culture Ministry/ Facebook)


In the arts, the challenge of wartime literary cooperation for Russian and Ukrainian writers, anti-colonial vandalism visited upon the home-turned-museum of 19th century writer Mikhail Bulgakov, the wartime resistance of Russian actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Danila Kozlovsky, a celebration of Ukrainian ballet dancer and soldier Rostyslav Yanchyshen, the Russian post-invasion pop music scene and its Soviet parallels, the power of music during war at the Lviv Organ Hall, and a multimedia journey through post-apocalyptic tales from two of Ukraine’s most creative composers in the contemporary scene.






STATEMENT

Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy stands in opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. We have many friends in both countries and we stand with the people of Ukraine and Russia. We deplore their suffering.


Track Two does not believe violent conflict or war are valid means to push political agendas. Today, threats to our existence from nuclear arms, climate catastrophes, diseases and cyberattacks are intensifying, and we do not believe any country should resort to violence. All people, of all nations, have a right to peace, meaningful work, shelter and food. Much collective work must be done to ensure our children and grandchildren can live full lives in a habitable world.


We believe there are humane and diplomatic avenues to coexistence that must be explored to mutual benefit. Let's arrive at these with deliberation so that we can continue work essential to preventing the end of life on this planet.


More than ever, it is incumbent upon all of us to be acutely aware of the disinformation campaigns orbiting the globe, and offer support to those who need it most. To that end, we've compiled a selection of resources from our team and network as we follow this crisis closely.


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