Nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin calls for a cleansing of Russian culture

Nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin calls for a cleansing of Russian culture

Zakhar Prilepin, March 2018 in Paris. Zakhar Prilepine, in Paris, March 2018. JOEL SAGET / AFP

Bad times for Russian artists. Torn between fleeing abroad and “internal exile” (silence), they are now the target of a witch hunt led by a small group of their kind. Ultranationalist writer and politician Zakhar Prilepin founded a think tank in Russia’s parliament in early August with the aim of banning from cultural life artists who did not support the war, “the special military operation,” as the official terminology called it. in Ukraine. The collective is called “GRAD”, for Investigation Group on Anti-Russian Activities in the Field of Culture. The acronym means “hail” in Russian, but today it is mostly reminiscent of the Russian army’s famous multiple rocket launchers that devastated the cities of southern and eastern Ukraine.

The first session of the GRAD took place on August 3rd in the Duma, the lower house of parliament. On the agenda: “cleansing of the cultural space” of all those who have not actively or passively supported Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine since February 24.

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The initiative was widely publicized by the Russian media because it is aimed at very popular figures such as comedian Ivan Urgant and rock group Bi-2, but also at Bolshoi Theater director Vladimir Ourin. The GRAD website states that its main goal is to “identify the main mechanisms for the implementation of foreign influence and anti-state activities in the field of culture”. Specifically, he has been calling for the online denunciation of “agents” for several days [antirusses] and her accomplices.

List of “150 Agents”

Eventually, the group released a list of around 150 “agents,” including numerous literary and cinematic personalities, as well as some journalists and high-ranking officials. GRAD offers only one way out of its goals: “Professionals who wish to be removed from the list can do so by publicly expressing their support” for the Russian army and the war in Ukraine.

After the media echo that this offensive on the Russian cultural world unleashed, the daily Vedomosti confirmed on August 14 that Zakhar Prilepin wanted to run in the presidential elections of 2024. The newspaper cites sources within the presidential administration, known for its tight control over Russia’s political system. The interested party denies and affirms that its current goals are “the return of Kiev to the bosom of Russia” and the “abolition of Russian culture”.

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