Russia’s Growing Cultural Isolation Leading To Stagnation – OpEd


Russians are obsessed with the ways in which their country has been isolated in terms of international athletic competitions, Kirill Shulika says; but they seem far less concerned about a more important form of isolation: Russia’s growing isolation in cultural matters, a trend that is leading to intellectual stagnation at home.

Increasingly cut off from Western literary works, films and cultural exhibitions, the Russian commentator says, and having lost so many of its own cultural figures who have either fled abroad or gone silent, Russia is at risk of losing the kind of invigorating competition that spurs development (

And this situation is made still worse, Shulika continues, in that the state with rare exceptions is not providing the kind of support that might allow some figures in the Russian cultural firmament to flourish. That this is possible is shown by the success of the state-funded film, “The Guy’s Word.”

The increasing sterility of Russian cultural life is not so much the result of the regime’s insistence on loyalty, he suggests, than on its unwillingness or inability to provide funds as the Soviet government did and on its demand that Russian cultural figures simultaneously create in isolation and somehow earn their own way. 

The experience of the last year in Russia has demonstrated that “in culture, as in any other field, everything grows when there is a competitive environment. The loss of that leads to stagnation. The emigration of many cultural figures has reduced internal competition, and isolation has had a negative impact on competition from abroad.”

Those managing Russian cultural life need to remember, Shulika concludes, that “if you stop publishing books by some writers, it is not at all certain that others will write better.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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