The biggest and oldest Ukrainian-American activist group in the U.S. – the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) – is launching a campaign against the promotion of Russian culture amid the Kremlin’s ongoing atrocities in Ukraine.
The non-profit’s Illinois division is equating displays and performances of Russian art, music and dance with the promotion of what is being described as Kremlin autocrat Vladimir Putin’s genocidal war that has raged for more than eight years.
Members of the UCCA umbrella organization will stage protests while holding placards referencing Russia’s war outside the Lyric Opera House starting on Feb. 15 when the Joffrey Ballet will start to stage performances of Anna Karenina, a ballet based on the eponymous novel of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and music composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
It is choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, whose credentials include tenure at Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet, where he most recently worked in 2015 and 2017.
Performances by Joffrey, which moved from New York to Chicago in 1995 are scheduled to run through Feb. 26, overlapping the first-year anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in what is the grisliest war on the European continent since World War II.
Kyiv Post messages left with the Joffrey Ballet’s marketing and public relations office have gone unanswered. The ballet troupe’s outsourced publicist, The Silverman Group, did not provide a promised response after three days of requesting comment.
A letter sent to the ballet troupe by the UCCA, asking that the performances be postponed until after bloody war ends, have gone unanswered, said Marta Farion, vice president of the UCCA’s Illinois branch.
“It is heartless to support Russian performances at a time when Russia has destroyed over 1,000 cultural objects in Ukraine, including theaters, monuments, libraries, and killed artists, writers, actors, including ballet dancers,” Farion told Kyiv Post.
She added: “Performing Russian works is lending support to Putin’s strategy of using culture as a weapon to promote Russia as a benevolent country.”
Russian troops and Kremlin-installed authorities in occupied Ukrainian territories have been documented looting museums and art galleries. Ukrainian officials have provided evidence of Russians burning Ukrainian-language books at schools and libraries. Russian-language instruction has also been installed in occupied scholastic institutions.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been abducted and forcibly deported to Russia or areas it occupies where they’ve been subject to what officials say are “Russification” techniques to erase their Ukrainian identity, according to data provided by Children of War, an informational platform jointly created by the Ministry of Reintegration and National Information Bureau.
An infographic showing the number of Ukrainian children whom Russia has abducted and forcibly deported since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. CREDIT: www.childrenofwar.gov.ua
Since last year, Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko has called on the world community to stop promoting Russian culture through the display of the nation’s works of arts, including those of Russian artists.
“Russian culture is part of the Russian state military-totalitarian machine. People who rape and kill Ukrainian children and civilians, burn Ukrainian books in the occupied territories, are brought up by Russian culture,” he said in October.
Tkachenko didn’t respond to a Kyiv Post text message or phone call.
World renowned artists and athletes have been killed fighting for Ukraine.
Since last year, 231 athletes and sports coaches have been killed, including 15 wounded, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, said on Feb. 9. An additional 28 have been taken captive and four are missing, she added.
Internationally known baritone opera singer, Vasyl Slipak, was killed fighting in the Donetsk Region on June 29, 2016. He had left France, where he regularly performed for the Paris Opera and Opera Bastille, and returned to his country in 2014 when the Russo-Ukrainian war initially started.
He was posthumously awarded the title, “Hero of Ukraine.” Last July, just days after the anniversary of his death, invading Russian soldiers destroyed a memorial to him in the village of Myronovsky in Donetsk Oblast, which had been erected by the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade
In sports, Kyiv has also pushed for the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the next quadrennial competition that Paris is hosting in 2024.
Belarus is considered as an aggressor state, according to international law, for allowing Russia to stage ground and aerial attacks on Ukraine as well as train its soldiers there.
A group of 35 countries, including the U.S., Germany and Australia, met remotely on Feb. 10 to call on the IOC to ban athletes from the two countries from competing, even under a neutral, white flag.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes would be a “manifestation of violence.”
“And it cannot be covered up with some pretended neutrality or a white flag,” Zelensky said as cited by state broadcaster France 24.
The Chicago area hosts the U.S.’s second-biggest Ukrainian population with more than 54,000 people who identify themselves as having Ukrainian ancestry, according to U.S. census records.
Founded in 1956, the Joffrey Ballet has a storied history and boasts being the “first dance company to perform at the White House at [First Lady] Jacqueline Kennedy’s invitation,” its website says.
It is also is proud of being “the first classical dance company to use multi-media” as well as “the first to create a ballet set to Rock Music.”