View from the Hermitage. Cultural Revolution
The city is astonished by what happened with the monument to Lenin
near Finland Railway Station.
Parallel to this we can remember another event: April pogroms in Kishinev.
Such things are of the same order. It is known from history that Kishinev
is renowned for the most dreadful bloody pogrom of all that has ever happened
Such events make us remember lessons of Chinese cultural revolution which among other things was not conducted by lumpens and marginal persons, but by educated and still not quite cultured people. In my opinion lack of culture at the intellectual levels causes deplorable consequences.
Solzhenitsyn made a word for the Soviet intellectuals - ‘educationalism’. In whole this is not quite fair but even now there is a category of people who belong to the educated but not enough cultured. Education does not mean culture. Today it is a very important moment.
Recently at the opening of the conference on the problems of enlightenment in St Petersburg University I presented a paper that was called ‘Poison of Enlightenment Fruits’. Ever since the times of Catherine the Great enlightenment in St Petersburg has had its own pluses and minuses. Not enough oriented enlightenment may also bring poisonous fruits. This is what is happening when enlightenment does not foster respect for ancestors, for preservation of cultural heritage. We should treat our ancestors with respect however they may be. Whereas we refuse to respect either these or that or third ones by turns. And we should also treat our country with love no matter how it is. Even though not everything is good there it doesn’t mean that we need to run following our nose.
I think that one of the most important tasks of enlightenment is to foster good taste. What is culture? It is a system of prohibitions. Mechanism of the system of prohibitions is passed by through the memories of generations. Culture is the same as good taste. Unfortunately, such things do not always appear automatically with education.
Another task of enlightenment is to foster interest to differences, to diversity in people. Recognition of point of view of other people, other cultures is a manifestation of true education, true enlightenment.
Right concepts are formed in places where there are circles of people who are interested in life of museums, libraries, theatres, and book stores. And in places where something is not made up for the situation is totally different. Quite often they are talking about marginal persons, drug addicts, youth without morals... Indeed, something wrong is happening in other sectors of society. There are people who do not go to theatres, the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, Peterhof, the Tretyakov Gallery since they consider them decrepit... In fact they do not attend places where active life is going on. Now when America is suffering from the crisis, there are more and more talks in this country about the role of the museums for the life of a city, community, people for whom the museums operate. That role is much more significant than just a place where you can take your guests.
Most people do not go to museums and theatres, they focus on a television
picture. On television screen
And construction of ugly buildings in the centre of the city is also a manifestation of lack of culture. They are built by architects and people who order the projects. Everybody sees the terrible superstructure that is hanging over the house of Arakcheev near Palace Square. How was it possible to build this and how did the architect agree to this? This is a manifestation of lack of taste, respect for ancestors, understanding of what is allowed and what is not.
There is another dangerous moment - they are beginning to equate culture
not just with
Culture needs independence; it must break free from diktat of audience, from diktat of state, from diktat of sponsors. A while ago Patron’s Birthday was celebrated in the Hermitage. Wonderful people who do not impose their point of view on institutions of culture attended the event. However there are others who are trying to impose. From time to time there are attempts to turn museums into Disneylands, salons. There are suggestions like - let’s bring an exhibition from somewhere, invite useful people and solve some matters.
Soviet government left us with the concept that we are one nation. We should not forget that our society is different, different people have different interests and needs. When we are told that museums should be accessible for people we determine exact categories. For us these are children, students, retired people and most citizens since their salaries are low. In France the unemployed have discounts in museums. But the notion ‘people’ also includes rich people who can afford to buy expensive ticket, and also tourist operators that strive to bring people into the museum for free and also pilferers who sell tickets to those people who do not want to stand in line at triple the price.
We should clearly understand for whom we are working. For that we need
high level of culture that should be generated. One of the ways to generate
culture among the officials, businessmen,
It is especially important when the society is becoming wild. There is a good
term and I was not the one who made it up, it is ‘spiritual numbness’.
Unfortunately it is taking place in the society sections that determine
a lot in the cultural life and in the life of the country as a whole -
that could be a
There are a lot of examples and they are very different. Suppose that there is a category of people that we should speak in a delicate way, they are collectors of antiques. The roots of most crimes go down to that sphere. Recently at the round table discussion at the Public Chamber we discussed the Law on cultural heritage in its archaeological part. There is an important problem in the protection of archaeological heritage and that is a large market for ‘black’ archaeologists. Rather many people, educated and influential, are involved in that market. They like that they can order and the necessary things would be delivered. The President of one of the neighbouring countries is collecting Tripoli ceramics. This is ceramics of ancient farmers and it is impossible to buy it in a shop but only to dig out of the ground. A person invested with power is collecting it. There are collectors who do not yet realize that you can’t collect stolen things. There must be internal prohibition - even very beautiful things should not be purchased if there is doubt about lawfulness of their origin.
The lack of restraints and internal prohibitions, as it seems to me, is characteristic for our society. It is often said about the necessity of censorship on television as well. Such measure won’t change anything. It is necessary to introduce enlightenment that educates people, delicately puts restraints, and shows what is inappropriate to do. It was possible to do so in St Petersburg even in the Soviet times when they were trying not to build houses loftier than architectural monuments.
Enlightenment is able to prevent cultural revolution of the Chinese type. ‘Spiritually numb’ people are striving for power, they want to decide which books to publish, which films to shoot, what to show on television, what to build. They are sure that they know how to do that.