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Italian president slams West’s ‘cancel culture’ against Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella gives a speech in Rome, Italy on January 29, 2022. (File photo by Reuters)

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella has strongly criticized attempts to cancel Russian culture, saying the West's boycott of Russian works of art over the Ukraine war is a mistake.

In an interview with Corriere Della Sera on Friday, the Italian president insisted that Russia’s contributions to culture were an inseparable part of European history and its culture and recent attempts to cancel these works of art amid Moscow’s conflict with Kiev were wrong.

He opposed the Western moves and said "homogenization and conformity" were part of what killed culture.

“The attitude towards the cultures produced by man, by the most diverse intellectuals and artists, can only be openness, curiosity, knowledge, comparison,” he said, adding, “The cancel culture towards Russian literature and art is a mistaken gesture.”

The Italian leader's remarks were made following recent attempts to boycott Russian-linked art and culture by the West in retaliation to Moscow's war in eastern Ukraine which started last year.

Since February 2022, Kiev has been calling on its allies in the West to sanction any and all Russian art and culture, prompting Western institutions to remove Russian-linked works from their galleries and opera houses.

The United States and the United Kingdom have led the campaign to isolate Russia not only in the political and financial realm but also in spheres such as sports and culture.

For example, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Metropolitan Opera boycotted Russian musicians and organizations, banning Russian artists at their venues, and the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra in Wales dropped the music of composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky from a concert while Britain’s Royal Opera House canceled a tour by the Bolshoi Ballet.

Not only Russian musicians and artists but also filmmakers and athletes from Russia have all been affected by the bans, many of whom have been barred from performing or competing in the West, as well as being denied access to Western markets.

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned Western bans targeting Russian artists and athletes.

Speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club forum in late March 2022, Putin compared the West's discrimination against Russian culture with Nazi supporters’ attempts to burn books in the 1930s.

“Today they are trying to cancel a thousand-year-old country,” Putin stated. “I am talking about the progressive discrimination against everything connected with Russia, about this trend that is unfolding in a number of Western states, with the full connivance and sometimes with the encouragement of Western elites.”

“The proverbial ‘cancel culture’ has become a cancellation of culture,” Putin observed, adding that works by Russian composers were being excluded from concerts and books by Russian authors “banned.”

“The last time such a mass campaign to destroy unwanted literature was carried out was by the Nazis in Germany almost 90 years ago... books were burned right on the squares,” Putin noted.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared the US-led campaign launched against Russia with a "crusade", while urging independent nations across the globe to unite against US-led sanctions "blackmail".

"It is necessary to join forces to counter the attempts of blackmail and illegal unilateral pressure of the West," Lavrov said at a press conference on Tuesday in the Venezuelan capital city, Caracas.

Lavrov, who was on a week-long tour across Latin America, said the West was "trying to dominate the international arena."

He said the "only method" used by Washington to implement its foreign policy is to "dictate, blackmail, threats, sanctions" as well as other coercive means.

The top Russian diplomat insisted that any solution to today's conflicts would have to be based on "multipolarity."

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