Culture is the only thing that can bring people closer
“There is actually nothing mysterious about Russia. We have our own historical and cultural differences, and a lot of them are a function of our geography – big spaces, the endless riches of our land, and the feeling that things will always stay the same,” said Marina LOSHAK, Director of The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, in an exclusive interview with Capital Ideas.
Ms. Loshak, at the last Gaidar forum, head of RUSNANO Anatoly Chubais made an unexpected statement. He said that one of the biggest miscalculations made by the team of reformers that he belonged to was that they “failed to take into account the specifics of Russian culture.” In your opinion, what makes Russian culture different? What are its pros and cons, its strengths and weaknesses?
Russian culture has a lot to do with our history and certain ideals – the real meaning behind them. It’s important to understand that we’re not a rational people, we’re idealists. Our main teacher is Russian classical literature, along with the values it defines. We’re always cheering for the underdog, not the strong. We will always love the unfortunate and be suspicious of the rich. We are always more about dreaming than rationality. Our favorite character is Oblomov, not Stoltz. We’re a nation of big ideas. A fulfilling spiritual life is a lot more important to us than the material components of our existence. Of course, today we are a reflection of a global shift and consumerism is becoming part of our lives, but these are not values that we defined. The main narrative for a Russian intellectual is spirituality, an understanding of compassion as the foundation of existence, the need for challenges and the ability to overcome them with dignity, without compromising your values. This resilience and willingness to make sacrifices are what define our national character.
When people talk about Russia, they often call it mysterious. But is Russia really mysterious, and what is this mystery all about? What is the main difference between us and Europeans in terms of culture?
There is actually nothing mysterious about Russia. We have our own historical and cultural differences, and a lot of them are a function of our geography – big spaces, the endless riches of our land, and the feeling that things will always stay the same. There is a certain idleness associated with this, a philosophical approach to life. And, along with it, there is a sense of tragedy of existence. The lack of sunlight is a contributing factor as well. All of these geographical, historical, and cultural traits, when taken together, appear strange and unusual to people who live in different realities.
Do you believe that culture can bring people together, to help us understand each other?
I’m certain that culture is the only thing that can bring people closer.
Aside from stadiums, the tourists who are coming to Moscow for the World Cup will be visiting museums, exhibitions… will all of this contribute to cultivating a positive image of Russia abroad?
Of course. Without a doubt, this is exactly what will help dispel all kinds of propaganda myths that people believe. They’ll see that Russia is a fantastic country with a lot of opportunities and kind, open people. A country with an incredibly rich culture.
Who is the modern person of culture?
A modern person of culture is open to feeling and sharing their cultural experience. It’s a person who understands that all people are different and who respects other people’s opinions. It’s a person who is interested in life around him. It’s someone who is able to admit that he is sometimes ignorant, and is open to learning.