Russia overreacts to Ukraine

Cultural boycott of Russian media"In Ukraine there is overreaction"

Beatrix Novy: And we come to another conflict, and there, too, it was foreseeable. The conflict with Russia is now escalating into Ukrainian cultural policy. Books and films from Russia should therefore need approval in the Ukraine in the future, in other words: they should be censored. A quota for the supposedly excessive film and book imports is being considered, and certain films are already on the index.

In a report from today, the Ukrainian state cinema agency is quoted with the intention of checking Russian films in future to determine whether they "comply with national legislation". Professor Henning Schröder from the Free University of Berlin is editor of the journals "Russia Analyzes" and "Russian Analytical Digest". He was best able to help us understand how to understand all of this.

"A kind of culture war"

Hans-Henning Schröder: Well, the context is of course a kind of cultural war between Russia and Ukraine, which on the one hand has massive anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the Russian media, and on the other hand Ukraine, which tries, so to speak to exclude Russian media, especially Russian television. And they have now obviously discovered that you can also do propaganda through films.

Novy: And assume that the Russians?

Schröder: Assume that the Russians and of course look for two extremely stupid examples, namely a film adaptation of the "White Guard" by Bulgakov, a great book that deals with the situation in Ukraine in 1918, the civil war, which has been filmed several times, and the latest series that has now been filmed in Russia is now banned in Ukraine.

"The Ukrainian film agency is now overreacting"

Novy: This novel is about the turmoil of civil war, as you said, between German occupiers, Ukrainian nationalists, Bolsheviks, and all from the wistful perspective of a bourgeois family. What is there to criticize politically about what Bulgakov described there - or how it was filmed, that's what it's all about.

Schröder: Of course, the book was already controversial in the Soviet Union, because of course one had a completely different view of history than the official Soviet one and also showed, so to speak, the positive sides of such a bourgeois family, which is falling apart under this revolution and the various groups. And I can't tell, by the way, this series is also on the Internet, you can watch it if you can speak Russian - I can't really tell where the anti-Ukrainian element is. This is an attempt to film the book very precisely. I can only assume that Joskin Ukraine, the Ukrainian film agency, is now overreacting.

Against a Little Russia

Novy: One also wants to take action against books from Russia, namely against those, I will quote again, that "prepare the destabilization of Ukraine". On the other hand, there is a quality argument: You don't want third-rate products from Russia. And then there are so many books - what is it actually about? Is it ultimately protectionism for your own book market?

Schröder: If you are in a bookstore in Kiev or even in Lviv, most of these books are of course from Russian publishers and are in Russian. This is simply part of a country whose culture is bilingual, where the majority of the population simply speaks both languages ​​and learns Ukrainian in school in the East and speaks Russian in everyday life anyway. And that in a situation where a state is fighting for its own identity.

You must also see that at the moment in Russia - and sometimes you even read it yourself here, in the German media - the question is being asked as to whether there is a Ukraine at all. And in Russia you can find expressions like "Little Russia" or "New Russia" for Ukraine. And against it one defends oneself, in this case with unsuitable means.

Hope that Ukraine does not fall into an identity trap

Novy: So could it be that the previously bilingual Ukraine and multiethnic Ukraine are now falling more and more into such an identity trap?

Schröder: There is a danger, and of course in a situation where there is massive anti-Ukrainian propaganda on the Russian television channels and in the Russian media, that the Ukraine is overreacting. And one can really only hope on the common sense of the Ukrainian elite that they will not fall into this trap, so to speak.

Novy: And that's not just what Hans-Henning Schröder is hoping for.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.