New Russian culture minister claims she’s ‘not bloody cultured at all’

 Olga Lyubimova

After a reshuffle last week in Russian politics and Vladimir Putin's installation of little-known technocrat Mikhail Mishustin as Prime Minister, the country also has a new culture minister. Despite previous experience in film and television, the choice of Olga Lyubimova has raised eyebrows given her apparent antipathy to the arts. BBC News reports she wrote in a 2008 blog that 'I simply can't stand going to exhibitions, museums, opera' and that she is 'not bloody cultured at all.' While the Russian government has not confirmed the blog, which was last updated in 2010, is genuine, it matches with Lyubimova's biographical details as a former journalist. The blog author claims to dislike ballet and theatre, and while Lyubimova's last political role was heading the cinema department in the ministry, admits to 'not understand a bloody thing about arthouse cinema'.

Some prominent voices in Russian arts have welcomed Lyubimova's appointment however, The Moscow Times notes. Galina Yuzefovich, a liberal literary critic, posted 'You can think whatever you want, but based on my personal experience working with her, I think this is great news. Hurrah!' Anton Dolin, the Russian film critic, wrote on Facebook that he is 'sincerely glad that a young, smart, educated, pragmatic, contemporary woman who loves culture (well, at least the cinema), and is completely devoid of both fanaticism and cynicism, has become Russia’s culture minister.'

She succeeds Vladimir Medinsky, who is to become the presidential aide for culture. Also writing on Facebook, gallerist Sergei Popov summed up his legacy as having installed 'a rather convincing system of imitation culture; in this system genuine cultural initiatives were persecuted, sources of funding closed, and the artists hounded out of an institution or country. This happened in every field: cinema, art criticism.'

23 January 2020