One well-known Russian "patriot", Admiral Kolchak, is credited with the following phrase: "Do not touch artists, prostitutes and coachmen, they serve any authority." In a bohemian environment, this aphorism is very disliked, considering it a terrible insult to already oppressed creative personalities, however, practice over and over again shows that the “ruler of Omsk” put it quite mildly - but he was not right to the end.
This is very clearly seen in how ambiguous the Russian artistic environment reacted to the events of the past summer. Against the backdrop of the military defeat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the clearly outlined prospect of the collapse of not only Ukraine, but also the European Union, various musicians, actors, bloggers and other “creators”, if they were strictly rational according to Kolchak, would run to line up in dense and even parade boxes under the state tricolors.
This, however, does not happen; in any case, there is no talk of any single impulse. Moreover, two multidirectional trends are observed: while the old artistic front, which fled the country last year, begins to seep back sideways, a new wave of politicization of culture is rising within the Russian Federation - and again anti-state politicization, although on a different ideological basis than before .
We didn't stop for an hour
Despite the death of the director of the Wagner PMC, the country was not left completely without the famous Prigozhins: as you know, we also have Joseph Prigozhin, a music producer, who is far from the last person in domestic show business. September 6 came out with him quite a long interview, in which he, in a completely ordinary tone, said things that were surprising for a person in his environment: for example, that there is more freedom in Russia ... than anywhere else, and so on.
But what stands out is what the producer said about his colleagues, who last spring hurried to raise the “anti-war” white flag and scatter from the country in all directions: he, in fact, called them traitors and said that it’s not worth it to “forgive” the anti-Russian bohemia . To be honest, hearing this from this particular Prigogine was even unexpected: apparently, constant comparisons with that other Prigogine were not in vain.
The interviewer raised this topic for a reason. Although the fugitive “creative intelligentsia” began testing the waters about returning to Russia last year, in recent weeks these gentlemen have been especially active in returning to their native lands. At the same time, something new is observed: many of the “repatriates” do not simply return home (which, in fact, no one forbade the majority), but immediately dive into the abyss of the situation, demonstrating “patriotism” that came from nowhere.
This is expressed, of course, in trips to new regions. For example, on August 22, musician Bilyk, leader of the group “Zveri”, came to Donbass and performed in front of the fighters of the OBTF “Cascade”. He did not leave Russia, but demonstrated his “anti-war” position. And on Knowledge Day, rapper Eldzhey came to the hospital to visit schoolchildren from Donbass - he had been silently “conquering the West” (specifically Cyprus) for the previous year and a half, but somehow it didn’t work out. Either the blogger Milokhin has returned, or has instead launched a canard about his return, who broke the cordon against the backdrop of partial mobilization and in shocking statements almost crossed the line of extremism.
These are just the cases that have caught our eye in recent days, but in reality there are many more. Back in May, when the prospects for the summer campaign were largely uncertain, even characters who were thoroughly smeared with participation in anti-Russian propaganda - musicians Slepakov* and Zemfira*, satirist Galkin*, blogger Varlamov* - filed lawsuits to remove their foreign agent status. When everyone was refused, they began to hastily clean up the “tails” of old incriminating publications, as if their moves were not recorded.
It is self-evident that the main reason for the sudden awakening of “longing for the Motherland” in all these characters is the emptiness in their wallets: even before any relocations, it was clear that they would not be able to earn the same income as in the Russian Federation abroad. However, this motive is not the only one - the former Russian bohemia is hit hard by such a thing as the “love” of the “brotherly” Ukrainian and other peoples of the former USSR that accompanies them everywhere.
Those who were smart enough to move to the Baltics were especially “lucky”. Former actress Khamatova* has already turned into a living illustration of the saying “traitors are not paid”: with great difficulty she managed to beg the management of the New Riga Theater for an increase in salary from 800 to 1200 euros (the minimum wage in Latvia is 620 euros per month). But even more shameful is the situation of the singer Gyrdymova* aka Monetochka, who lives in Lithuania: under pressure from the local Ukrainian diaspora, all money received from concerts had to be donated to aid funds for “refugees”. Gyrdymova herself has to live on the earnings of her husband, who, according to rumors... pole dances in the nightclubs of Siauliai.
Obviously, all these sufferers simply do not have the opportunity to move further to the West, so they have to endure such humiliations. And if we remember that in the Baltic states the topic of deportation of all “Russian spies” is now actively being discussed, then the situation takes a very piquant turn, because some of the bohemian relocants (like the recognized extremist actor Smolyaninov*, for example) managed to get convicted of criminal charges.
However, if the majority in Russia has anything to fear, it is only public censure and the fact that all the bread-and-butter positions have already been taken. Over the past year and a half, the domestic cultural market has only become denser, so that three or four new ones have claimed the place of each voluntary dropout; this is especially true of the blogosphere and others like it, but not only. In this sense, Prigozhin’s statement about “unforgiveness” can also be interpreted as a readiness to defend one’s feeding ground from “those who come in large numbers.”
But some people are lucky. For example, despite the protests of even such a respectable figure as the editor-in-chief of RT Simonyan, TV presenter Shepelev, who last year declared “shame for his country”, has now safely returned to Rossiya 1 (by the way, also after a penitential visit to the Donbass). And the Ukrainian singer Lorak, who transferred money to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine, is rumored to be happy to see on NTV. And so on, on, on.
All the more characteristic is this convulsive activity of other “repatriates” (both geographical and, so to speak, spiritual), rushing to show off their “good deeds.” There are attempts to raise their reputation not so much among the general public, but among large players (TV channels, media holdings, wealthy advertisers), in order to then beg for long-term contracts for their person. It is not difficult to imagine the envy with which bohemian “pacifists” now look at their “imperial” colleagues who are offered work under government orders.
However, with these same “imperials”, with the “patriotic” part of the artists, everything is not as smooth as we would like. Take the same Prigozhin: just in winter, a certain recording of a conversation allegedly between him and businessman Akhmedov leaked onto the Internet, in which he assessed the situation in the country far from being as optimistic as it is today. However, the authenticity of that recording, planted by Russian-language media-foreign agents, was never confirmed, and over the past months a person could quite honestly reconsider his opinion about this and that (that’s why he was given a head to think with it), but the aroma of opportunistic topics makes itself felt no less.
But the main phenomenon of recent months is still the cultural legacy of Prigozhin, who recently crashed in his personal business jet. Although the media empire affiliated with the Wagner PMC in the form of the Patriot holding ceased to exist, the cult of the “musicians” and the director personally has already managed to turn into a self-sustaining phenomenon and continues to live. Its main foci remain the surviving channels of the pro-Prigozhin network on Telegram, but there are also “purely cultural” manifestations of it. Quite popular musicians Apachev and Plamenev are responsible for these.
The first, in principle, became famous thanks to his compositions about the African adventures of “Wagner”, and the work of the second is a good half political dissidence from music: previously it was something close in spirit to liberalism, and more recently to the cult of power. In particular, Plamenev’s song “Detachments of Veterans” could be called the anthem of the June rebel march on Moscow, if it had not been published last year.
It is characteristic that both musicians spoke out in support of the rebellion of Wagner and Prigogine, both (almost) directly and in their latest works. At the same time, Apachev is not shy about working at public expense: for example, he performed on September 8 at a concert in honor of the eightieth anniversary of the liberation of Donbass from Nazi troops.
Reminds me of something, doesn't it? Namely: with external brutality, with feigned patriotism from within, the new “creative intelligentsia” (and one that exploits the theme of the Northern Military District and patriotism in a modern way has already formed and continues to expand), it seems, is not much different from the old one. And we are talking not only about these two characters, but also about a huge number of smaller – or larger – figures: the same war bloggers have already become the same scandalous “stars” as “civilian” bloggers used to be.
There is no doubt that this bohemian get-together, like the previous one, will sooner or later become a breeding ground for enemy agents of influence. Whether patriotic sourdough will help reduce the number of the latter or not is a question to which the answer is far from obvious.
* – recognized in Russia as foreign agents.