Writers: Russian attacks seek ‘erasure’ of Ukrainian culture

Dec 1, 2022, 6:29 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2022, 9:36 am

FILE - People walk past the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol, Ukraine, following...

FILE - People walk past the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol, Ukraine, following a March 16, 2022, bombing of the theater, which was used as a shelter, in an area now controlled by Russian forces on April 4, 2022. Russian troops in Ukraine are deliberately attacking the country's museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, according to a report issued Friday Dec. 2, 2022 by the U.S. and Ukrainian chapters of the international writers' organization PEN. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File)

(AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops in Ukraine are deliberately attacking the country’s museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, according to a report issued Friday by the U.S. and Ukrainian chapters of the international writers’ organization PEN.

“Culture is not collateral damage in the war against Ukraine; it’s a target, a central pillar of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justification for the war,” the report stated. “Putin has repeatedly claimed that Ukrainian culture and language simply don’t exist. By targeting art museums, music halls, libraries, theaters and historical sites, he attempts to make it so.”

PEN cited Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture as saying that 529 “cultural heritage and cultural institutions” have been destroyed or damaged since the war started on Feb. 24. The figure includes both sites of national importance and cultural venues in towns and villages, the report said.

The list includes one of the war’s most notorious incidents – the bombing in March of the main drama theater in the city of Mariupol, where hundreds of people were sheltering from the city’s siege. Some 600 people died in the attack, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Two large inscriptions reading “children” on the ground adjacent to the theater indicated that Russian forces knew civilians were inside and “it seems likely that the theater was targeted for its cultural significance,” the report said.

The PEN report said Russian soldiers also have seized and destroyed Ukrainian literature and Ukrainian-language books from public libraries in occupied regions.

The report acknowledged that “it is not always possible to determine if the bombings of cultural sites are deliberate or the result of Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.”

Russian attacks on Ukrainian culture and the language predate the start of the war and began in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and supported separatist fighters in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of eastern Ukraine, PEN said.

PEN Ukraine said it has documented 31 civilian writers, artists and other cultural workers killed in Russian attacks this year, and that some other cultural figures have died while fighting with Ukrainian forces.

American author and publisher Dave Eggers, part of the PEN delegation that presented the report, said he thinks the attacks have backfired internationally.

“The irony of Putin’s attempts to erase the culture and heritage of Ukraine (is it) has only enriched their culture and made the world pay attention and be far more interested in Ukrainian writers and traditions,” Eggers said at a news conference.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

2 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

4 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

5 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

5 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

6 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

7 days ago

Writers: Russian attacks seek ‘erasure’ of Ukrainian culture