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Performatively Erasing History Isn't Going to Defeat Russia

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Let’s get one thing straight: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was bad. 

We can all agree on that fact. Vladimir Putin’s now yearlong engagement with Ukraine is a terrible thing and the tragic loss of human life during the conflict is something we all hope ends as soon as possible.


With that obvious admission out of the way, it’s important to note that the disdain for all things Russian has gone a little overboard. 

Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in London changed the names of a series of pieces by French impressionist painter Edgar Degas from “Russian Dancers” to “Dancers in Ukrainian Dress.”

In the words of a spokesperson for the National Gallery: “The title of this painting has been an ongoing point of discussion for many years and is covered in scholarly literature; however there has been increased focus on it over the past month due to the current situation so therefore we felt it was an appropriate moment to update the painting’s title to better reflect the subject of the painting.”

The museums took the liberty of renaming the pieces, ignoring what Degas himself named them, in order to take a jab at Putin and his evil neo-Soviet empire. Editing the arts to fit your political message seems slightly… Stalinesque. 

Who does this actually help? Does the Ukrainian soldier holding his own against a Russian really care about what we call these French pastels? Of course not, but we have to do something!

This russophobia has evolved to just stupidity from actual malice.

In the early days of Putin’s war, a number of stories surfaced about Russian-owned businesses suffering from vandalism and property destruction. 


Protestors, apparently unable to grasp the difference between innocent Russians in America and the authoritarian government in Moscow, decided the best way to show support for Ukraine was to smash windows and ruin the livelihoods of poor immigrants.

In Washington D.C, the Russia House restaurant was repeatedly hit by vandals in the days after the invasion. The vandals spray-painted “anti-Russian” phrases on the building’s exterior and, of course, broke their windows. 

And in San Diego, California, one business owner reported that he had received multiple bomb threats and that both he and his family had been repeatedly called “disgusting Russian pigs.”

How tolerant those Californians are!

Slight tangent, remember the whole Freedom Fries incident? In 2003, following France’s refusal to support an American led invasion of Iraq, a number of restaurants across the U.S. renamed “french fries” to “freedom fries” in protest.

Well now we’re all doing the same song and dance with Russia.

Wisconsin’s National Mustard Museum briefly replaced its Russian mustard with a sign saying the condiment would return “once the invasion of Ukraine is over and Russia recognizes and respects the sovereign nation of Ukraine” before public backlash caused the museum to reverse course.

That’ll show Putin!

Or take the example of an Italian university that tried to nix a course on Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky due to his heritage. Dostoevsky was sent to the gulags in 1849 for belonging to a group discussing books critical of imperial Tsarist Russia before dying in 1881, so he clearly would have had sympathies for Vladimir Putin’s war. 


The university also backtracked after public outcry.

Ironically, both the stupid name changes and the violence against Russians is a boon to Putin’s propaganda machine.

Putin is telling the Russian people that the Western order wants Russia obliterated and humiliated. He wants Russians to view him as a savior figure defending their culture from ultimate ruin. 

You think mindlessly assaulting random Russian immigrants is going to help or hurt that message? 

So let’s all chill a bit with the Russia hate. Perhaps Russian author Leo Tolstoy put it best in “War and Peace” when he wrote, “It's too easy to criticize a man when he's out of favor, and to make him shoulder the blame for everybody else's mistakes.”

It’s not their fault.

Let’s not let the average Russian shoulder the blame for Putin’s bloodlust.  


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