Tchaikovsky Defended in Kiev!By David Shavin
Aug. 12—To Ukraine’s credit, in June, the Pyotr Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine refused to remove Tchaikovsky’s name from their Academy. Leo Tolstoy had already lost a public square that used to be named after him; and there’s a live proposal to change all Pushkin Streets across Ukraine to “Stephen King Street.” Now, that’s a horror story worth writing about!
On June 16, the Academy stood its ground: “Governments and armies can fight, but cultures can never fight each other,” explained Yury Rybchinsky, a prominent Ukrainian songwriter and member of the Academy’s supervisory board. He argued: “Tchaikovsky, like Shakespeare, like Joan of Arc, like Christ, does not belong to one specific people, he belongs to the whole world.” He also noted that Tchaikovsky even came from a family of Zaporozhzhian Cossacks (in Ukraine), that he “treated Ukraine with incredible love” and that he used motifs from Ukrainian folk music in some of his works. The composer of the music for the iconic ballets Swan Lake and The Nutcracker visited Ukraine on many occasions, and was among the founders of the Kiev conservatory.
Their board members’ letter to President Zelenskyy stressed the danger of “manipulations” involving Tchaikovsky’s name. They also called upon the country’s authorities to take all the necessary measures to “return the composer with Ukrainian roots to Ukraine, protect his legacy from being used by the aggressor [Russia] as a tool to destroy the Ukrainian essence.” And more good news—as of this report, none of the Academy’s board have been stripped of their citizenship.