A new nation of philistines: Russians prefer Hollywood to high culture

From an early age Soviet school children were spoon-fed high culture, shown round art galleries packed with icons and old masters, and taken to see ballets such as Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

But 15 years after the USSR's collapse a poll has revealed that today's generation of Russians prefers Tom Cruise and Britney Spears to a night at the opera or a trip to the Hermitage Museum.

According to an authoritative survey by the Moscow-based Public Opinion Foundation, Russia's image as a nation of sophisticated consumers of high culture is an outdated myth. The country that gave the world Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov and the abstract painter Kazimir Malevich has, it would seem, lost its delicate tastes and artistic talent.

The poll revealed that Russians overwhelmingly preferred the latest Hollywood blockbuster or the pop song of the moment to anything more demanding.

Only 8 per cent profess to have any interest in the ballet, 6 per cent in the opera, and more than one-third (37 per cent) have never visited an art gallery. Indeed Russia may boast some of the world's greatest collections of art, in Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery and in St Petersburg's Hermitage museum, but most Russians have never paid a visit to either institution.

Only a quarter of the poll's respondents said they had been to the Tretyakov or the Hermitage and just 20 per cent said they were interested in art. Russia may have a rich history of producing world-class composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich and Modest Mussorgsky, but the poll revealed that people were more interested in "modern dance" than classical music.

Only 18 per cent of the poll's respondents expressed an interest in listening to classical music, a figure dwarfed by those who said they loved pop music (38 per cent). Theatre fared a little better, with 31 per cent saying they enjoyed watching a play but still hardly a ringing endorsement. Indeed, the outlook for high culture is a far cry from Soviet days when citizens were encouraged to sample something that used to be the sole preserve of the Tsarist elite and had access to top-quality culture at rock-bottom proletarian prices.

The poll's organiser, Lyudmila Presnyakova, said it was a mistake to see the figures as a gloomy indictment of today's society.

"People don't have access to art galleries in many towns and cities whereas 98 per cent of the population has a TV. I expected even lower figures," she said. "To expect that 80 per cent of people should go to the Tretyakov Gallery or the Hermitage ... and to think it a catastrophe if they don't ... is strange to say the least."

Though she conceded that more high culture was consumed in Soviet times she said she did not think there had been a "radical" change in the past 15 years.

Yuri Levada, a rival pollster, conceded there had been a big change and blamed the rise of television and the internet. "TV is gradually devouring all of Russians' leisure time," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web / Software Developer - ASP.NET

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Small and agile digital marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Accountant

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A national firm of chartered ce...

Recruitment Genius: Full Time and Part Time Digital Designer - North Kent

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful web design/deve...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders