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the Moscow-based Public Opinion Foundation, Russia's image as a nation of sophisticated consumers of high culture is an outdated myth.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

Recruitment Genius: IT Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking to find a...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Manager / Technical Executive

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity exists ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger & Arrears Supervisor

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are an experienced super...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss