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the Moscow-based Public Opinion Foundation, Russia's image as a nation of sophisticated consumers of high culture is an outdated myth.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
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'