Many Russian celebrities supported the war. At the same time, they did not lose appetite for money-making. Russia turned out to be not that big to offer enough opportunities for road-shows, and many “recruits of the Russian Z-celebrity forces” (Z is symbol of Russian invasion) began to make attempts to conquer neighboring countries, Kazakhstan included.
People in Kazakhstan showed warm welcome to not all of those “forces”. Why is it so?
Cold Reaction to “Heat”
In the middle of February, the organizing committee of the Heat Music Festival in Almaty announced that the event was to be postponed “due to political situation in the country and in the world”. That is interesting, for it is not the first postponement of the event. There were plans to have it in Almaty in the summer of the previous year, but those plans, for some reasons, never got implemented.
Also, the Russian organizers of “Heat” had plans to run the festival in Azerbaijan, but cancelled them immediately after Russian invasion, justifying it by the “overlap of circumstances”.
When the “Heat” posters appeared in the streets of Almaty, as well as in social networks, Almaty folks’ reaction to that was not homogenous. In social networks, users produced numerous appeals to boycott the event, because the “Heat” celebrities supported the war, openly waving Z-flags.
Kazakh regulators followed the rules of diplomatic courtesy and mysteriousness and did not issue the refusal immediately. As customary in the Kazakh practices, they took time to do some thinking and “to take into account the opinions of citizens”.
Citizens, in their turn, produced another wave of criticism against regulators, for their indecisiveness and allowing infiltration of Russian propaganda to Kazakh stage and television. Regulators attempted to justify their position be referring to “their obligation to seek compromise”.
Almost the whole world cancelled Russian performers, after the Russian invasion in Ukraine. In February, Germany cancelled the road-show of Phillip Kirkorov, a Russian pop-singer, who is trying to play on both sides, but supporting invasion. Germans petitioned to ban his concerts and several German celebrities signed that petition.
Ukrainian President Zelenskiy compiled his own Russian Celebrity Black List, which list rendered its material influence on the world and its attitudes to Russian celebrities. In that list, one might find names of 119 Russian celebrities. We need to understand, that Zelenskiy’s voice does matter, and not for free.
Our domestic Arts Experts report that in the hard-core old-Soviet time, celebrities performed the functions of the Horn of Propaganda. Modern Russia reactivated that tradition, at least because modern Russian is under the old-Soviet-style authoritarian ruling regime.
The following facts only reinforce the above statement: daughter of the ex-Director of the Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service was assigned the Director of the Tretiyakovskaya Gallery; PMC Wagner’s Arts Center recently ran an exhibition of Russian painters, who patriotically depict the present Russo-Ukrainian war; Russia is now experiencing an explosive popularity of patriotic songs – a certain singer Vladimir aka Shaman Dronov, who was not widely known and popular in Russia before the war, won popularity for singing patriotic songs.
Of course, we are not blindly cancelling all Russian celebrities, who support the war. Kazakh audience act on the basis of selective approach. For example, we rejected the visit of singer Polina Gagarina, because she took part in the Z-concerts. In Karaganda, people rioted against singer Larisa Dolina, who also supports the war. As for Philip Kirkorov, already mentioned above, our audience did accept him, even with his bizarre choice of a stage outfit.
Of course, we cannot state that the universal Russophobia is the reason for the cancellation of Russian celebrities. Our regulators, at the same time, show pre-cautious attitudes to the road-shows of Ukrainian celebrities – “for the sake of preventing something bad”.
For example, last year there was a concert in Kazakhstan, performed by the “Nerves” band from Ukraine. A Kazakh lady started waving a Ukrainian flag, but police confiscated that flag from her. Looks like Ukrainian singers liked that act, but Kazakh regulators did not appreciate it. Contrary to people of Kazakhstan, Ukrainian artists do not express their political attitudes in public. For what, actually? Their position is known, without that.
Our indigenous Arts and Culture experts report that Kazakh citizens show different attitudes. Instead of verbal criticism of celebrities, they could simply ignore shows, but they buy tickets, attend shows and enjoy them, thus supporting one the sides of the conflict.
Seeking for Identity
Another reason, why Kazakh audiences today are showing different attitudes to Russian celebrities is the issue of de-colonization and quest for a new national identity. It just happened so, that for decades our people got used to consuming Russian media-content. The Russo-Ukrainian war became one bright demonstration of what can happen, if a nation does not draw clear border-lines in culture. For many ex-Soviets, Ukrainians became an etalon of real independence and democracy. Their line of behavior touched citizens of Kazakhstan – people of various ethnic backgrounds suddenly felt themselves as a single entity – the people of Kazakhstan, and now are actively seeking for a new cultural identity. That is, probably, why, some foreign celebrities, that used to be absolute clichés, today are being rejected.