For many countries in Europe, World Theater Day 2022, which celebrates the theater arts and their unifying power, is marked by the war in Ukraine. There, theatres are becoming shelters for the inhabitants of their cities, being shelled and reduced to rubble. Millions of civilians are fleeing Russia’s military, which has also unleashed terror against dissidents in its own country. As a social media campaign (#WorldTheatreDay2022) of ITI Germany and Deutscher Bühnenverein, association of German theatres and orchestras, the Ukrainian author Natalia Vorozhbyt gives her message to the World Theatre Day 2022 in front of the picture of the destroyed theatre of Mariupol, Ukraine. The Video will be played in all German theatres on March 27.
“Today, the 60th World Theatre Day, is marked by destruction and terror. With Russia’s war against Ukraine, we are experiencing an escalating spiral of violence with unforeseeable consequences for us all. Our solidarity is with the victims of the war and it is with all those who rebel against it” (Yvonne Büdenhölzer, President ITI Germany).
In their Statement for Peace and a Constructive Dialogue the President and the Secretary General of the ITI refer to the Preamble of the UNESCO Constitution of 1945: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” and affirm that “Our purpose is to overcome divisions, and to keep the lines of communication wide open between all peoples of the world.”
According to the National Union of Theatre Artists of Ukraine, art director Oleksandr Knyha was arrested and taken away with unknown destination during searches of Russian military forces after the occupation of Kherson in the premises of the Kherson Theatre on May 23. Knyha is chairman of the Eurasian Theatre Association, president of the Melpomene Tavria International Theatre Festival and a member of the Kherson Regional Council. Knyha’s wife, Oksana, was also arrested.
Viktor Havrilyuk, artistic director of the Kherson Academic Regional Puppet Theatre was detained on March 22 during street demonstrations in Kherson. Bogdan Strutynskyi, Chairman of the National Union of Theatre Artists of Ukraine writes in his statement: “We call on the whole world’s theatre community to join in our demands to liberate Ukrainian artist Oleksandr Knyha. We need to make known the horrid acts of violence and repression unleashed by the Russian military against the Ukrainian culture figures and do everything possible and impossible to ensure their freedom. The world must be aware of these war crimes!” Sources report that Knyha was released late last night.
The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki, newly appointed October 2021, has presented her first report to the 49th session of the Human Rights Council. The first version of the report, focusing on capturing the state of the art, was published via the OHCHR website and can be downloaded here. An important focus of the Special Rapporteur will be the realisation of substantive equality in the exercise of cultural right.
Following the UN General Assembly resolution of March 2nd the UNESCO reaffirms its commitment to the “sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, and it demands that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine.” Consistent with its mandate, UNESCO demands the immediate cessation of attacks on civilian facilities, such as schools, universities, memorial sites, cultural and communication infrastructures, and deplores civilian casualties, including students, teachers, artists, scientists and journalists. These include women and children, girls especially, disproportionately impacted by the conflict and displacement. The UNESCO Executive Board will hold a Special Session on 15 March to examine the impact and consequences of the current situation in Ukraine in all aspects of UNESCO’s mandate.
The president of the ITI, Mohammed Saif Al-Afkham and Tobias Biancone, Director General, have published a Statement for Peace and Constructive Dialoge on March 4th. The statement refers to the Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. Since its inception, ITI has followed this tenet of UNESCO, and uses education and culture to inform, inspire and engage people everywhere to foster understanding and respect for each other…. ITI will never punish or exclude members based on the decisions of their government. Our purpose is to overcome divisions, and to keep the lines of communication wide open between all peoples of the world. We stand for peace and freedom!!!”
Over 18.000 artists and cultural workers across Russia have signed an open letter for peace in Ukraine, published on February 25th. The war “…will take away our last opportunities to fully work, speak out, create projects, popularize and develop culture, and take away the future. Everything that has been done culturally over the past 30 years is now at risk.” “We, artists, curators, architects, critics, art critics, art managers, representatives of the culture and art of the Russian Federation, express our absolute solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We demand immediate peace talks.”
Because of an amendment to the law passed today (March 4th) by the Russian parliament that makes spreading false information about the Russian army subject to heavy fines and imprisonment of up to 15 years, the initiators decided to remove the original terms “war” and “invasion” from the text. Update: The open letter and the list of subscribers has since been depublished.