Public debate: Roles and responsibilities of culture in times of war

Press Release
on the organization of the debate ”
Roles and responsibilities of culture in times of war”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”

Held on 03 Iune 2022, Debate No.250 brought together: Writer Oleg Serebrian, the author of a number of novels, including about the war, who is a laureate of international and national awards and Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert.

According to Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, culture is the ensemble of accomplishments in the material and spiritual sectors for the specific organization and development of human life presented in products and the efforts of the material and spiritual work. Also, culture is a system of social norms and institutions, spiritual values, people’s attitudes to nature, society and to themselves in the relations between them. “It is important to note that civilization is the stage of culture. After the barbaric period, culture has represented all the spiritual, material and moral means with which a particular community equips its members it relation to the external world, which is to other communities,” explained the expert.

As to the war, by the classical definition this is an armed conflict between political entities, states, coalitions of states. The wars usually appear based on claims that cannot be satisfied, being a way of imposing the will on the opponent. “If we speak about behaviors, in times of war these are aimed at justifying the start and conduct of the war, promotion of the own viewpoint, propaganda for attracting the support of the own citizens and of potential allies. On the own citizens, a series of restrictions are imposed in times of war based on laws, like the mobilization for war and others. There are also other restrictions that are justified by the necessity of winning the war,” said Igor Boțan.

According to the expert, the Republic of Moldova for 30 years has been divided according to different criteria and this cleavage deepened further together with the start of the war in Ukraine. In Moldova, the people have differing opinions about this war and the eventual actions that the country needs to take. It is important to keep calm and it is even more important for the public discussions, even if they are contradictory, to be mutually accepted. “What I wish to everyone, as regards the Russian culture, is to keep calm and not to change the attitude to the works that impressed us and that continue to remain benchmarks in our education, in the perception of the world,” stated Igor Boțan.

Writer Oleg Serebrian, the author of a number of novels, including about the war, who is a laureate of international and national awards, said that muses do not keep silent during firing, but they are not heard. “In times of war, culture surely goes on, but with other steps, in other directions. I think during World War II, there appeared a phenomenon that developed after 1945, but was felt powerfully in 1939-1945 through the employment of culture. Culture became a kind of weapon, a part of propaganda. From literature to film, everything started to serve a cause, a victory cause, a national cause,” stated Oleg Serebrian.

According to him, in World War I this relationship between culture, politics, war, nation wasn’t so visible. The given mutation occurred in the interwar period, primarily during World War II. “Culture suffers a lot during a war and I think World War II was disastrous from this viewpoint. It is enough to visit large German cities to realize that they do not exist. Historically, they were annihilated as a result of shelling during the war. The large German museums are also a big problem. Many of the museum stocks disappeared during the war, primarily after 1945. Many of these are in Russia and it is not a secret that 2 million wagons of trophies were taken to this country. We remember the sieged Leningrad, the Italian cities, all the atrocities committed against culture in these wars - thefts of masterpieces, loss of works of art, disappearance of large medieval cities in Germany, Poland, etc.” said the writer.

However, as Oleg Serebrian stated, in times of war certain changes in attitude occur in culture, primarily in literature and philosophy. The people think about life and death and about values in a different way. Great works were produced during war years. “It is very curious to know what Ernst Junger or Remarque wrote about the war, or Hemingway. These people saw, felt the war and depicted it. Russian literature in this regard is too triumphalist. That’s why the books of German authors about the war are very different from the books written in a triumphalist, biased way about World War II, even if there are interesting pages in this ideologized Soviet literature too,” noted the writer.

The Agency published 3 news stories on the debate (see the English version of on 03.06.22, „ Roles and responsibilities of culture in times of war.  IPN debate”- ; “Oleg Serebrian: It’s time for figures of Russian culture to speak out”; ; Igor Boțan: Most Russian cultural figures support revanchism” -

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN

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