As the world continues to watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine in horror, nations around the world have rushed to cut ties with Russia in all forms. That includes the cancellation of concerts of one of Russia’s most celebrated composers.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky lived from 1840 to 1893 and penned some of the most iconic music in history. His compositions include the ballet The Nutcracker, which has become a staple of the Christmas season. Tchaikovsky also wrote the music for the ballet Sleeping Beauty, which Disney later adapted for an animated musical in 1959, as well as the 1812 Overture, one of the most-played pieces of music in history.
Also of note: Though Russia, especially under the Soviet regime, has gone to great lengths to deny it, biographers widely agree that Tchaikovsky was gay. He had a relationship with Sergey Kireyev, whom he met at University, as well as the violinist Iosif Kotek. By contrast, Tchaikovsky’s marriage to a woman, Antonina Miliukova, was a total disaster, and only lasted about two months.
The current social media outrage over Tchaikovsky stems from a number of orchestras that have pulled his work from planned concerts in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both the Chubu Philharmonic Orchestra of Japan and the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra of Wales have announced they have nixed planned performances of 1812 Overture in response to the invasion.
Predictably, the nixing of the performances have sent right-wing Twitter into a frenzy, as users bemoan “cancel culture” and liberal overreach. Conservative commentators Ben Shapiro, George Galloway, and Douglas Murray have all taken to Twitter to rail against these two local incidents.
For the record, we don’t think for a moment that two local orchestras canceling performances somehow means Tchaikovsky and his music will be boycotted indefinitely. Still, some people need to rage over a lack of sympathy toward Russia and its imperialist aggression. We also have to wonder if these people realize Tchaikovsky was gay.
Have a look at some of the wildest responses…
Liberals under Trump: Stop saying Wuhan flu! It is racist and causing violence!
Liberals under Biden: Boycott Russian-named restaurants owned by Ukrainians! Cancel Russian musicians! Stop playing Tchaikovsky!
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 9, 2022
Ignoramuses. What does Tchaikovsky have to do with Vladimir Putin? https://t.co/gtRTwcDUgu
— Douglas Murray (@DouglasKMurray) March 9, 2022
The irony. Tchaikovsky was one of the first (and only) composers to eschew Russian nationalism and try to integrate his music with the West. Also, he died over a century ago. We’ve lost our minds. https://t.co/98dtHTNZpo
— Billy Binion (@billybinion) March 9, 2022
Banning/dropping Tchaikovsky is just bonkers. There are some difficult judgments to make at the moment. Playing the music of long-dead Russians isn’t one of them.
— Jonathan Jones (@SirJJQC) March 9, 2022
I'm fairly certain Tchaikovsky was not consulted before Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. So banning his music from your concert hall doesn't really seem to make sense. pic.twitter.com/rxhEefjbLT
— Mike Glenn (@mrglenn) March 9, 2022