How Ukraine is 'de-Russifying' its ballets, theatres and bookshops

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports from Kyiv's National Opera House

Even in the darkest days of the war, the cultural life of Ukraine remains alive and resilient.

Many theatre, music and ballet shows have persisted, despite over a year of Russian bombardment.

But something is changing. A culture once so entwined with that of its neighbour is now rejecting all things Russian.

In the rehearsal rooms of the National Ballet company you’ll not hear the works of Stravinsky or Prokoviev - not even the great ballets of Tchaikovsky.  Russian composers are out.  The dancers don’t want to dance them, nor the audiences to watch.

Ballet dancer Victor Ischuk talks to ITV News.

For the performers it is devastating – the careers of principal dancers like Vladislav Tkachuk and Tetyana Lozova have been spent perfecting roles in Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Now they are having to build a new repertoire.

Mr Tkachuk told ITV News: "I understand it is very difficult for people to dance to the pieces they used to dance to before, but it can't be any other way."

For choreographers like Victor Ishchuk, 50% of his repertoire will no longer be danced. But even if he didn’t like it, there’d be no choice.

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He said: "This decision came from the people. This was from the people, outside, not from the theatre or the government."

He added that he is "sure" the Ukrainian public would not buy tickets to watch a Russian ballet.

In the foyer, a survey of those arriving to see a French ballet endorsed that view.

One woman said she refused to watch shows written by "murderers and terrorists".

Another said it simply wasn't the "right time" to be putting on Russian shows.

It doesn’t stop at the Opera House. Ordinary Ukrainians are purging their bookshelves of anything written in Russian, by Russians, even just about Russia.

A bookshop in central Kyiv recycles unwanted Russian books.

One bookshop in central Kyiv recycles these books. No one’s ordering these books to be banned or burned, but from the works of Lenin or Stalin, to Dostoevsky’s the Brothers Karamazov, Ukrainian people are just wanting Russia out of their lives.

Russian children’s books are also being taken down from shelves - the days of young Ukrainians being brought up bilingual are largely over.

Great Russian artists may not have started the war with Ukraine, but it appears their works can be added to the list of its victims.

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