X is outside politics

Yesterday russia had another missile strike on Ukrainian territory, leaving some cities without electricity, heating and water for a day. As expected from a terrorist state. But here I’d like to talk about all those spineless people and organisations that keep supporting russia indirectly by not expelling it because “X is outside politics”.

Nowadays the phrase “X is outside politics” where X is arts, sport, video games or whatever is mainly used as an excuse to do nothing against entities using that thing exactly in political reasons. Kinda like it is made to be outside politics by some natural force and nothing can change it—instead of keeping it outside politics. It is like saying that gas and oil are outside politics and ignoring all the conflicts that have happened in order to control its sources and transport let alone russian blackmail attempts where they drop prices and increase shipped volumes for their allies (like Hungary) and cut it off for the countries not agreeing to their political demands (like Poland or Ukraine).

And yet there are people claiming that other things are outside politics so you should not e.g. boycott russian art just because russians have started genocidal war and in their majority approves it (even if they don’t want to fight in it themselves).


People forget that back in the day creating art was a long and costly process, so works of art were usually commissioned by wealthy people directly (or created to suit their taste in hope the potential patron will reward the creator for dedicating such work in his honour). Of course that meant that such works were often created in a biased way to either flatter the person or to push the favourable narrative. And the creator usually could spin own views into the book (a classic example: La Divina Commedia is famous not only for synthesising various beliefs on afterlife into a single system but also for its author’s views on his political opponents, some being placed in Hell already while they were still alive during the writing of the book).

Now take into account that the state can manipulate the works of art in its own interests—encourage art on a certain theme (like the various scenes from happy lives of Soviet workers and peasants), outlaw and destroy art that does not conform to certain criteria (there are many countries where mentioning LGBT+ themes is outlawed and when such laws are passed a lot of previously “outside politics” works become criminal offences). The work of art may be an abstract thing, but its creator is a human person that lives in a society and has to obey the rules (or suffer the consequences) let alone subtler filter bubbles created by the state (for example, there has nothing happened on 5th of June 1989 at Tiananmen Square, most of Lenin’s comrades were unpersons and Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia). And of course nothing prevents the state from taking those works of art and repurposing them later, giving new context and meaning (as I said previously, almost every russian symbol, starting with the country name itself, is stolen from elsewhere).

Ballet and gymnastics

One would wonder how such rather abstract forms of arts can serve political purposes. Like with sports (which is discussed below), it can be used as propaganda for outside usually pretending on peacefulness (“look, such refined people can’t be bad”) and for inside to unite the people behind something (“look, our performers are recognized in the whole world, we’re the greatest nation”).

Soviet Union used ballet for such purposes to the point that it got a memetic status (“…and as for ballet, we’re better at it than the rest of the planet”). North Korea has a mass gymnastics show called Arirang which is for impressing people how large North Korean collectives act like one person.

Dramatic art and literature

This is probably the most obvious example but Italian and European Commission officials do not understand it.

As mentioned above, plays and books are often written with some explicit political goals (even if they’re a good reading after all those centuries like Jonathan Swift’s), some works simply comprise political views of their authors even if it’s not the main objective (sometimes it’s just a passing remark on a group of people the author dislikes, but it’s still there). And of course the work can be repurposed later.

Soviet Union initially tried to push for the internationalism, the brotherhood of all people and so on, but after the attempts to expand have mostly failed (some countries were conquered but not the whole of Europe or Asia let alone Americas) they switched to the old rhetoric equalling USSR to a new russian empire (i.e. bringing civilisation to the outskirts, being the guide who knows the way to the future and other bullshit) while condemning it (for having a czar and not Polutburo as the ruler). This means that most of pre-1917 russian classics could be used not just to demonstrate how bad was life for a common peasant (alluding it has improved greatly under Soviets) but also the old rhetoric about empire, its strength and defeating the enemies could be used almost verbatim as well. And new works had to conform the so-called party line (the current outlook on the internal and external politics) otherwise it would not be published.

Now let’s look at the other parent of modern russia. Beside creating some of the best propaganda pieces, Nazi Germany has repurposed a lot of past art to its goals. The famous Deutschlandlied (the one that starts with words “Germany, Germany above all, above everything in the world”) was created in times of disunited German kingdoms, duchies and counties and the idea was that they all should unite to one single Germany instead of having petty squabbles between each others—and you know how those words are perceived after 1939. Richard Wagner created his operas because he was interested in the German past and writing epic music with no connection to the modern days (beside maybe some jabs at critics) and that’s why the Bavarian fairytale king supported him—but you know how his music was used in 1930 and what associations it brings now. One of the books by Strugatsky brothers contains the following passage about Nietzsche: “He was a great poet but he was very unlucky with the fans.” And indeed, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his philosophical works about individual men, how they should cope with the unwelcoming world and strive to become better—so when his idea of superhuman (in moral sense) were adopted by Nazis they still remained outside politics, didn’t they?

Video games

Video games are a work of art too (even if not all) and in many cases they tell a story and have a setting. So some games may push a certain narrative by having a “proper” version of history, “properly” behaving parties and so on. For example, Company of Heroes 2 had hostile reception in russia because you could commit the same atrocities with Soviet soldiers as in real life (like in East Prussia) and in russia they believe that there were no such things (the same way as they don’t want to hear about Bucha or Izyum now).

And considering how russian dictatorship controls all mass media, do you think they won’t try to “convince” game studios (with both money and threats of criminal prosecution) that they should make more “patriotic” games?


The Olympic games were initially conceived as apolitical competitions (that’s why Greek city-states even stopped fighting during the games). When they were revived in 1896, they tried to preserve the spirit—and then 1936 Summer Olympics happened.

Nazi Germany saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate its power and superiority of its people. In a sense it was the first modern Olympics and not just for the technical details: initially it was a competition between individuals for the sake of promoting sports and chivalrous rivalry. Afterwards it became a canonical show-off for a hosting country and it was state-sponsored teams taking part and not amateurs who trained at their own expense.

Consider the following: in the last decades hosting an Olympics (or often any other large sports event) does not bring profit to the hosting country (especially considering how the objects that had to be built to conform to the newer IOC standards are too large for any domestic use afterwards and have to be either demolished or maintained without a meaningful return). So the hosting country should be a wealthy country willing to throw away money for what? For prestige and show-off. That’s why nowadays large sports events happen in countries with dubious reputation (like Temporary Occupied West Taiwan, Qatar, russia or South Africa).

And you should remember the doping scandal for 2014 Winter Olympics—if the government used its state security in order to organise mass cheating at doping, do you think it hadn’t treated winning at the games as political goal?

There’s another fun fact: for both russia and Temporary Occupied West Taiwan the majority of males in their teams are not merely people training at the state expense, they are also on active military duty. There may be many possible explanations but some state politics is involved there as well.

So you may see all those sports events as apolitical but certain countries do not—and they act accordingly.


I hope it’s clear by now that “X is outside politics” is merely a suggestion and not an inherent property. Something stays outside politics only as long as no party is using it for some political purposes.

In my previous lengthy rant I described how I moved away from russian culture even if I’d been exposed to it long and extensively. For other people, who did not grow up in russian colonies unlike me, it should be even easier.

Similarly, still admitting russians to international competitions of any kind is allowing them to keep spreading their narratives both inside and outside the country (at least russia has thought in advance and bought enough people in various sports committees to keep allowing them even if not under their own flag).

And if you’re still asking why—believing russian narratives is exactly what made this war so horrible, long and devastating (and sadly not for russia). And it enables other parties (like Temporary Occupied West Taiwan) to influence your decisions as well. After all, convincing your enemy that he’s lost already is a victory indeed.

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