Lozova Palace of Culture, damaged in a missile strike on May 20, 2022. Credit: Anton Shynkarenko
We are writers, journalists, artists, human rights defenders, and those who stand in solidarity with them from around the world, including those who stay in Ukraine and made the difficult decision to leave our homes. On the one-year marking of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we write to express our collective condemnation of Russia’s multi-pronged war against the Ukrainian people and culture.
We grieve for the thousands of people killed as casualties of Russia’s campaign of violence. Russia’s war has sought to rupture Ukraine’s social fabric and culture, displacing millions of people in the destruction of cities and towns. We grieve for the deaths of writers, artists, journalists, cultural workers, and all who have cultivated Ukraine’s blooming culture and civil society sector.
In the last year, the space for free expression in Ukraine has been under attack by the Russian military’s actions. Russian soldiers have deliberately killed and kidnapped journalists and writers. Artists had to flee Ukraine in order to survive and continue their work. Russian bombardments have indiscriminately destroyed and damaged hundreds of places where Ukrainians experience culture and history, from community cultural houses to Holocaust memorial centers. There is evidence that the Mariupol Drama Theater, the 19th century Regional Youth Library in Chernihiv, and other remarkable cultural objects have been deliberately targeted. But Russia’s military actions since February 24, 2022, represent only one prong in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
Alongside the deliberate destruction of human life and infrastructure, Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the existence of Ukrainian history and culture distinct from Russia. Since 2014, Russia has illegally occupied Crimea and parts of Luhansk and Donetsk, where writers, journalists, and activists have been jailed for their expression under the administration of the Russian Federation and armed separatist groups backed by Russia. Russian authorities have banned Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar language instruction and media and excavated a world heritage site to construct a revisionist history rooted in President Putin’s denial of other cultures.
Yet, despite being under attack, journalists, writers, artists, and cultural rights defenders continue to make art, write, and contribute to Ukrainian culture. Translators and members of the free press ensure that the realities of life in Ukraine and the impact of Russia’s violence are broadcast to the world. The diary entries, essays, poems, independent reporting, and street art are central to rebuilding in Ukraine when the war is over.
We, the signatories below, stand in solidarity with Ukraine’s culture and civil society sector and support its writers, artists, journalists, and cultural workers’ efforts to create life beyond Russia’s war. We reiterate our condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and call for the support of all journalists, cultural figures, and all unjustly persecuted in Ukraine for their expression.
Russia should be held accountable for its war crimes and human rights abuses. We urge the international community to support all Ukrainian efforts to investigate these crimes and ensure that the deliberate targeting of Ukrainian cultural heritage by the Russian regime is included in national accountability mechanisms as well as the international commission of inquiry for Ukraine.
We call on international governments to join us in solidarity by providing livelihood support to Ukrainian writers, artists, and journalists inside and outside the country and ensure that they can continue to create art wherever they are. Russia must be held accountable for its violations of cultural rights and human rights in Ukraine.
Ayad Akhtar Marie Arana Reza Aslan Margaret Atwood Paul Auster Carolina Barrero Laura Bickford Martin Bright Robert Caro Joyce Carol Oates Rosanne Cash Rohan Chakravarty Ron Chernow Ahmedur Tutul Chowdhury Esther Claassen Molly Crabapple Lydia Davis Mónica de la Torre Gianluca Del Gobbo Octavio DelaSuaree Ariel Dorfman Rita Dove Jennifer Egan Louise Erdrich Oskar Eustis Jonathan Franzen Ileana Fuentes Claudia Genlui Louis A. Gitinywa Peter Godwin Lev Golinkin Lev Grossman Jessica Hagedorn Daniel Handler James Hannaham Tom Healy Aleksandar Hemon David Henry Hwang Siri Hustvedt Sunitha Janamohanan Sofia Karim Mary Karr Sean Kelly Nicole Krauss Dr. Dominik Kuryłek Chang-Rae Lee Yiyun Li John Lithgow Valeria Luiselli Allison Markin Powell Guillermo G. Marmol David Mazzucchelli Jay McInerney Askold Melnyczuk Christopher Merrill Claire Messud Paul Muldoon Azar Nafisi Ahmed Naji Maggie Nelson Yanelys Nuñez Leyva Jan Moritz Onken Susan Orlean Sarah D. Phillips Robert Pinsky Francine Prose Alexis Romay Dr. Piotr Rypson Esmeralda Santiago Katrina Stuart Santiago George Saunders Seth Schachner Stacy Schiff Dr. Katherine Schofield Alice Sebold Stéphane Segreto-Aguilar Sharmila Seyyid Elif Shafak Fatima Shaik Gary Shteyngart Jane Smiley Andrew Solomon Alec Soth Richard Stengel Meryl Streep Rose Styron John Suarez Cynthia Sweeney Aatish Taseer Anne Tyler Russell Scott Valentino Mario Vargas Llosa Ayelet Waldman Tara Westover Jamie Wolf Tobias Wolff Sholeh Wolpé KK Wootton Jillian C. York
Active Vista International Human Rights Festival Academia de la Historia de Cuba en el Exilio Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network ARTICLE 19 Artist Protection Fund ArtLords and Wartists, Afghanistan Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) Avant-Garde Lawyers Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) Callias Foundation Cambodian Center for Human Rights Cartoonists Rights Network International Centrala – Centre for Central and Eastern European art and artists DAKILA Philippines English PEN European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) European Federation of Journalists European Festivals Association Free Press for Eastern Europe Freedom House Freemuse Human Rights Movement and Film Festival “Bir Duino – Kyrgyzstan” ICOM Israel ICOM Poland National Committee IFEX International Media Support (IMS) International Press Institute (IPI) Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) On the Move Oregon Institute for Creative Research P.E.N.-Québec PEN America and Artists at Risk Connection PEN Belarus PEN Canada PEN Català PEN International PEN Uganda Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Penn Museum People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action-PAGASAph Post-Museum, Singapore Safe Havens | Freedom Talks South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) Tanzania Artists Rights Organization (TARO) The Swedish Museums Association Trans Europe Halles Ukrainian Cultural Foundation