Sanctions, boycotts, bans, penalties of all kind: there’s no end to the punishments being slapped on Moscow. But amid the frantic rush of institutions and individuals to distance themselves from Russia, some seem to be somewhat overstepping the mark.
The Cardiff Philharmonic has today cancelled an all-Tchaikovsky programme as ‘inappropriate at this time’; Russian conductor Valery Gergiev was sacked last week by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra for failing to condemn Putin. In Italy, the University of Milano-Bicocca has been forced to backtrack after trying to cancel a Dostoevsky course while at least three MPs in the UK have suggested stripping Russians in Britain of their citizenship.
But now one man at the Daily Mail has done his own unique form of protest. Oliver Smith – previously known as Oleg Vishnepolsky – has taken to LinkedIn to explain he is now in the process of legally changing his name in protest at the ‘invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent atrocities being committed by the Russian government.’
Smith, who is the chief technology officer at the Mail’s parent company DMG Media, said that the move was because ‘my family and I were expelled from Soviet Russia over 40 years ago for alleged anti-Soviet and “anti-Russian” propaganda.’ He added: ‘I hold great respect for all cultures, but with everything that is happening in Ukraine this change of name is very important to me.’
The move has prompted a mixed reaction on the popular social media platform, with some complaining that he was lumping in all Russian culture with the actions of a kleptocratic fascist. Smith doubled down on the move in the comments underneath his LinkedIn post, claiming ‘You can change the world, sometimes by a little step forward’ and ‘I don’t change who I am. I change perception of who I am.’ After someone referenced the cancellation of the Dostoevsky course, Smith hit back:
The Russian culture, if you know history and Dostoevsky who you reference, has always been about misery and human suffering. Don’t impose that misery on other nations.
The renaming of family titles is nothing new of course. During the Great War, the royal family changed their surname from its Germanic roots to the British ‘Windsor’, prompting the Kaiser’s remark that he looked forward to attending a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg’ at the first opportunity.
Given the spirit of the times, perhaps Smith and his Mail colleagues will rename Le Carré’s work as ‘The Northcliffe House’ instead?
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