Slovakia's New Minister Reverses Controversial Ban on Russia and Belarus

Written by Henrik Rothen

Jan.21 - 2024 8:39 AM CET

Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Slovakia's New Minister Reverses Controversial Ban on Russia and Belarus.

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Slovakia's new Culture Minister, Martina Šimkovičová, has overturned a previous ban on cultural cooperation with Russia and Belarus. According to reports from the Slovak publication Pravda on January 20, the decision, detailed in leaked documents, marks a significant policy reversal for the Slovak Ministry of Culture.

Initially, the ban was put into effect a week after the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Its primary intent was to halt communication and collaboration with Belarus and Russia, although it notably exempted Russian artists or organizations that openly opposed the war.

Effective January 22, Šimkovičová's overturning of the ban has elicited mixed reactions. Addressing the media, Šimkovičová argued that artists and the cultural sector should not bear the burden of the world's numerous military conflicts.

This rationale has been met with skepticism, given the current geopolitical climate and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The minister's decision comes amidst her own controversial past. Šimkovičová was previously dropped by a private Slovak TV channel due to her sharing of anti-refugee content on social media. Since then, her public statements have expanded into realms of homophobia, pro-Russian sentiment, and anti-establishment rhetoric.

Hromadske, a notable media outlet, has also highlighted her previous engagements with TV channels known for propagating conspiracy theories.

Šimkovičová's political journey has been turbulent. In 2016, she secured a parliamentary seat but was later expelled from her conservative party for breaching parliamentary conduct, including voting for herself and a colleague. Despite these challenges, she refused to resign and continued her political career as an independent Member of Parliament.

This latest development in Slovak cultural policy under Šimkovičová's leadership raises questions about the nation's stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its broader implications for cultural diplomacy and international relations.