Many Russian musicians this morning are expressing pride that their president chose to mark the ‘liberation’ of Palmyra by Russian and allied forces with a symphony concert.
Syrian government representatives at the concert seemed acutely uncomfortable.
Valery Gergiev spoke on television about the defeat of ‘terrorism’, as did President Putin in a video message (you can watch here). The president’s favourite cellist played a quadrille by Shchedrin.
As the concert went to air, reports came in of an air strike on a refugee camp in Syria, killing 28 people. The strike is reported to be by Russian or Syrian government forces. There is supposed to be an international ceasefire in Syria.
So what was achieved by the concert?
As far as the West is concerned, nothing. But the event was stage chiefly for internal purposes. For Russians, the concert reinforces the Stalin-era perception that their government is uniquely civilised because it places culture at the centre of state propaganda.
And Valery Gergiev is its willing instrument.