As Russia faces international isolation, the state has turned to culture as a means of political leverage. The result is a new cultural policy that narrowly defines Russian culture with a nostalgic emphasis on heritage and tradition. Ilya Kalinin analyses the role that culture plays in public life and government policy ('Culture matters: why the Kremlin wants to be the keeper of Russia’s cultural heritage', Calvert Journal 28 January 2015).
The language of culture talks about things that everybody has (for example, identity). In times of social stratification, and ever-growing economic inequality, and greater differences in lifestyles and personal values, culture begins to manifest itself as a bastion of mass democratic participation — as a showcase for values and heritage which belong to everyone, and which therefore should be nurtured and protected by everyone. National culture presents itself as something that unites bureaucrats and baristas, office workers and farmers, oligarchs and oncologists, pop stars and school teachers. Cultural riches can make up for the lack of material wealth; they take the sting out of interactions between people on different rungs of the social ladder. In other words, when you have nothing — no political say, no business to pay your pension — you still have a role to play in protecting your cultural heritage; the shared cultural wealth.