How much will Russia’s cultural heritage suffer?

Alexei Sorokin
4 min readMay 20, 2022

I don’t know. I’m wondering.

Soon after the start of the war, I got my mom out of Russia. She’s now with us in America. I’m happy she can spend time with our kids. She is babushka for them. She’ll improve their Russian. We speak Russian in the family, but teaching our kids to read and write in Russian requires a special effort and that’s what my Mom will do. Her academic background is in Russian language and literature. She made me read a lot when I was a kid!

My Mom won’t go back to Russia and it’s not because of me. For many years she was reluctant to leave Russia, despite her opposition to Putin and his regime. Not that she’s old (she’s in her sixties) but, with age, it’s not easy to leave your home and move to another country. The war in Ukraine though and the ever-escalating brutality of Putin’s regime against anyone who opposes it was the final nail in my Mom’s attachment to Russia.

This story though is not about my Mom leaving Russia. Well, maybe a little.

So now that she’s in America, she could give Russian language lessons. We will probably try at some point. We’re now a very large family and it wouldn’t harm if my Mom could make a bit of money.

But I’m wondering — who needs to study the Russian language these days? Sure, there are immigrant families like us. But is there any “real” demand in light of Russia’s current reputation (in the West anyway)? Why would anyone want to learn the Russian language? I don’t know. Frankly, I wouldn’t even feel confident about publicly advertising my Mom’s Russian lessons — you know in local social media communities, where you see all kinds of postings and offerings. I’m not ashamed of my Russian identity, but certainly, there is a sense of embarrassment and feeling insecure in some situations.

This example is very anecdotal but it begs a bigger question. Is Russia’s war in Ukraine destroying the Russian cultural influence and heritage?

I think yes.

It’s already happening. It’s hard to tell what’s transitory, what’s lasting.

Here’s another situation. Anna Netrebko, Russia’s famous soprano, is out of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day.