Veterans of Russia’s storied animation industry came together to speak out against their country’s military invasion of Ukraine in an open letter published by the Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta (New Gazette) paper. The declaration highlighted the fraternity of Russian and Ukrainian animators and the artform’s ability to connect people across borders, both physical and metaphorical.
“…The animation community in Ukraine and Russia is one and indivisible: We have been working together, watching each other’s films for many years. The art of animation is an art which helps people to feel human. Not to kill, not to destroy. To connect,” a translation of the letter reads. “And today our children and brothers are sent to kill those with whom, until recently, they played in the same yard and watched the same cartoons, without distinguishing whether they were Russian or Ukrainian.”
The message was published in response to the latest, violent turn in the eight-year Russo-Ukrainian War, which saw Russia and pro-Russian forces launch a large-scale invasion across Ukraine’s borders on February 24 — the largest conventional warfare operation in Europe since World War II.
“Animation — and art in general — has always been imbued with an anti-war spirit. We believe that today’s hostilities are directed not just against our Ukrainian friends and colleagues, but against all human beings, humanity and man in general,” the letter continues, “… [There is] no justification for bombing and killing!“
The letter’s 370 signatories include directors, producers, screenwriters and animators, including the 101-year-old animation legend Leonid Shvartsman, who made the character Cheburashka (also known as Topple in English) into an icon of stop-motion animation with his big-eared design for the 1969 Soyuzmultfilm shorts.
Other longtime leaders of the community who signed include Yuri Norstein (Hedgehog in the Fog, Tale of Tales), who has been honored with the Annie Award for Distinguished Contribution, Animafest Zagreb Lifetime Achievement Award, the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, People’s Artist of Russia and Russian Independent Triumph Award; SHAR school-studio head Andrey Khrzhanovsky (Annecy jury award winner The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks, The Lion with the White Beard); Palme d’Or winner and Order of Honor recipient Garri Bardin (Fioratures, Choo-Choo, Fitil); and writer Mikhail Lipskerov (Mountain of Gems, Wolf and Calf) — all artists in their 80s who got their start under the Soviet regime.
Signatures also represented later generations of Soviet/Russian animators, including two-time Oscar-nominated director Konstantin Bronzit (We Can’t Live without Cosmos, Lavatory Lovestory, The God) and multiple Golden Eagle- and Nika-nominated director Mariya Muat (Metel, The Man and the Woman, Zheltukhin, The Snow Maiden).
Established in 1993, the Novaya Gazeta published three times a week and has earned multiple awards for writing, transparency and press freedom in the last two decades. Editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.