International piano competition backtracks on Russian ban


A piano competition that welcomes people from all over the world has changed its position on allowing Russian competitors.

The Calgary-based Honens International Piano Competition announced last week that it would revoke invitations to Russian competitors to its 2022 event, but on Thursday announced that it would reinstate those competitors.

The band said they were influenced by thousands of Russian citizens arrested for passive protests against the invasion, the exodus of citizens from Russia and “important voices” from the global music community and past winners and current contestants of the society.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in the biggest attack on a European state since World War II, causing millions to flee.

Honens said any contestant who expresses support for the invasion of Ukraine will not be welcome in the contest, and said any winner of the 2022 contest who demonstrates direct or indirect support for the invasion of Ukraine will be stripped of its laureate status.

The group did not respond to a question about how they planned to implement this position and declined an interview with CBC.

Earlier this month, the Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev canceled Canadian shows in Montreal and Vancouver.

Many organizations will face pressure in both directions when choosing whether or not to apply sanctions, said Rob Huebert, an associate professor in the University of Calgary’s political science department.

“On the one hand, there will be this desire to try to do whatever is necessary to invoke Western discontent over the horrific loss of life and action that is occurring as a result of this aggression,” Huebert said.

“On the other hand, there will also be the counterforce, which will be the recognition that a lot of individuals who end up being targeted in some of these actions – like in the piano competition – have nothing to do with the Putin administration and therefore nothing to do with the invasion.”

Huebert’s micro-targeted sanctions and economic sanctions against major Russian resource exports have always been more effective.

“It’s the only type that ever really seemed to work,” Huebert said.

“I’m skeptical when it comes to saying we can target individuals…but there are others who will say every little bit counts.”


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