In light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, many in America—and around the world—are boycotting Russian products. Bars are refusing to serve Russian vodka, for example. Some of the reaction, however, has been silly. What possible good could come from banning books by classic Russian authors like Tolstoy or Chekhov? Or from cancelling composers like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, or Stravinsky, all of whom died long before Putin came to power?
Even sillier, recently a group in Brussels arbitrarily disqualified Russia’s candidate for the European Tree of the Year competition, an oak tree said to have been planted 198 years ago by renowned Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev. The ETY competition got its start in 2011…as a way to celebrate the histories of old trees and develop bonds between nations. After all, what could be less political and more neutral than a tree?
At an awards ceremony in Brussels on March 22nd, the organizers announced that this year’s ETY winner was Poland, for a 400-year-old oak tree that organizers said had become a symbol of Polish resistance to aggression-- and its warm welcome to refugees from Ukraine. Well, that’s not very neutral.
The organizers of the competition released a statement saying, “We cannot stand idly by and watch the unprecedented aggression of the Russian leadership against a neighboring country.”
So they didn’t. They went nuclear. Forget sanctions. And banning the purchase of oil and gas from the world’s largest country pales in comparison to this. This is devastating. This is a statement. Kicking Russia out of this year’s European Tree of the Year competition hits Putin right where it hurts!