State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia

Photo: Dirgela

What do the numbers say? Edition Russia: cooperation in the museum sector, performing arts and shared cultural heritage

Despite the sometimes difficult bilateral relations, artists and cultural organisations keep creating art together. And the numbers are growing...
21 August 2019
By Lenka Boswijk


"Great works of art are only great because they are accessible and comprehensive to everyone," stated the famous Russian writer Lev Tolstoy at the end of the 19th century. More than a hundred years later, the accessibility of arts and culture seems to be just as relevant. When analyzing the data, we see that educational projects, knowledge sharing and outreach to various target groups are important themes within the cultural cooperation between Russia and the Netherlands. Besides, the presentation of music and dance also remains a big part of the exchange between the two countries. 

The trend among cultural organisations to reach out to various target groups, which has become more prominent in the field of cultural exchange between Russia and the Netherlands over the past years, has resulted in some fruitful projects in the year 2018. In this article, I will highlight a couple of cultural makers, their projects and their impact, to give you a peek behind the numbers. 

Some numbers and facts

So what do the numbers say exactly? In 2018, 212 Dutch artists participated in 465 cultural activities across Russia, making it the eighth most visited country. These events took place at 199 venues across 36 cities around the country. By far most of the activities took place in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Yekatering, Kazan and Perm are respectively placed three, four and five with far fewer activities taking place than in the two cultural capitals. The cultural fields that form the biggest part of the activities were heritage, music, performing arts, audiovisual media and architecture.

Figure 1: activities per discipline
Long-term knowledge sharing

Earlier this year we published an article about the successful exhibition Reuse, Redevelop, Redesign: How the Dutch deal with heritage. This is a good example of the results of long-term knowledge sharing in the field of cultural heritage between the two countries. In the data, we see that cooperation in the field of cultural heritage is the biggest field with 19% of all cultural activities. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is the main player in the cultural heritage exchange between Russia and the Netherlands.

Poster exhibition 'Reuse, Redevelop, Redesign' in Krasnoyarsk
A dance project with social purpose

One of the frequent travellers to Russia is the Dutch organisation Switch2Move, which collaborates with School 755 Centre for Autism and the Alexandrinsky Theatre New Stage, both located in Saint Petersburg. Its project is a good example of an outreach project in the cultural field. In 2017 Switch2Move has taught ten professional dancers in Russia about the use of dance as a tool for communication with people with special needs. In 2018 the project has continued to develop and has resulted in research on the effects of dance on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Switch2Move workshop in the Alexandrinsky Theatre New Stage. Photo: Evgeny Pronin
Hermitage creative twinning

Exchanging knowledge in the sphere of museum cooperation is another good example of the focus on the accessibility of the arts for various target groups. One of the frequent travellers Björn Stenvers reaches out to various museums in Russia to exchange knowledge on marketing and educational programs in museums. Another good example of a new project in the sphere of education in museums is 'Museum 15/24', a mutual project of the Hermitage XXI Century Foundation, Hermitage Amsterdam and the Outsider Art Museum. The organisations have received one of the creative twinning grants from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency to execute the project. The project enables Dutch and Russian youngsters, age 15 till 24, to exchange knowledge on arts education. Another goal of the project is to make museums more accessible to youth by using innovative tools. 

Project Museum 15/24. Photo: Outsider Art Museum
Frequent travellers

I mentioned three of our most frequent travellers on cultural exchange; the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Switch2Move and Björn Stenvers. They respectively represent three of the most popular fields of cultural exchange; heritage, performing arts (dance) and visual arts. 

Furthermore, we see Novascape in the top five, who curated the exhibition Reuse, Redevelop, Redesign. Another one of the top ten travellers that stands out is Floor Rieder, illustrator of various children's books. Her position is extra special because the discipline literature forms only 1% of the cultural exchange between Russia and the Netherlands. In the field of design, High on Type often goes to Russia and in the field of music, organ player Cor Ardesch and the Bicycle showband Crescendo are frequent performers.

Figure 2: Frequent flyers
Ongoing cultural exchange and a broader audience

Going through the data and noticing the growth of cultural activities by Dutch artists in Russia is a good reminder of the ongoing exchange between cultural actors in Russia and the Netherlands. Where bilateral relations prove to be difficult at times and language and cultural differences are unavoidable, Russian and Dutch cultural actors find a common language and keep exchanging knowledge. Where borders, visa procedures and political tensions are ineluctable, artists find ways to reach out to new audiences and create communities.


Cultural exchange of high artistic quality between Russia and the Netherlands has been happening for centuries, and the cooperation in the field of shared cultural heritage shows us that cultural actors in both countries aim to preserve this. By reaching out to new audiences and developing educational programs around performances and exhibitions, art becomes a bit more accessible to everyone, which according to Lev Tolstoy makes these works of art even more valued. 

Check out the complete overview of Dutch cultural activities in Russia in our Database.

If you are a cultural professional who wants to go to Russia, feel free to contact our Russia advisor Lenka Boswijk.

For funding possibilities, check out our Cultural Mobility Funding Guide or the websites of our partners  EYE InternationalFilm FundFonds PodiumkunstenHet Nieuwe InstituutLetterenfondsMondriaan FondsStimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industries, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Russia or the Consulate-General of the Netherlands in Saint Petersburg.

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