In what must be an extraordinary act of naivete (or likely extraordinary fatuousness), Russian singer Yevgeny Nikitin claims not to have known that his Swastika tattoo was in any way connected with the Nazi party or its Neo-Nazi brethren.
The row over Nikitin’s tattoos began when the singer was attached to star in a new production of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” at Germany’s Bayreuth music festival. Nikitin claims that the now-infamous symbol holds spiritual, not political, significance for him. Nonetheless, the uproar over Nikitin’s swastika (along with his “Tyr” tattoos) forced him to withdraw from the prestigious festival.
The swastika does indeed have an ancient history (most date it back 3,000 years to ancient India), and versions of it have popped up here and there throughout the world. In the present, the symbol means only one thing to most people: Naziism. It’s hard to believe that any adult Westerner alive would be aware of the symbol’s ancient mythological past, yet have its more recent controversial usage escape them.
If we take Nikitin at his word, then where does that leave us? Should we still consider contemporary usage of the swastika verboten? Is this symbol one that has utterly been tainted? How do we respond to people who wish to restore the symbols mythic – benign – symbolism?