Reading of Durnenkov Play Banned in Vladivostok
September 1, 2021
A reading of Mikhail Durnenkov’s play How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union at the Primorsky Youth Theater [in Vladivostok] has been banned [sic].
The Primorsky Youth Theater’s new season was to open on September. The theater had announced this event a long time ago: it was planned for the theater’s courtyard and featured a reading of Mikhail Durnenkov’s play How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union. According to Maritime Territory media, yesterday, August 31, on the eve of the Russian president’s visit to Vladivostok, the management of the Youth Theater was forced to cancel the reading of the play and all events scheduled for September 2 after getting a call from the Maritime Territory Ministry of Culture and Archives.
Sergei Matlin, former head of the regional department of culture, commented on the reading’s cancellation on social media.
“It’s disgusting. This, by the way, is exactly what is meant by vicarious embarrassment. That is, when someone else does something, but for some reason you feel ashamed… The ministry actually doesn’t have the right to ban the reading of the play. Since this production definitely doesn’t qualify as a state commission, that means it is not financed from the budget. In any case, even if there were some controversial aspects about the text of the play, this is a creative issue and should definitely not be solved in the offices of bureaucrats. What has happened sets a dangerous precedent. If we do not fight back today, then tomorrow officials will want to veil nude pictures in a gallery, the day after tomorrow — to edit the wording of signage they don’t like in a museum exposition, and a couple of days later — to alter the costumes of characters at the Puppet Theater,” Matlin wrote.
Matlin also noted that Durnenkov’s play is currently being staged at the Meyerhold Center in Moscow with financing from the Presidential Grants Fund.
Lydia Vasilenko, the Youth Theater’s artistic director, declined to comment, but wrote on her Facebook page, “I’m having a hard time, a really hard time. Today, the reading of the Durnenkov play has been canceled. I’m at a loss.”
How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union is a tragicomedy about the adventures of six Estonian hippies who are hungry for freedom and love. Despite the fact that the reading was canceled in Vladivostok, the play, produced with money from a presidential grant, is currently running at the Meyerhold Center in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly expressed regret about the collapse of the Soviet Union, calling it “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” He touched on this topic at his meeting with schoolchildren yesterday.
Source: Radio Svoboda
Translated by the Russian Reader
The play most suited to a large stage would have to be Mikhail Durnenkov’s How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union, which was written on commission for a theatre in Estonia. It is a dream-like psychedelic journey where reality and the imaginary become entangled, only disentangling at the play’s denouement, when it becomes clear that while the eponymous Estonian hippies may be forced to physically submit to the will of authority, it is their ideals of love and freedom that ultimately collapse the Soviet project from within, at the level of the individual.
— Alex Trustrum Thomas, “Moscow’s 2018 Liubimovka Festival: New Trends, Old Problems,” The Theatre Times, 12 October 2018
Flowers and hair grow everywhere! A wild flower power ride on the footprints of the Soviet hippie movement take you into the psychedelic underground of 1970s. In search of freedom and happiness under the thumb of the strict political regime a colorful crowd of artists, musicians, freaks, vagabonds and other long-haired drop-outs created their own System in the Soviet Union. Years later, a group of eccentric hippies take a road journey to Moscow where people still gather annually on the 1st of June to commemorate a tragic event in 1971, when thousands of hippies were arrested by the KGB. Directed by Terje Toomistu.