I’ll Show You the Life of the Mind

An image from Boris Akunin’s One Eight Eight One, as staged by Valery Fokin at the Alexandrinsky Theater in Petersburg.
Image courtesy of alexandrinsky.ru via Delovoi Peterburg

Every Wednesday we tell you about an article that has proved the most interesting to one of our staffers.

Yulia Holtobina, manager of the Subscribers’ News project, has shared an article with us today.

Does modern society need cultural goods? In my opinion, they are simply necessary for people to grow spiritually and achieve inner harmony. Culture is the environment in which the life of the individual and the life of society take place. Culture makes a person a personality.

In our difficult time, people increasingly want to distract themselves, to get away from fatigue and the problems that have piled up. Theaters, cinemas, and museums are the cultural spaces where they can relax, feel joy, find positive energy and inspiration, and return to a stable life.

Delovoi Peterburg thus writes that the preferences of Petersburgers have not changed. People still enjoy going to theaters, museums, exhibitions, and St. Petersburg’s other cultural spaces.

Source: Delovoi Peterburg email newsletter, 16 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Theatergoers south of Moscow were held “hostage” and shot at by actors playing Ukrainian soldiers during an immersive play that glorifies Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, local media reported Tuesday.

Opening scenes from the production titled “Polite People” showed actors dressed in Ukrainian military uniforms violently capturing audience members and shooting them with what appeared to be prop assault rifles. 

One female captive can be heard screaming “it hurts” and “let go” as the actors drag her onstage.

“Polite People” is a euphemism for the Russian soldiers without insignia who occupied Crimea before Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.

“The creators wanted to immerse the audience into the atmosphere of what Donbas residents had experienced for eight years,” the Kaluga region’s Nika TV broadcaster said, using the term for eastern Ukraine’s separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Actor Vilen Babichev, who portrays one of the Ukrainian troops, told Nika TV the play aims to show Russian audiences “the nature of the enemy that invaded our territories eight and a half years ago.”

President Vladimir Putin has justified Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine with unbacked claims that Kyiv is committing “genocide” against Russian-speaking residents of the Donbas.

“Polite People” is funded through a 10.1-million ruble ($165,000) Russian presidential grant.

Its author, Luhansk-based musician and film studio director Roman Razum, said the project aims to “create positive content to counteract negative content that carries an immoral ideology and counters the Russian cultural code.”

“We show that these aren’t just Ukrainian [soldiers], but fighters fully trained by NATO and supplied with weapons for many years,” Razum told Nika TV.

The play premiered in Kaluga on Monday following dates in occupied Luhansk and four Russian cities in late October and early November. It is expected to go on tour across a handful of other Russian cities until late November.

Source: “Russian Audiences Held ‘Hostage’ By Mock Ukrainian Soldiers in Pro-War Play,” Moscow Times, 9 November 2022


Is there room left in life for celebrating and if so, for what kind of celebrating? DP found out how the preferences of consumers of culture have changed this year.

The Social and Artistic Theater (SHT) told DP that its new season had got off to a good start. “I would say that audiences are going to the theater more, but the decision to go is made at the last moment. Our productions of Anne Frank, The Émigrés, and Cynics are now quite popular. Our classic production is still WITHOUT [An idiot], based on F.M. Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot,” SHT director Alina Korol said.

No scarier than covid

The Bolshoi Puppet Theater (BTK) said that its audiences did not have any particular new preferences. There are traditionally sold-out performances at the theater, and less popular ones, but they have not noticed any new trends.

“After the start of the SMO, there was a drop-off in attendance that lasted a couple of months, maybe one and a half. If anything has changed post mobilization, it has been insignificant. But when a new wave of covid started in mid-September, many people began to get sick and the flow decreased,” the BTK’s sales department emphasized.

“People want to return to a stable life for at least a few hours, so they go to the theater. We almost always have full houses, and preferences have not changed,” commented Tatiana Troyanskaya, a public relations specialist at the Studio Theater. Among the favorites at the Studio are productions by the theater’s artistic director Grigory Kozlov (The Elder Son, Tartuffe, The Days of the Turbins, Quiet Flows the Don, as well as comedies (Our Avlabar; Dreams of Love, or the Marriage of Balzaminov), and productions for children.

Vladimir Kantor, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Petersburg Theatergoer and the head of the literary department at Saturday Theater, did not notice any new trends in the theater.

“I am familiar with the repertoire of other theaters, but I haven’t noticed any serious changes in audiences. Autumn and winter are the times when people traditionally go to the theater. I cannot mention any changes in the repertoire that can be described as trends. There were enough productions about war before the start of the SMO, as well as dystopias. I can’t name any productions about the new emigration at all,” he commented.

DP also sent requests for comment to several state theaters, including the Young People’s Theater (TYUZ) and the Alexandrinsky Theater, but did not receive responses. Meanwhile, the Alexandrinsky has removed Boris Akunin‘s name from the announcement of the premiere of One Eight Eight One. Akunin wrote the play specifically for the Alexandrinsky, but his name disappeared from playbills at the behest of the Ministry of Culture. Back in August, the audience received an email with a reminder about the upcoming premiere of One Eight Eight One — as “staged by Valery Fokin, with music by Vyacheslav Butusov, to the text by Boris Akunin.” A similar situation occurred in Moscow, at the Russian Youth Academic Theater (RAMT), where there are four productions of plays penned by the writer.

Akunin himself is aware of what has happened and does not condemn the theaters. “I sympathize with the heads of theaters… If a person has decided that the cause you serve is more important than damage to your reputation — this is a difficult choice from which you yourself suffer, but not your team and not your audience,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.

According to the writer, he has not demanded that uncredited productions be removed from the repertoire. On the contrary, they can go on until they are finally banned and even with no compensation to him. As Akunin noted, the Alexandrinsky Theater cannot pay him royalties due to sanctions.

Among private institutions, Beyond the Black River Theater and the City Theater declined to comment. On October 20, a performance of 1984 was canceled at the City Theater — as noted on its social media accounts, “for reasons beyond the theater’s control.” On October 31, the same production was presented to the audience in a new way: in a video format and featuring an encounter with the director and the actors. The theater’s management clarified that “this is probably the last time it would be possible to see 1984.” The theater also said goodbye to the anti-war production A Red Flower, based on the stories of Vsevolod Garshin.

Perennial classics

Petersburg museums did not respond to DP‘s questions about the changing preferences of its visitors. Official requests were sent to the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, and the Erarta Museum of Modern Art. The bookstores Subscription Editions and At the Top of the Voice and the bookstore chain Bookworm also declined to comment on the situation.

Alexander Prokopovich, editor–in-chief at the publishing house Astrel SPb, says that readers’ preferences had begun to change even before early February, during the pandemic, but the trends have persisted. According to him, classics and so-called longreads [longridy] — that is, literature that is demand at all times — have remained relevant, while speculative texts and fashionable literature [sic] have been losing ground.

“Readers reared their heads, rather, by remaining true to their interests in new titles; perhaps for obvious reasons, interest in new titles from the translated literature segment has increased. I have not encountered any restrictions. Writing is a strategic activity: it can take years to create a book, so it is not worth waiting for a sudden change in the subject matter of the fiction we publish. It is another matter that the events [of this year] are so emotionally charged that many authors have simply stopped writing. It is not our publishing housing that is in demand, but the books which we publish. Nothing has changed here: demand for them is determined by the quality of the texts. This has been the case in the past, and it will be the case in the future,” Prokopovich said.

Some authors claim that their works have disappeared from bookstores — for example, collections of poems by the poet Vera Polozkova. She left Russia in March. Over her fifteen-year career, Polozkova has written five books, published in a total of 280 thousand copies. On her social media accounts, the poet noted, “It would be strange to expect them [the authorities] not to touch the books after everything I’ve said and done.” She believes that she will be able to publish abroad either through crowdfunding or self-publishing [samizdat].

On the other side of the cultural barricades is RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. A month ago, the TV channel presented a collection of front-line poems, Poetry of the Russian Summer, but a few weeks later it transpired that Russian publishers were not willing to publish a book with the letter Z on the cover. Simonyan, on her Telegram channel, called it “a verdict on us all.”

Cinema depends on the weather

Cinemas were reluctant to comment on the situation. Aurora and Rodina did not answer DP’s questions, but Lenfilm did give an assessment of attendance factors. The cinema center’s management said that Lenfilm is difficult to compare with mass multiplex cinemas. “We show festival films, auteur cinema, and retrospectives. Therefore, aside from a general decrease in the number of viewers, the situation has not affected us so much, since our repertoire has stayed the same, and our audience has remained our audience. We are more dependent on the weather. After big news days, the attendance drops at first, but then it more or less levels off,” the studio commented.

Lenfilm also noted that its cinema center has been showing many Russian films. This year’s Lenfilm Film Club events have already featured screenings of Vladimir Kott’s Disobedient, Tatiana Kolganova’s Delayed Happiness Syndrome, and Ruslan Bratov’s Express.

Source: Alina Kizyakova, “Petersburgers looking for stability in theaters and books,” Delovoi Peterburg, 15 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Cancel(ed) Culture in Petersburg and Moscow

Polina Osetinskaya

A concert by the famous and talented pianist Polina Osetinskaya at the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic has been canceled.

“I think everything is clear to everyone. Thank you for your concern,” Polina wrote on social media.

What could be clearer? At outset of the “special operation,” Osetinskaya wrote about her attitude to it, about what she really thinks.

And now, like many other artists whose conscience did not permit them to remain silent, she has been excommunicated from her work.

But our TV screens and concert halls are still full of those artists who have no conscience at all. Either they had one, or it atrophied from disuse.

Source: Boris Vishnevsky, Facebook, 2 September 2022. Photo of Ms. Osetinskaya courtesy of her website. Translated by the Russian Reader

Polina Osetinskaya playing Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov and Giya Kancheli at DK Rassvet in Moscow on 31 May 2022

Vsevolod Lisovsky

Moscow police on Friday evening detained the director, actors and audience of a theatrical street performance — a total of fourteen people, reports OVD Info. The reason for the arrests is not yet known.

Based on Bertolt Brecht’s play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, the operetta Judicial Process was supposed to take place in a pedestrian underpass on Prospect Mira, but the police interrupted the performance.

The operetta has been produced by the Moscow troupe Theater of the Transitional Period and director Vsevolod Lisovsky. He chose the format of street performances in pedestrian underpasses a few months ago. He decided to stage the Brecht play, he said, “because you can’t think of anything more resonant with the time.”

Written by Brecht in 1934–1938, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich is based on eyewitness accounts and newspaper articles. It deals with fascism’s gradual penetration of all areas of life in Nazi Germany, thus discrediting justice and undermining morality.

Vsevolod Lisovsky is an experimental theater director and playwright who worked for many years at Teatr.doc in Moscow. He established a new venue for the theater, Transformator.doc. Lisovsky is is a two-time winner of the Golden Mask Award.

Source: “Moscow street performance’s director, actors and audience detained,” Radio Svoboda, 2 September 2022. Photo courtesy of Teatr magazine. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Selling Eclairs at the Gates of Auschwitz

I am subscribed to a number of email newsletters from theaters, publishers, and clubs, including Russian ones.

And until recently, I myself came up with advertising for the books that we released.

But certain things have changed, haven’t they? Many, of course, have stopped sending newsletters, but some continue. Here is a letter from the International Baltic House Theater Festival [in Petersburg], summoning people to its performances as if nothing has happened. And the venerable publishers Ad Marginem fervently invite people to their tent at the Red Square Book Festival. It’s right on Red Square, where the earth is the roundest!

Hello, friends, have you lost your fucking minds by any chance? I don’t know how it looks in Moscow or Petersburg, but from where I’m sitting, it looks as appropriate as selling eclairs at the gates of Auschwitz.

Source: Dmitry Volchek, Facebook, 2 June 2022. Screenshot and translation by the Russian Reader


Approaching the 100-day mark in a war that he refuses to call by its name, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man intent on conveying the impression of business as usual.

As his army fought its way into the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk this week, Putin was making awkward small talk in a televised ceremony to honor parents of exceptionally large families.

Since the start of May, he has met – mostly online – with educators, oil and transport bosses, officials responsible for tackling forest fires, and the heads of at least a dozen Russian regions, many of them thousands of miles from Ukraine.

Along with several sessions of his Security Council and a series of calls with foreign leaders, he found time for a video address to players, trainers and spectators of the All-Russian Night Hockey League.

The appearance of solid, even boring routine is consistent with the Kremlin’s narrative that it is not fighting a war – merely waging a “special military operation” to bring a troublesome neighbor to heel.

For a man whose army has heavily underperformed in Ukraine and been beaten back from its two biggest cities, suffering untold thousands of casualties, Putin shows no visible sign of stress.

In contrast with the run-up to the Feb. 24 invasion, when he denounced Ukraine and the West in bitter, angry speeches, his rhetoric is restrained. The 69-year-old appears calm, focused and fully in command of data and details.

While acknowledging the impact of Western sanctions, he tells Russians their economy will emerge stronger and more self-sufficient, while the West will suffer a boomerang effect from spiraling food and fuel prices.

[…]

But as the war grinds on with no end in sight, Putin faces an increasing challenge to maintain the semblance of normality.

Economically, the situation will worsen as sanctions bite harder and Russia heads towards recession.

[…]

The words “war” and “Ukraine” were never spoken during Putin’s 40-minute video encounter on Wednesday with the prolific families, including Vadim and Larisa Kadzayev with their 15 children from Beslan in the North Caucasus region.

Wearing their best dresses and suits, the families sat stiffly at tables laden with flowers and food as Putin called on them in turn to introduce themselves. On the same day, eight empty school buses pulled into the main square of Lviv in western Ukraine to serve as a reminder of 243 Ukrainian children killed since the start of Putin’s invasion.

The closest he came to acknowledging the war was in a pair of references to the plight of children in Donbas and the “extraordinary situation” there.

Russia had many problems but that was always the case, he said as he wrapped up the online meeting. “Nothing unusual is actually happening here.”

Source: Mark Trevelyan, “Putin clings to semblance of normality as his war grinds on,” Reuters, 2 June 2022


Simon Pirani:

‘At least as bad as Russia itself are the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian armed forces in 2014 – Crimea and the so called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk – and the small amount of territory Russia has taken this year. In Crimea, all civic activism, especially by the Tatar community, has been savagely punished. People are being sent to jail for many years for something they posted on line. The “republics” are ruled by lawless, quasi-state administrations. The list of human rights abuses – torture, illegal imprisonment, forced labour, terrorism against political opponents – is long. Most of the population of the “republics” left, years ago. Industry has collapsed. As for Kherson and other areas occupied this year, local government and civil society has been assaulted, opponents of Russian rule assassinated and kidnapped, and demonstrations broken up. Putin forecast that Ukrainians would welcome his army with open arms; I literally do not know of one single example of that happening. If people are looking for explanations about Ukrainians’ heightened sense of nationalism, part of it may be in the horrendous conditions in the parts of their country occupied by Russia. Who would welcome being ruled by a bunch of cynical, lawless thugs?’

Source: “In Quillversation: A Russian Imperial Project (Simon Pirani and Anthony McIntyre Discuss the Russian War on Ukraine),” The Pensive Quill, 1 June 2022

ZV

A view of the Minusinsk Drama Theater. Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

Ksenia Larina, formerly a presenter (and one of the best in the world!) on the now-shuttered radio station Echo of Moscow, has shared this gem of Russian fascism in the “heartland”:

Today it’s the Minusinsk Drama Theater. Lead by head director Alexei Pesegov, the theater’s actors declare that they are Russians [“russkie,” that is, ethnic Russians], no matter what blood flows in their veins, and sing a heartfelt Russian song. When they get to the words “a familiar voice is heard across the river and nightingales sing all night,” they hold up pieces of paper marked with the letters ZV. Watch it, it’s not long 👿.

Minusinsk is a town of 70,000 people in Krasnoyarsk Krai (Siberia):

The town was also a place of political exile. George Kennan wrote in his very influential book Siberia and the Exile System (NY 1891) of the town and the museum being an intellectual haven for those tsarist political activists and revolutionaries who had been exiled from European Russia in the 1880s. Vladimir Lenin used to visit Minusinsk on numerous occasions when he was in exile in the nearby village of Shushenskoye between 1897 and 1900. In November 1918, during the Russian Civil War, Minusinsk peasants started a short-lived rebellion against the White Army because of extortion and high taxes. However, poor equipment and supplies led to eventual defeat in the December, and the rebels were subjected to execution, exile, prison or fines.

The Theory of Small Deeds: The Case of Chulpan Khamatova

Yigal Levin
Facebook
March 21, 2022

Mitya is infinitely right. All these years I have been constantly saying that all people of good will should leave the Russian Federation. How can one imagine a “theory of small deeds,” say, in the Third Reich? All conscientious Germans left Germany in the 30s, and to one degree or another joined various resistance forces. Such regimes are not destroyed from the inside, but only by blows from outside —military, economic, political and cultural.

Russia delenda est

Mitya Raevsky
Facebook
March 21, 2022

Until recently, a segment of the Russian intelligentsia and the upper middle class had a favorite toy — the “theory of small deeds.” In practice, it meant that they said: yes, we cannot defeat the dictatorship, which means we need to do something useful in spite of that — save sick children, create foundations, hold cultural events, publish literature, defend human rights wherever possible. They had the hope that everyone would be able to influence the state and society as a whole doing what they do best, and these little drops would come together to make a sea, so to speak. Well, in the process, of course, they would have to cooperate with the state.

It all turned out to be baloney. Here is another historical lesson — do not collaborate with tyrants. Never. Under any circumstances. Don’t lend them legitimacy. Even for the sake of sick children.

Because you will never turn that debit into a debit. You will save 10 thousand children who have cancer only for the dictatorship to kill 100 thousand children sooner or later. It’s already killing them, and not only Ukrainian children. It’s killing Russian children, too, whom it will now be impossible to save without western drugs and equipment.

In a dictatorship, small deeds happen only in the toilet.

________________

 

Chulpan Khamatova. Kirill Zykov/Moskva News Agency. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

Actress and Activist Chulpan Khamatova Has Left Russia
She joins dozens of Russian cultural figures who have left the country.
Moscow Times
March 21, 2022

The Russian stage and screen actress Chulpan Khamatova told Ekaterina Gordeyeva in an interview released on Monday that she would not be going back to Russia.

Khamatova, who heads the Gift of Life charity foundation, was abroad when Russia began its attack on Ukraine. “For the first few days I didn’t know what to do,” she said in the interview. At first I just wanted to stay some place and wait for it to end, but then I was led to believe that it might not be safe for me to return. I’m in Riga for now. I am certainly not a traitor. I love my homeland very much,” she said.

Khamatova is one of Russia’s most celebrated actresses who has acted in dozens of films and television series — most recently playing the lead role in the screen version of Guzel Yakhina’s novel “Zuleikha.” She also plays Raisa Gorbachev in the hit play “Gorbachev” at the Moscow Theater of Nations.

She is just one of dozens of Russian cultural figures who have left the country since the war began.

Earlier this month the music director of the Bolshoi Theater, Turgan Sokhiev, resigned his post in Moscow and in Toulouse, France. He wrote that he felt he was being forced “to choose between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians” and so “decided to resign from my positions at both the Bolshoi in Moscow and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.”

At the same time two foreign ballet dancers at the Bolshoi, Jacopo Tissi and David Motta Soares, put in their resignations.

This was followed by the announcement that Bolshoi prima ballerina Olga Smirnova left for the Dutch National ballet.

Russian television has also lost several of its best-known on-screen personalities: Channel One colleague Zhanna Agalakova quit her job as Europe correspondent for Channel One, and both Lilia Gildeyeva and Vadim Glusker quite NTV. Gildeyeva had worked at the channel since 2006, and Glusker had been there almost from the start, for 30 years.

Dmitry Linkin, the head designer for Channel One for 24 years, also quit. “I was taught that human life is invaluable,” he said.

________________

 

In an interview with Ksenia Sobchak, broadcast on TV Rain in June 2012, Chulpan Khamatova said that she would rather live in “North Korea” than have her own country go through another revolution.

No Political Harmony Among Cultural Elite
Alexander Bratersky
Moscow Times
February 19, 2012

As Prime Minister Vladimir Putin enters the home stretch of his campaign to return to the Kremlin, he is relying on the support not only of the blue-collar electorate, but also members of the cultural elite, who are helping to market his bid for the presidency.

Putin’s extended campaign team has about 500 participants, including famous musicians, actors and writers who appear in pro-Putin commercials and at rallies. But political analysts and experts said their participation has divided the cultural elite itself.

Several dozen prominent celebrities, among them world-famous piano player Denis Matsuyev, St. Petersburg Mariinsky conductor Valery Gergiev, jazz musician Igor Butman and opera star Anna Netrebko have thrown their lot in with Putin.

When contacted to explain the reasons behind their choice of candidate, most have declined to comment. The situation has even split families: in one case a well-known rock musician sided with Putin, while his brother, also a rock star, is for the opposition.

Supporting Putin, who is seen by his opponents as an authoritarian leader, might damage a performer’s reputation and can become a source of controversy. The liberal media has attacked prominent actress Chulpan Khamatova for appearing in a Putin commercial, in which she thanks the prime minister for supporting her charity that aids children with cancer. Although Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Khamatova appeared in the commercial voluntarily, sources at the charity said she was forced into the recording.

The public response against the video was so negative that even liberal Novaya Gazeta had to defend Khamatova in one of its latest articles. Khamatova has declined to discuss her endorsement for Putin. “Let everyone stick to his own vision,” she said, RIA Novosti reported.

Iosif Prigozhin, a prominent music producer and show business insider has also defended the actress.

“Khamatova is an absolutely sincere person. But imagine that I had helped you. Would you do the same for me?” he told The Moscow Times.

Continue reading “The Theory of Small Deeds: The Case of Chulpan Khamatova”

“It’s Terrifying to Be Here Amidst This Hell”

I’m a translator, an academic, and a US citizen. Over the past week I have received many dozens of emails from people all over Russia who are desperate to leave and looking for any way out of Russia and into a stable academic or arts-related position.

The one I’ve translated here (with permission from the author, whose personal information has been removed) is both characteristic and particularly exhaustive, and reveals a lot about the situation in Russia now. Just as the prospect of a “war in Europe” and “World War III” has activated memories of the Second World War, in Russia the new crackdown on free media and civic protest has dredged up a lot of cultural trauma around Stalin-era repressions, particularly among the intelligentsia. Postmodern apocalypse rules, with totalitarian concentration camps and 1984 rubbing shoulders (see also Nadia Plungian’s piece analyzing the 20th-century’s death-grip on the modern-day cultural imagination in Russia).

The specters of the twentieth century are additionally deleterious in the way they constantly bring back and elevate specifically Russian suffering. While this suffering is linked to real, undeniable and still largely unprocessed trauma, it feeds into the self-absorption and political passivity that underpins the state of things in Russia today (I don’t have to point out certain parallels with the US and mainstream American culture). It’s not my place to blame Russian citizens for what their insane government is fomenting in Ukraine; there is just clearly much work to be done to build civic consciousness and a functioning society.

Hello.

Although I was born and have spent my whole life in Russia, I am, ethnically speaking, half Russian and half Ukrainian: my grandparents are from Ukraine, and even quite recently I was thinking about applying for Ukrainian citizenship in order to move to a normal, free country, all the more so since I have roots there, but I took too long to decide and now the war has canceled all of those plans. What’s happening right now in Ukraine puts me literally into a state of shock, and what’s happening in Russia makes my hair stand up on end from horror and the realization that this is not a bad dream or nightmare that one might at least eventually wake up from.

This inhumane and senseless war that Putin is waging against Ukraine, which the Russian governmental media insist on calling a “special operation” (while using the word “war” carries the threat of criminal charges), this is only half of the hell, the other half is happening inside Russia. In downtown [city’s name redacted; it is not a capital city], I witnessed the police arresting he small number of people protesting the war. The police used truncheons to shove a grandma holding a “NO WAR!” sign into a paddy wagon. I can’t get my head around the fact that being pro-peace is a crime now. But there are very few protests, the people capable of thinking, the ones who understand how absurd what’s happening is, they’re spooked and scared of protesting lest they end up crippled or have fabricated criminal charges pinned on them.

But the worst thing is that many people, including my former colleagues from the theater, absolutely support this hell that Putin is creating right now in Ukraine, this totally unprovoked and unjustifiable, senseless and bloody slaughter. A huge majority of people has been zombified by the propaganda on TV and are openly welcoming this war, thoughtlessly reproducing the TV propagandists’ fascist, misanthropic slogans. And it’s impossible to convince them otherwise, they brand any rational argument a “fake” and hate the people who argue with them. Today, near my building, I saw that my neighbors had painted the “Z” symbol on their cars, this new swastika that marks the Russian military equipment going to attack Ukraine. They’re all in favor of the hellishness, the blood and death, the war. It’s so scary.

The most absolute insane and absurd madness is being fomented, madness that has no sense and virtually no grounds. Besides this bloody war, besides the sanctions that the entire civilized world has imposed on Russia, here inside the country right now the most severe censorship is being implemented, the last free media outlets that covered the last alternative points of view are shutting down. This is the end. They have been destroyed simply because they called the war a war. There are new laws being passed that threaten fifteen years in prison for telling the truth, and who knows how long it will take before they bring back the firing squad for any kind of freethinking. The prime minister already voiced his support for [restoring] the death penalty. Every day things get worse and worse, and the end is nowhere in sight.

This is a surreal nightmare! Reality just all of the sudden lost its mind. In the blink of an eye everything turned from a vague sort of dictatorship into a totalitarian concentration camp along the lines of Orwell’s 1984, and this is no exaggeration. Soon nothing will be left here besides crowds of insane, poverty-stricken people, completely turned to morons by fascist propaganda, their last bit of reason lost, roaring bloodthirsty slogans, and they will simply destroy anyone who allows themselves to think differently.

I just don’t know how to go on living in this concentration camp that Putin is building here in Russia. Before the start of the war, one could at least try to live one’s life, to be free, to make a living through one’s art and not engage with the universal vector of militarization and dumbing down, to have some kind of hope and plans for the future, but now that’s over, there is no hope left. Navalny is in prison, the opposition has been totally crushed, and the state media, radio and TV, all without exception just repeat one and the same lies, lies, lies and nothing but lies, while the non-governmental sources of information are either already closed or are being destroyed and persecuted. The state is mercilessly rooting out even the weakest rudiments of free speech and of rational thinking in general. It’s terrifying to be here amidst this hell.

While I was writing this I got the news that PayPal and Payoneer announced that they would not be doing business in Russia anymore, and that means I will literally be left without any source of income for my creative projects, while working as an actor in this country involves propaganda in one way or another, because free creative activity has not been possible here for a long time. I became convinced of this myself when I left a theater whose management literally threatened the acting troupe to get us to vote for the candidate they wanted.

I’d like to just live peacefully, make art, learn new things, create beauty, and work to build a bright and joyful future. But now wanting peace will just get you beaten up and thrown in prison. I don’t know what to do and how to go on living.

Translated and prefaced by the Fabulous AM. Photo by the Russian Reader

Kontemporari-myuzikl (Onegin’s Demon)

The contemporary musical [kontemporari-myuzikl] Onegin’s Demon is the most successful assault on the classics and the first production in the best traditions of the Russian theater and Broadway.

The creators have decided to call a spade a spade. Few people remember that the poem “The Demon” was written by Pushkin as one of the chapters of Eugene Onegin.

If, as the musical’s libretto has it, in a house of sorrow in Paris you meet an old, crazy Onegin, forgotten by everyone,  tormented by memories of past mistakes, then none other than his personal alter ego, his dark essence, his Demon lets him see his whole life again … and maybe change it.

He is Onegin’s Demon, the director and puppeteer of this unique musical. The creators have laid bare leitmotifs in the novel that had previously gone unspoken. The musical Onegin’s Demon is thus a bold artistic revelation that firmly etches itself in your memory.

Thanks to the 3D video content, the musical Onegin’s Demon can be safely called a movie musical, in which, unlike the cinema, there is no room for error. The musical Onegin’s Demon is a rare opportunity to see in person how, with no editing or multiple takes, real people resurrect the era of ardent romanticism in real time.

Tremble Pushkin purists: “Satan rules love”!* The play features a scene with a naked Tatyana… And does she stay with Onegin in the end? To whom will Tatyana be given?

You have the opportunity to find out firsthand!

Cast:
Onegin – Vasily Turkin and Ivan Ozhogin
The Demon – Sergei Khudyakov
Tatyana – Alina Atlasova and Anastasia Makeyeva
Lensky – Anton Avdeyev
Olga – Natalia Fayerman
Tatiana and Olga’s Mother – Maria Lagatskaya
Nanny – Manana Gogitidze

Music: Anton Tanonov and Gleb Matveychuk
Book: Irina Afanasyeva, Maria Oshmyanskaya, Andrei Pastushenko and Igor Shevchuk
Choreographer: Dmitry Pimonov
Music Director: Anton Tanonov
Creative Producer: Artyom Gridnev

After the third bell, entrance to the auditorium is strictly PROHIBITED!

The musical is performed with one intermission.

Bileter.ru’s review:

Is it possible to produce theater that combines a musical, a movie, a 3D performance and a phantasmagoria, while being based on classical poetry? A few years ago, the idea might have seemed crazy. However, after the incredible, stunning success of the musical Onegin, the trend of boldly genre mash-ups has really taken off. The creators of Onegin’s Demon have gone even further: their new creation has even fewer references to Pushkin’s work and even more deep psychological plot lines that reveal the essence of Onegin’s personality through the lens of his demons. To understand the authors’ intention, you should see the results of their work in person. To make this happen you only need to buy tickets for the musical Onegin’s Demon at a Box Office Directorate ticket outlet or on our website.

The musical Onegin’s Demon undoubtedly risks breaking its predecessor’s popularity records, because this production has even more mystery, mysticism, amazing music, exciting vocal parts and, of course, ultra-modern special effects. The LDM’s New Stage, no matter how spacious it is, will hardly be able to accommodate everyone who wants to watch this show, so if you manage to get tickets to the musical Onegin’s Demon, you can count yourself lucky.

The Pushkin era — its fancy-dress balls, luxurious horse-drawn carriages, duelists and love letters — does not merely come to life on stage. We watch Onegin’s entire biography through the eyes of the character himself, now in his old age. We see with horror and pity what this romantic and slightly bored dandy has become. What are his sins? For what does this half-crazy lonely old man blame himself? And who is he really? Isn’t he the same evil demon who nurtured Eugen’s most negative character traits in his youth?

Many books have been written about alter egos, the individual’s mystical second self, about the ability of soul and body to split: just recall Jekyll and Hyde or the beautiful Dorian Gray. The story of Onegin’s demon is shrouded in the same mysticism and sinister mystery. The creators have made sure that the audience feels the madhouse atmosphere and the painful awareness of their own irreparable mistakes to the tips of their toes. Onegin/The Demon is excruciatingly beautiful, and he is complemented by the musical’s other characters. The stunning voices and fantastic music cause not only the hearts of the audience members who buy tickets to Onegin’s Demon skip more than once. They also make the walls of the LDM tremble.

Source: Bileter.ru

Translated by the Russian Reader

*  The line “Satan rules love” does not appear in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. As rendered by James Falen, chapter 4, stanza 21 of Pushkin’s great novel in verse reads as follows:

Of course the love of tender beauties
Is surer far than friends or kin:
Your claim upon its joyous duties
Survives when even tempests spin.
Of course it’s so. And yet be wary,
For fashions change, and views will vary,
And nature’s made of wayward stuff—
The charming sex is light as fluff.
What’s more, the husband’s frank opinion
Is bound by any righteous wife
To be respected in this life;
And so your mistress (faithful minion)
May in a trice be swept away:
For Satan treats all love as play.

Source: Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, trans. James E. Falen (Oxford UP, 1995). The emphasis is mine.

P.S. Stanley Mitchell’s rendering (Penguin, 2008) of the same stanza is even niftier, as my mom would say:

The love you get from tender beauties
Is surer than from kin or friend:
However turbulent its duties,
Your rights are honoured in the end.
That’s so. But then there’s whirling fashion
And nature’s wayward disposition,
And what the monde thinks is enough…
And our sweet sex is light as fluff.
And then, it is to be expected
That virtuous wives will all be true
To husbandly opinions, too;
Your faithful mistress has defected
Before you know it: love’s a joke
That Satan plays on gentlefolk.

Putin Threatened by Estonian Hippies

Mihkel Ram Tamm (center) was a guru for hippies in Estonia and other parts of the Soviet Union. Courtesy of Vladimir Wiedemann and the Guardian

Reading of Durnenkov Play Banned in Vladivostok 
Vitalia Bob
Teatr
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.

We Can Dance If We Want To

 

dance
Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
June 22, 2020

His hands trembling and sounding breathless, Judge Muranov sentenced Vitya [Viktor Filinkov] to 7 years and Julian [Yuli Boyarshinov] to 5 1/2 years in prison. He read out the date of Vitya’s ACTUAL arrest, that is, a day before his arrest was registered in the case file. (I wonder how this will be substantiated in the published verdict.)

We took a selfie as a keepsake.

As I was leaving the empty courtroom, I shouted, “Guys, we need to dance!” and I danced a little jig. The guys seemed to be smiling, but the bailiff said, “Dance somewhere else, young lady.” Where else should I dance? I think this is the most appropriate place.

#NetworkCase #OperationBarbarossa #Antifa

As my virtual acquaintance Liza Smirnova just reminded her readers, June 22 is not just any day for people in the former Soviet Union. In fact, you could hardly think of a more inappropriate day to sentence two young antifascists to twelve and a half years in prison.

Operation Barbarossa (German: Unternehmen Barbarossa) was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation put into action Nazi Germany’s ideological goal of conquering the western Soviet Union so as to repopulate it with Germans. The German Generalplan Ost aimed to use some of the conquered as slave labour for the Axis war effort, to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories, and eventually through extermination, enslavement, Germanization and mass deportation to Siberia, remove the Slavic peoples and create Lebensraum for Germany.

In the two years leading up to the invasion, Germany and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. Nevertheless, the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940 (under the codename Operation Otto), which Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of the operation, about three million personnel of the Axis powers—the largest invasion force in the history of warfare—invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer (1,800 mi) front, with 600,000 motor vehicles and over 600,000 horses for non-combat operations. The offensive marked an escalation of World War II, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition including the Soviet Union.

The operation opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in history. The area saw some of the war’s largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest casualties (for Soviet and Axis forces alike), all of which influenced the course of World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies eventually captured some five million Soviet Red Army troops, a majority of whom never returned alive. The Nazis deliberately starved to death, or otherwise killed, 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, and a vast number of civilians, as the “Hunger Plan” worked to solve German food shortages and exterminate the Slavic population through starvation. Mass shootings and gassing operations, carried out by the Nazis or willing collaborators, murdered over a million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust.

The failure of Operation Barbarossa reversed the fortunes of the Third Reich. Operationally, German forces achieved significant victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union (mainly in Ukraine) and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these early successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow at the end of 1941, and the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back. The Germans had confidently expected a quick collapse of Soviet resistance as in Poland, but the Red Army absorbed the German Wehrmacht’s strongest blows and bogged it down in a war of attrition for which the Germans were unprepared. The Wehrmacht’s diminished forces could no longer attack along the entire Eastern Front, and subsequent operations to retake the initiative and drive deep into Soviet territory—such as Case Blue in 1942 and Operation Citadel in 1943—eventually failed, which resulted in the Wehrmacht’s retreat and collapse.

Source: Wikipedia

#NetworkCase

claims

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/06/22/russia-jails-e2-anti-fascists-ending-terror-case-plagued-by-torture-claims-a70653

“Plagued by torture claims” is a funny way of putting it. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is the real plague. It tortured the defendants in the Network Case and concocted their alleged “terrorist community” from whole cloth.

I realize that editors and journalists think they’re being “balanced” when they report the news this way. But in reality they’re lending legitimacy to systematic state terror against dissidents, minorities, and oddballs.

bus

#NetworkCase

Where are these people going? Why are they in a caged bus?

Why are they singing? What are they singing?

They made the “mistake” of being outside the courthouse in Petersburg earlier today to protest the outrageous but predictable verdict in the trial of Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov, who were sentenced by a military court to 7 and 5 1/2 years in prison, respectively, for the awful crime of being antifascists in a country run by a certifiable fascist, Vladimir Putin.

What will happen to the people in this bus? I don’t know for certain, but I would guess they’ll be held at a police precinct overnight and then taken to their own kangaroo court hearings sometime tomorrow, where they will be sentenced to as many as 15 days in jail and stiff fines.

Thanks to Marina Ken for the video and much else.

bbc

#NetworkCase

Earlier today in Petersburg, the final two defendants in the notorious frame-up known, hilariously, as the Network Case, were sentenced to seven and five and a half years in prison, respectively, for “involvement in a terrorist community.”

In reality, anxious to show their paranoid fascist president that he was right to surround himself with one of the largest security and bureaucratic apparatuses in history, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) abducted and tortured a dozen absolutely harmless young men in Penza and Petersburg, and then cooked up a fascist fairy tale about how these young men (many of whom most of us would be happy to have as neighbors) were actually a secret “terrorist community,” code-named “the Network,” who were planning to cause mayhem on the eve of Putin’s triumphant re-election and the soccer World Cup in 2018.

There wasn’t any “Network,” and it had no plans of doing anything of the sort. But it is now over two and a half years since the FSB kicked off its little adventure in Penza (in October 2017). Over the last year, the ten defendants in the case have been sentenced to a total of 110 years in prison due to the FSB’s sick fantasy.

Thanks to the BBC Russian Service for the picture, the news reports and so much else.

video

#NetworkCase

It wasn’t bad enough that Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov were sentenced today in Petersburg to 7 years and 5 1/2 years, respectively, for “involvement” in the nonexistent “terrorist community” “the Network.” No, the Putinist police state had to send a small army of riot police and “Russian National Guardsmen” to the courthouse to settle the hash of the brave people who came out to protest the verdict, which was a foregone conclusion.

If you’re sitting in other parts of the world, especially the US, and having a hard time getting your head around this story, just think about the remarkable “coincidence” that, just before his now infamous conference call with US governors, Trump had been chatting with his mentor and idol Vladimir Putin on the phone.

What is happening in Petersburg today is what happens when “policing” is the end all and be of “government,” when the powers that be have to preserve their supreme power at all costs, even if this means, ultimately, destroying their people and their country.

Thanks to Yevgenia Litvinova, who shared this video (which she found on Telegram), and all the other people who have taught me the lesson of endurance and solidarity in the face of overwhelming odds.

Edited, written and translated by the Russian Reader

Free Yulia Tsvetkova!

https://www.freetsvet.net

SPREAD THE WORD. MAKE POSTS, SHARE, PUBLICIZE Yulia’s case. Yulia and her mother believe that publicity about their case will help them. Please share this information far and wide, especially with media outlets. When making posts on social media, use hashtags:

#заЮлю
#ямыЮлияЦветкова
#свободуюлецветковой
#свободуцветковой

Pornography Charges Target Feminist Artist

Yulia Tsvetkova is a 27-year-old artist from the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur (far Eastern Russia). Yulia has been formally charged with illegally producing and distributing pornographic materials on the Internet (Paragraph “b”, Part 3 of Article 242 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, punishable by up to six years of prison). These charges stem from her role as administrator of a feminist body-positive online community through social media. The page is called “The Vagina Monologues,” and features abstract depictions of female sexual organs and educational drawings women’s bodies. Pornography charges also stem from a series of body-positive drawings she made as part of a series entitled “A Woman is not a Doll.” Until recently, she was also the director of the Merak activist youth theater, which produced 9 plays under her direction.

Yulia was arrested on November 20, 2019 after which searches were carried out at home and at work. She was under house arrest from November 23, 2019 until March 16, 2020. She and her mother have been questioned over 30 times. While under house arrest, Yulia was denied access to necessary medical care. She and her mother have experienced months of harassment and death threats.

It is worth noting that the criminal investigation against Yulia was not the result of any complaints from youth or parents in her local community. Rather, she was targeted by St. Petersburg-based homophobic activist Timur Bulatov, who has a past criminal record and in his own words is engaged in a “moral jihad” against LGBT people and their allies by making complaints about them to law enforcement agencies. Bulatov has continued to harass Yulia and her mother, publish their home address, and call on his supporters to kill them.

According the Coalition to Free the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners, “art materials in Tsvetkova’s case cannot be recognized as pornographic. From our point of view and based on expertise of various experts who have examined the works, these materials are no more pornography than images of the genitals in the school anatomy textbook.” International human rights organizations have called for her release, and many individuals around the world are demonstrating on her behalf.

Yulia’s case will be tried in early July 2020. There is an urgent need for publicity of her case. All charges against Yulia Tsvetkova should be dropped and her case dismissed immediately.

Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the heads-up and Nicole Garneau for this fantastic video and act of solidarity. You can read more about Yulia Tsvetkova on this ebsite. \\ TRR

tsvetkova-drawingYulia Tsvetkova, “A Family Is Where There’s Love” (courtesy of artist and RFE/RL)