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September 1, 2017 No.
7075

Reactions To House Arrest Of Prominent Russian Stage And Film Director Serebrennikov

Introduction

The arrest of the prominent Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov has already become a cause célèbre, and international artists such as Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss have enlisted on his behalf and demanded his release.[1] The arrest and the scheduled trial have touched off reverberations in the Russian artistic world and a sense of shock. Until now artists believed that if they did not stray from artistic pursuits into politics they had little to fear from an authoritarian regime that only cracked down on overt opponents. In the wake of the arrests there were signs of self-reproach. The artistic community, it was claimed, had remained silent when the regime came after politicians and businessmen and now they had come for the artists. There were echoes of the czarist and Stalinist eras, as some of the commentary focused on the issue of whether the leader knew what was going on or whether this was an action taken by underlings unbeknownst to him. If Putin did not know and actually opposed the arrest what was then the deformity in the Russian state that made such episodes endemic?

Departing from the assumption that Serebrennikov was innocent and the charges against him were trumped up, some comments sought to make sense of his arrest. Despite the general sense of sympathy for the Serebrennikov there were also voices who claimed the affair was not an open and shut case of political persecution and that Serebrennikov himself was no angel and had flirted with powerful patrons in the regime.

This report will recapitulate developments in the case and present a selection of reactions to the affair primarily from amongst Russian intellectual circles.

Developments In The Case

On August 23, 2017, a prominent Russian director, Kirill Serebrennikov, was placed under house arrest. Serebrennikov, artistic Director of the Moscow-based Gogol Center theatre, had been detained a day earlier in St. Petersburg by law enforcement officials.[2] He was charged with embezzling 68 million rubles ($1.1 million) in government funds allocated in 2011-2014 to implement the Plataforma project,[3] through his nonprofit organization Seventh Studio. Serebrennikov is to remain under house arrest until his October 19 trial date. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in jail.

The Moscow Times reported: "Speaking from a cage in the courtroom [in Moscow], Serebrennikov protested his innocence, describing the charges against him as 'incredibly absurd and impossible,' according to a Mediazona live feed from the courtroom. He asked the judge not to place him under house arrest, saying it would mean he would no longer be able to work. He added he was not a flight risk since law enforcement had earlier confiscated his passport." The Moscow Times further reported: "Serebrennikov's lawyer [Dmitry Kharitonov] called several prominent cultural figures to testify in the director's defense, including director Andrey Smirnov and literary figure Irina Prokhorova, who offered to pay his bail. As Serebrennikov pleaded not guilty to the charges, a crowd of around 200 people chanted 'Kirill!' and 'Freedom!' outside the courtroom. The crowd included some of Russia's most well-known cultural figures."[4]

Talking to reporters, Serebrennikov's lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov said: "Kirill Semenovich [Serebrennikov] considers this accusation absolutely absurd. 'Platform' was the project that came off, and the money earmarked by the state was spent on this project."[5]

https://themoscowtimes.com/static/uploads/publications/2017/8/23/7120b9c152ce42a4906d0e788eb67fad.jpg
Director Kirill Serebrennikov during a hearing into his case at Moscow's Basmanny District Court. (Source: Themoscowtimes.com)

Pro Srebrennikov rally
People in front of Moscow's Basmanny District Court await a decision on the Serebrennikov's case.(Source: @INechepurenko)

The May 2017 Search Of The Gogol Center

Back in May, Serebrennikov's property was searched without a court-issued warrant, and he was then taken away for questioning. Standard procedure requiring a court-issued search was not adhered to, and the searchers relied merely on the approval of an investigator. Independent media outlet Meduza.io reported: "The search of Serebrennikov's property began on the morning of May 23. Shortly thereafter, the Gogol Center was surrounded by armed men. The center was also searched. Officially, Russia's investigative committee reported that searches were conducted in connection with a 2014 case on the embezzlement of budget funds."[6]

On May 24, the Russian police detained the former heads of Seventh Studio, general director Yuri Itin and chief accountant Nina Maslyayeva, under the same criminal charge. They were charged with embezzling 1.3 million rubles ($22,000). It is worth noting that Meduza.io stressed that this amount "differs from the figure that appeared in the Investigative Committee’s original press release and its search warrant," and that the figure would change once again, in the case of Itin and Maslyayeva.[7]

Attempts To Turn Itin And Maslyayeva Against Serebrennikov, Maslyayeva: 'I’ll Work With The Investigators, If Only They Let Me Go'

The independent media outlet Meduza.io reported that on May 25, Itin was placed under house arrest. "At his hearing, he refused to confess to the charges, admitting however to 'negligence'”.[8]

In contrast, Maslyayeva immediately pleaded guilty and sought to cooperate with the investigation. However, after being charged, she reversed herself and denied her guilt.[9] On May 27, a court placed Maslyayeva in "pretrial detention". In court, Maslyayeva "refused to confess to the allegations", but her lawyer, Pavel Teplukhin, "previously said that she was willing to reach a plea bargain with prosecutors."[10]

On May 30, following three days of pretrial detention , Maslyayeva told a correspondent from the Dozhd TV network: "I’m not Kirill Serebrennikov and I’m not Yuri Itkin. So there you have it. I’m just an ordinary person — hired staff, and that’s why they threw me in jail. I’m ready for anything. I’ll work with the investigators, if only they let me go."[11]

On June 6, it was reported that Maslyaeva admitted embezzling budgetary funds and transferring them to fictitious entities controlled by the accused, stressing that she was hired with the purpose of cashing money.[12]

On June 13, it was reported that Maslyaeva, who suffers several illnesses, told the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) that she confessed the fraud, believing the investigator's promise that she would be put under house arrest. Maslyaeva told Dozhd TV: "I’m about to have a nervous breakdown. The investigator explicitly promised a house arrest if I plead guilty. But nothing has changed and he did not come to court at all. Before that the appointed lawyer said something I will never forget: 'Just do what your heart tells you to do.' This all is very cruel." She then added: "I'm slowly dying here, but they won’t transfer me to house arrest, as if I'm a brutal murderer, and not an accountant."[13]

At a July 18 hearing, it was decided that Maslyayeva would remain in pretrial detention.[14] As for Itin, the Investigative Committee stated that he "generally refuses to testify, citing Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution, which protects citizens from giving self-incriminating evidence]."[15]

Masalayeva
Nina Maslyaeva (Source: Tass.ru)

Itin
Yuri Itin (Source: Crimerussia.com)

Arrest Of Malbrodsky, The Gogol Center's Former Director

On the night of June 19, Alexey Malobrodsky, the former director of the Gogol Center, was arrested. Meduza.io reported: "At [Malobrodsky's] hearing, prosecutors said state funding for a production of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' never reached the play. In fact, the performance is still being staged at the Gogol Center. Prosecutors claimed that 'testimony both by suspects and several witnesses' confirms Malobrodsky’s guilt. Police say 2.3 million rubles ($39,000) was embezzled from the money allocated to 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream.' (This was in addition to the 1.3 million rubles allegedly stolen by Maslyayeva and Itin, bringing the total embezzlement figure to 3.6 million rubles, or $60,900.)"[16]

In another article, Meduza.io reported that "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" premiered in November 2012 and "it was a hit." Meduza.io stressed: "The performance has been photographed and filmed, and it was even showed at the Golden Mask Russian theater festival and in Paris. Dozens of theater reviews have been published in Russia and abroad, and it’s still being performed at the Gogol Center to this day. 'A published article doesn’t prove that the event actually took place,' prosecutors have responded incredibly."[17]

In the website of the Gogol center, it is possible to read Novaya Gazeta's review on the play "A Midsummer Night's Dream": "Kirill Serebrennikov staged one of the most enigmatic and fabulous of Shakespeare’s comedies, transforming it into a fascinating theatre trip. The audience, guided by the characters, rambles through the mysterious forest while the plot takes place in four different spaces. Prose insertions by playwright Valery Pecheikin are mounted into Shakespeare’s text in verse, as if the characters were at a psychoanalyst consultation, wanting to deal with their subconscious fears…"[18]


Alexey Maloborodsky at a court session. (Source: Tass.ru)

The Bolshoi Theater Cancels The World Premiere Of A New Ballet By Serebrennikov

At the start of July, the Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky ordered the Bolshoi Theater to cancel the world premiere of Serebrennikov's new ballet, "Nureyev," for containing "gay propaganda."[19]

The independent media outlet Meduza.io reported the news of the cancellation of the new ballet by Serebrennikov citing the Russian news agency TASS.[20] Later Tass tried burying the story by redirecting the article to another URL and substituting the headline and the content.

The article read: "The Bolshoi Theater canceled the world premiere of a new ballet by director Kirill Serebrennikov on direct orders from Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, a source told the news agency TASS.

"Someone reportedly close to the Culture Ministry told TASS that Medinsky personally intervened after deciding that Serebrennikov's new ballet, 'Nureyev,' contains so-called 'gay propaganda,' based on the fact that most of the ballet's actors would have performed with exposed genitals. The show's set design also would have included a fully naked photograph of Rudolf Nureyev, the Soviet ballet dancer who defected to the West in 1961. Officials in Russia's Culture Ministry have refused to comment on the allegations."

Meduza.io elaborated further:

"On July 8, three days before the planned premiere of 'Nureyev,' Bolshoi Theater director Vladimir Urin suddenly announced that the show's opening was being postponed. 'The performance turned out to be much more difficult than we expected,' Urin explained, saying that the premiere would be delayed until early May of next year.

"Kirill Serebrennikov, the ballet's director, set designer, and author, has refused to comment on the show's postponement. In late May, Russian police questioned Serebrennikov as a witness in a fraud investigation that has resulted in several arrests."

https://www.memri.org/sites/default/files/new_images/kiril.jpg
Director Kirill Serebrennikov shared photos of the ballet crew on his Facebook account, after the Bolshoi Theatre was ordered to cancel the world premiere of his ballet "Nureyev." (Source: Facebook.com/kirill.serebrennikov, July 11, 2017)

The Debate Over Putin's Role

Following The Search At The Gogol Center, Putin Calls The Investigative Committee 'Fools'

The Serebrennikov affair provoked outrage in Russian artistic circles as it was perceived to be part of a political witch-hunt and an attempt at intimidation. There were attempts however to differentiate Putin from the mechanism that led to the search, the arrest and the decision to place Sebrennikov on trial. The search occurred on the eve of Russian President Vladimir Putin's first trip to France since the election of Macron. Serebrennikov is a well-known artist in France. According to the newspaper Kommersant, on May 24 (the very same day that Itin and Maslyayeva were detained), one of Russia's most prominent actors and directors, Evgeny Mironov, took advantage of an awards ceremony at the Kremlin to hand Putin a letter from artists in support of Serebrennikov. Mironov also pressed Putin: "Did you know about it [the search]?" Putin reportedly answered: "Yes, I learned about that yesterday." Mironov then added: "But why? What is the purpose of doing that? You are flying to France on Monday. What do you need it for?" At that point, Putin answered: "Yeah, they are fools."[21]

Media outlets reported that the "fools" remark was directed to the investigative committee and its actions against Serebrennikov. According to Novaya Gazeta and Echo of Moscow columnist Yulia Latynina, the mere fact that nothing has happened after Putin's remark (i.e. no one was fired and the case continued to grind onwards although Serebrennikov himself was set free), proves that Putin no longer controls his security apparatus (the Siloviki), since whoever stands behind the case does not take Putin's signals into consideration.[22]

Vladimir Slatinov, a political analyst at the Institute of Humanities and Political Research, concurred: "Recently we witness a peculiar process which is characterized by the sudden autonomy of the key players in the current political elite, and first and foremost the security apparatus... Definitely, Putin still remains the chief holder of the vertical power system, but this system is becoming unmanageable while some of its separate links, security first of all, are actively engaged in their own games. All that constitutes a huge problem."[23]


Mironov handing the letter from artists in support of Kirill Serebrennikov and his company. (Source: Twitter.com/dimsmirnov175)


Putin in conversation with Mironov (Source: Kommersant.ru)

Following The Annual Direct Line, Putin Criticizes Again The Searches

Responding to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line on June 15, Putin commented on Serebrennikov's case.[24] Putin stated that he did not remember whom the term "fools," which he used at the May 24 awards ceremony referred to. However, he then added: "Although I think I have some idea."

Commenting on the searches at the Gogol center, he said (as translated in English by the Kremlin's site) that it was not a "wise" move, since there was "absolutely no need to show up at a theatre or accounts department with a security detail." "That is simply preposterous," Putin noted. He also stressed that "it made no sense."

It should be noted that in the original Russian, Putin used harsher words to describe the searches at the Gogol's center and called them ridiculous.[25]

What follows is the transcript as it appears in the Kremlin website's English version:

Question: "During Direct Line today you were asked about Kirill Serebrennikov. Mr. [Russian movie director Alexey] Uchitel asked you a question but you did not respond."[26]

Vladimir Putin: "I somehow missed it, I am sorry. Did he ask about Serebrennikov?"

Question: "Yes, he did – both [Russian actor Sergey] Bezrukov and Uchitel asked what you thought about the forceful actions at the Gogol Centre and whom you meant when you said 'fools.' Because in your conversation with Mironov about State Awards, as it was subsequently reported, you said, 'fools'."

Vladimir Putin: "I do not remember what I said when that letter was handed over. I really read the letter. I do not remember the context or whom the 'fools' referred to, although I think I have some idea. Let me see.

"Evidently, it was about the fact that a search was conducted and documents were seized with the involvement of law enforcement but I do not think that was wise because there is absolutely no need to show up at a theatre or accounts department with a security detail. That is simply preposterous.

"Although I should tell you that this was not targeted at a particular theatre or Serebennikov personally. Security details are used in our country at the drop of a hat, even where it is absolutely uncalled for. I will not go into detail now. This is done even in the course of investigations in defense, security or intelligence agencies themselves. That is also unnecessary. You know, officers will obey any order. It makes no sense. It made no sense here, either.

"As for Serebrennikov, I have not met him, unlike, say, Alexey Uchitel. At any rate, I have not spoken to him face to face. As you know, he carried out many projects with state financial support. In other words – I am not passing judgment on his creative activity; I am absolutely not prepared for that – but as you know, there have been no and there are no restrictions regarding his creative activity, because he was simply given state money. However, if somebody receives money from the state, the state should be certain that this money is spent properly, in accordance with law. There was concern about financial irregularities. That is all – there was nothing else there. However, only court – after a preliminary investigation – can make the final decision as to whether somebody is guilty or not. This is all I can say now."


Putin answers journalists’ questions after Direct Line (Kremlin.ru, June 15, 2017)

Yulia Latynina writing in the independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta believes that nothing has damaged Putin's image more than the Serebrennikov case. However, she also believes that the statement about proper use of government money was a signal that no one was protected and the investigators could go after Serebrennikov.[27]

Telegram Channel Nezygar: Siloviki Act Autonomously And Change Political, Civil And Cultural Agenda

The massively followed Nezygar Telegram channel, an anonymous channel with access to quality inside information that has frequently been proven reliable, also believes that the security agencies take their cue from Putin but then write their own script:[28]

"First of all, all the groups of [political] influence and cultural elites should have got the signal - siloviki have special privileges. They act autonomously and may change any political, civil or cultural agenda. Yet, it is not about the siloviki's being disloyal to the central power. There is a presidential incentive – to work against corruption but [to do so] without 'the year 1937 [i.e. Stalin's 'Great Terror']. Siloviki just follow the president's words. The manner in which they do so and the final aim – that is a different story.

Distinguished Russian Novelist Boris Akunin: 'Serebrenikov Was Not Arrested By The Investigative Committee, But By Putin'

The distinguished Russian Novelist Boris Akunin scoffs at the differentiation between the good Putin and the bad security agencies in an article for the independent media outlet Echo Moscow, titled "Let's call a spade a spade":[29]

"Regarding the arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov in the middle of the night, this type of internationally high profile arrests of people and at such a level are being conducted only after having been authorized by the highest man in charge, or by his direct order. No other way. So, let's call the baby by his name. It was not the NKVD [forerunner of the KGB] which arrested Meyerhold [the renowned Soviet theatre director] but Stalin. Serebrenikov was not arrested by the Investigative Committee, Putin arrested him."

Akunin also wrote in his personal Facebook account[30]: "I was surprised that some people commenting on my post about Kirill Serebrennikov were asking: 'Why are you so sure that the Investigative Committee has arrested an innocent man?' Here is my answer:

"1. Kirill Serebrennikov enjoys a very good reputation, he has my great respect and full trust. He does not steal, he creates art. And also he is the most famous stage director in the world today; theaters are waiting in line to hire him. No way he will get his hands dirty.

"2. At the same time, the Investigative Committee has neither my respect nor trust. This organization has a well-deserved reputation as an outfit that complies with political orders and engages in scams."


Boris Akunin (Source: Penguinrandomhouse.com)

Meduza.io: 'When We Talk About The Case Against Serebrennikov, We Often Remember The Director Meyerhold'

The Riga-based Russian independent media outlet Meduza.io also harped on the parallel with Stalinism when it published an editorial protesting Serebrennikov's arrest and comparing it to the worst excesses of the Stalinist era:

"When we talk about the case against Kirill Serebrennikov, we often remember the director Vsevolod Meyerhold, who was arrested 78 years ago, in 1939, in Leningrad. After interrogating and torturing Meyerhold, officials charged him with counterrevolutionary activity and shot him. Fifteen years later, Meyerhold was rehabilitated, and the Soviet authorities admitted that he’d never actually committed a crime. Meyerhold wasn’t the first or the last Soviet director to be prosecuted on phony charges; a cursory search of the database of repression victims turns up many more names…

"We shouldn’t have to wait 15 years to rehabilitate the defendants in the 'Seventh Studio' case. We believe the case against Serebrennikov and his colleagues strongly appears to be fabricated, making it just one of thousands of similar fabricated cases against others in Russia convicted of fraud. We believe this treatment of Kirill Serebrennikov is unacceptable, and consider it totally unfounded to assume that the creators of “Seventh Studio” were motivated by a desire to steal from the government. We do not know who exactly decided to launch this attack on Serebrennikov, but we will do what we can to find out.

"Kirill Serebrennikov should be making films and putting on plays, not sitting locked up in jail."[31]

Why The Arrest?

Serebrennikov Was A Natural Target

The general consensus in the liberal Russian press is that Serebrennikov's case is political in nature. One variant claims that Serebrennikov himself was perceived as a threat by the authorities because the director took independent positions on the Georgian war, and the Ukrainian crisis, and supported the 2011 protests against Putin. Alternatively, Serebrennikov was sucked up into a bigger political game aimed at damaging prominent political figures.

The Moscow Times reported that since his appointment to run the Gogol Center by Moscow's minister of culture Sergey Kapkov in 2012, Serebrennikov's cultural agenda has been consistently under attack. The Moscow Times wrote: "The theater’s launch sparked several protests organized by ultra-Orthodox activists who sent letters to prosecutors saying they were offended by nudity and obscene language in Serebrennikov’s plays. As time passed, the director became embroiled in open conflict with the Culture Ministry."[32]


Serebrennikov's movie, The Student, which criticizes religious indoctrination, won the François Chalais Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Serebrennikov Was The Fall Guy For An Attack On Higher Echelon Targets Or An Attempt To Advance Regime Interests

An alternative interpretation suggested that the arrest of Serebrennikov and he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Echo Of Moscow Editor-in-Chief Venediktov: Reports Rumors That Russia's Minister Of Culture Was The Real Target Of Serebrennikov's Arrest

On August 22, Echo of Moscow Editor in Chief Aleksey Venediktov wrote the following in his Telegram channel AAVST:

"[I've got] a strange call. 'Lesha, you don't get it. Serebrennikov's arrest is aimed at [Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir] Medinsky. The Seventh Studio got the money during his shift.' I hardly believe that, but on the other hand there is such a terrarium there [i.e. in the Russian government and in the Kremlin]."[33]

It must be noted that Medinsky himself did not put stock in these rumors as his following comment on Serebrennikov's arrest shows:

"I'm not an investigator and this is a very unpleasant story. Such things happen all over the world. I'm sure that the investigation and the court decision will be impartial". He also added: "I know [for sure] that this is not a targeted case. I've got my sources."[34]

Or Maybe The Real Target Was Surkov

Nezygar explored the idea that Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who used to be regarded as Russia's' "eminence grise", was the real target. It was Surkov who previously supported Serebrennikov and personally authorized the creation of the Seventh Studio. Surkov has also had public conflicts with the Investigative Committee.

Nezgyar claims[35] that there is an entire slew of politically motivated explanations for Serebrennikov's arrest and they can be viewed as:

  1. An attack against liberal intelligentsia in order to scare [ahead of the elections].
  2. A PR motivated move designed to foster the image of a liberal Putin, who eventually intervenes to rescue Serebrennikov.
  3. A show of force by the siloviki to show who rules the roost.
  4. An attack against Medinsky [Minister of Culture].
  5. An attack on Surkov and PM Dimitry Medvedev.

Apropos Serebrennikov's friendship with Surkov, the Moscow Times noted (perhaps as implied criticism of Serebrennikov): "Curiously and even incongruously, Serebrennikov flirted briefly with the powers-that-be in the years prior to his appointment to the Gogol Center.

"He cultivated what appeared to be a close friendship with Vladislav Surkov, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s right-hand men whose divisive, nationalistic philosophy was highly controversial at the time. And he staged a dramatization of 'Near Nul,' a novel about Russian skinheads written under a pseudonym that later was revealed to belong to Surkov.

"The director’s infatuation with Surkov caused no small confusion in the theater community between 2009 and 2011. Serebrennikov seemed at times to be a political opportunist with a tremendous visual flair for theater."[36]

Journalist Shenderovich Compares Serebrennikov's Arrest To Khodorkovsky's Arrest – An Act Of Intimidation

Russian Journalist Viktor Shenderovich compared the Serebrennikovs arrest to the prosecution of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Shenderovich told the Dozhd television channel: "This sends a similar signal… Kirill is a director of world class and this is a clear signal ahead of elections: no world fame or proximity to the elite will save you from a repressive government if it decides to throw you under the bus."[37]

Has The Regime Crossed A Boundary?

Another question raised by the arrest was whether it portended a change for the worse in regime policy.

Political Expert Alexander Baunov: A New Stage In The Deterioration Of The Russian Regime

Political expert Alexander Baunov told the cultural website Colta.ru that Serebrennikov's arrest represents "a new stage in the deterioration of the [Russian] regime." Baunov also added: "The regime has just encroached on what it had not dared to encroach upon during the first decade of the Putin-Medvedev government: personal life and creativity."[38]

Russian Journalist Kucher: Why The Surprise? This Is The Way Things Work Under Putin

The Russian journalist and commentator, Stanislav Kucher, wrote in an article, titled "Everyone’s Personal Choice" that there was no reason for surprise and the intellectuals had brought this situation on themselves by their supine behavior under Putin:[39]

"All those who understand that the story with the persecution of Kirill Serebrennikov is not about money, are not so much outraged as lost and dispirited. There is nothing more disgusting than the feeling of helplessness multiplied by awareness of one’s own vulnerability. I am certain that these are the feelings experienced now by all those who sympathize with Kirill, from ordinary spectators to his creative colleagues, high-ranking officials and 'oligarchs' who saw his plays, spoke out or at least liked posts in his support. All those who, publicly or privately, are again tortured by the question 'What is to be done?'

"A wise man whom I interviewed recently reminded me that the world belongs not to politicians but to 7 billion people, that countries belong not to their leaders but to their peoples, and that the situation will change only when people stop treating these words as empty platitudes.

"At first, I did not want to write anything here – because this has happened so many times over the 17 years [since Putin came to power]. All this tragicomic repetition of the hoary truth about who kept silent and why, when they came for others. Businessmen did not speak out when Khodorkovsky was put in jail, journalists did not speak out when NTV was wiped out [as an independent television station], politicians… here the list is endless.

"At first, nobody spoke out, then they all lay down without a fight, then some of those who had lain down were placed behind bars, while others kept silent and kept lying low in the hope that this cup will pass over them.

"It will not. It has not. Because this fear, helplessness, and feeling of nasty defeat that we (OK, not all of us but many) are experiencing now are the payback for that silence and those continuous self-justifications along the lines of 'Well, it is more complicated than it seems… He is not an angel either… No, it’s about something else'.

"It is all about the same. About those who live and those who exist. About everybody’s personal choice.

This is why I don’t want to give advice to anybody. Everybody should decide for themselves what is to be done. Somebody will write a post, somebody will go to the Gogol Center, somebody will call someone or will rush to snitch to the senior levels (and the gentlemen at the senior levels are quite scared as well now!). The last thing you can do now, in my opinion, is simply to engage in self-reflection sitting on your couch, and then, at night, to get drunk out of despair in the warm, understanding company of people as helpless as yourself."

Staslav Kucher

Kucher (Facebook.com/stanislav.kucher)

The Cynical View: This Is Russia

Finally, we have the resigned view that relations between government and the intelligentsia have always been a Catch 22. Artists need government money but this money produces vulnerability when the system turns on them.

Andrey Movchan, co-founder of the "Third Rome" financial group, said:"Serebrennikov's case is not the first and not the thousandth piece of evidence attesting that the Russian state has created a system, where on the one hand you can only cooperate with it by breaching the law, while on the other, no one of those breaching the law [even when] he enjoys full state support is immune from prosecution for such a legal breach.

The only 100% effective defense measure to be taken is to emigrate. A somewhat less effective defense is to avoid any interaction with the state, and definitely do not receive money from it."[40]

Russian Journalist Parkhomenko: 'In Russia Anyone Who Receives State Funding Is Trapped'

While waiting outside the Basmanny Court in Moscow for the ruling on Serebrennikov, Russian journalist and publisher Sergey Parkhomenko, commented: "This is a two-act performance which has been going on in Russia for a long time… The first act is that everyone is guilty. In Russia anyone who receives state funding is trapped, because it is impossible to comply with all the regulations, and consequently they're hung up by several hooks. The second act is such that is that any of these hooks can be pulled at any moment, either to exact bribes or to make a political statement." He then added: "Those who are opposition-minded are being shown that nothing will save them, whether or not they're famous, talented, stupid, fat… The message is: 'If we want to snack on you, we'll eat you whole'."[41]

 

 

[1] Theguardian.com, August 29, 2017.

[2] The Russian police detained Serebrennikov in St. Petersburg on the set of his new movie about iconic front-man of Soviet rock band Kino, Viktor Tsoi.

[3] "Platforma is a pilot project launched in October 2011 at Vinzavod. It dealt with four domains of contemporary art, including music, dance, theatre, and media. Kirill Serebrennikov is both the mastermind behind Platforma and the art director of the Gogol Center." Meduza.io, May 23, 2017.

[4] Themoscowtimes.com, August 23, 2017.

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7065, Russia This Week – August 17-24, 2017, August 24, 2017.

[5] Tass.com, August 22, 2017.

[6] Meduza.io, May 23, 2017.

[7] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017. the website Crimerussia.com noted: "The most ironic thing is the amount of stolen funds: the prosecution has not yet established how much money the persons of interest have appropriated. During the trial, Maloborodsky's lawyer Ksenia Karpinskaya [See section on "Former Director Of The Gogol Center Malobrodsky's Arrest"] pointed out that prosecutors cannot stop at one particular amount. Initially, the Investigative Committee claimed that it was more than 200 million rubles. Then, in the decision on naming as defendants, it is written that 68 million rubles ($1.15 million) were stolen. Prior to this, there were figures of 2 million 300 thousand rubles ($39 thousand). Life, referring to the investigation, made a detailed infographics showing how the suspects appropriated 1 million 200 thousand rubles ($20 thousand). However, there is no single accusation that says exactly how much money the managers of the theatrical institutions have stolen." Crimerussia.com, August 19, 2017.

[8] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[9] Crimerussia.com, May 27, 2017.

[10] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[11] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[12] Crimerussia.com, June 6, 2017.

[13] Crimerussia.com, June 13, 2017.

[14] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[15] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[16] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[17] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[18] En.gogolcenter.com

[19] See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7015, Russian Art Under Attack, July 18, 2017.

[20] Meduza.io, July 10, 2017.

[21] Kommersant.ru, May 25, 2017.

[22] Echo.msk.ru, May 27, 2017.

[23]Kommersant.ru, May 25, 2017.

[24] Kremlin.ru, June 15, 2017.

[25] It should be noted that in the original Russian, Putin used harsher words to describe the searches at the Gogol's center and called them ridiculous.

"Apparently, it was about the fact that the search and seizure of documents were conducted with the involvement of a security detail [Putin uses a very vague phrase, which is hard to translate. Literally, it means 'support by force', but could actually refer to a security detail, any kind of law enforcement, or simply use of force.]; and I see nothing clever about that, because there is no need whatsoever to come to a theater, to an accounts department, and use force. It is ridiculous."

[26] See: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54790

[27] Novayagazeta.ru, August 22, 2017.

[28] Telegram.me/russica, August 23, 2017.

[29]Echo.msk.ru, August 22, 2017.

[30] Facebook.com, August 22, 2017.

[31] Meduza.io, August 22, 2017.

[32] Themoscowtimes.com, August 28, 2017.

[33] T.me/aavst55, August 22, 2017.

[34] Lenta.ru, August 23, 2017.

[35] Telegram.me/russica, August 23, 2017.

[36] Themoscowtimes.com, August 25, 2017.

[37] Themoscowtimes.com, August 23, 2017.

[38] Colta.ru, August 22, 2017.

[39] Echo.msk.ru/blog/s_kucher, August 22, 2017.

[40] Echo.msk.ru/blog/movchan, August 22, 2017.

[41] Themoscowtimes.com, August 23, 2017.