print
memri
July 18, 2017 No.
7015

Russian Art Under Attack

Renowned Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov is again being targeted by the Russian authorities. Back in May, Serebrennikov's property was searched without a court-issued warrant. Now, 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."

The following is an overview of Serebrennikov's harassment by the Russian authorities:

Serebrennikov
Serebrennikov (Source: Life.ru)

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

The independent media outlet Meduza.io reported the news of the cancellation of the new ballet by Serebrennikov from Russian news agency TASS. Later Tass was tried to conceal 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."

(Meduza.io, July 10, 2017)

Search At the Gogol Center

On May 23, 2017, the art director of Moscow's Gogol Center Kirill Serebrennikov had his property searched without a court-issued warrant, and was then taken away for questioning.

The searches of Serebrennikov's property and the Gogol Center were conducted as part of fraud investigation initiated in 2015, and concern an allocation of 66.5 million rubles by Moscow's Department of Culture to Serebrennikov's project Platforma.[1] The money was earmarked for the popularization of culture.

The normal procedure requiring a court-issued search was not adhered to, and the searchers relied merely on the approval of an investigator. "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."

(Meduza.io, May 23, 2017)

Putin Calls The Investigative Committee 'Fools'

The search provoked outrage among Russian artists' circles as it was perceived as a political witch-hunt and an attempt at intimidation. 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, one of Russia's leading, artists, Evgeny Mironov, took advantage of a May 24 awards ceremony at the Kremlin to ask Putin: "Did you know about it [the search]?" According to the reports, Putin 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".

(Kommersant.ru, May 25, 2017)

Columnist Latynina: Putin No Longer Controls the Security Apparatus

Media outlets reported that the "fools" remark was referred to the investigative committee and its actions against Serebrennikov. According to Novaya Gazeta and Echo 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.

(Echo.msk.ru, May 27, 2017)

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

Moreover, Vladimir Slatinov, a political analyst at the Institute of Humanities and Political Research, said: "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."

(Kommersant.ru, May 25, 2017)

Writer Shenderovich Asks Putin Why He Appoints 'Fools' To Executive Positions

The renowned writer Victor Shenderovich wrote the following in the independent media outlet Echo.msk.ru: "A few days ago, Evgeny Mironov solicited Vladimir Putin's opinion on those who initiated searches in the 'Gogol-Center' and at Kirill Serebrennikov's property - and Vladimir Putin called them 'fools'.

"That's wonderful (because, as they say, he could have slashed their eyes with razor ), but it doesn't negate other inevitable questions to the abovementioned Vladimir Putin, that hitherto no one has asked, for example:

  • "Why do you appoint to executive positions the fools who time after time commit illegal acts and inflict grave damage to Russia's reputation?
  • "Why these executive fools remain on their positions after having committed those acts? Why haven't you sacked them?
  • "Do you think that dangerous fools should carry on leading the law-enforcement structures of the Russian Federation? How do you explain that personnel decisions? What in your presidential view are those fools' advantages which outweigh their stupidity and the grave consequences of their action for the Russian Federation's citizens and country's reputation?
  • "Don't you think that in committing their illegal acts the abovementioned fools were guided by your numerous public assessments of your liberal opponents that they are hostile to Russia? Don't you think that exactly in this context the 'fools' of the Investigations Committee were convinced that their abuse of power regarding Kirill Serebrennikov and the 'Gogol-Center' would in no way endanger their administrative well-being?
  • "Don't you think that their assumption about their own impunity has been vividly validated (because they all still hold their positions)?
  • "Are you sure that your own goals remain within the legal framework and your duties as a guarantor of Russian Federation citizens' rights?

"I'm giving away all these question pro bono (i.e. free of charge) to the journalists who wish to present them to their dear Vladimir Vladimirovich during the next session of direct hypnotic contact with the people…"

(Echo.msk.ru, May 26, 2017)

 

 

 

[1] "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." Medua.io, May 23, 2017.