Closing theaters, firing actors, arresting directors: how culture is being destroyed in Russia - ForumDaily
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Closing theaters, firing actors, arresting directors: how culture is being destroyed in Russia

The offensive of the Putin regime on culture is gaining momentum. Immediately after the start of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, many artists sharply criticized the aggression and were forced to leave the country. Among those who remained, a systematic “cleansing” of any dissent began. Last summer in Moscow closed popular theater "Gogol Center". In parallel with this, everywhere performances canceled, staged by "unreliable" directors, and the names of objectionable actors - in the literal sense of the word, to be erased from posters.

Photo: IStock

Arrest for prevention of terrorism

At the beginning of 2023, the actor Dmitry Nazarov was fired from the Moscow Art Theater for criticizing the war, and after that lost starring in the new adaptation of "12 Chairs". Shortly thereafter, a new round of persecution of the actress began. Leah Akhedzhakova, and the Moscow theater "Sovremennik" отмениР» all performances with her participation. At the beginning of May in St. Petersburg sealed the doors Maly Drama Theater (MDT) director Lev Dodin under the pretext of allegedly discovered shortcomings in the line of fire and sanitary and epidemiological safety.

However, the most egregious was arrest director Evgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk on charges of "justifying terrorism" for performance Finist Yasny Sokol. The plot of the production is based on the stories of Russian women who succumbed to the recruitment of radical Islamists and followed them to Syria. In fact, the performance itself is a very competent and talentedly presented overview of the motivations of such women, their pain, hopes and delusions. At the same time, in some scenes, the contrast between the promises of recruiters and the harsh reality faced by gullible Russians is very clearly presented. Rather, the performance can be called an excellent prevention of terrorism, but by no means its justification. By the way, the production received the Golden Mask award in two categories.

Many colleagues are sure that the performance was only an excuse for Evgenia's revenge for her anti-war position. February 24, 2022 Berkovich already arrested at an anti-war picket in Moscow. The director herself in her interviews noted that in Russia she was kept primarily by the need to take care of her elderly grandmother and two adopted by her a few years ago, teenage girls. Now the children are with her husband Evgenia Berkovich.

In addition, the director regularly published anti-war poems, two of which were included in the director's performance Egor Trukhin and actor Anatoly Bely «I'm here". Shortly after the arrest, Berkovich and Petriychuk on the official page of the performance appeared textwhich said: "Zhenya Berkovich is not just a person close to us in spirit. Two of Zhenya's poems are performed in the play "I'm Here". So it came for us too».

The director of the performance Yegor Trukhin posted separate post, listing the killed, arrested, tortured and simply expelled from the country cultural figures from pre-revolutionary Russia to the present day. We asked Anatoly and Yegor, who also left the country last year due to their anti-war stance, to comment on the arrest of Evgenia and Svetlana and the new wave of repressions against cultural figures.

On the subject: Russia's state-owned media were instructed to prepare the population for losing the war: NATO is to blame for everything, as always

Not stupidity, but mockery

Anatoly Bely notes that he crossed paths with Yevgenia Berkovich both in the theatrical environment and in various charitable projects, and each time he was convinced that he was dealing with an honest, noble and sensitive person.

«Adopting two girls with severe psychological trauma is a real heroism in my eyes, and this is far from the only respectable thing that Zhenya did. With the outbreak of the war, her incredible poetic gift was revealed - she really has very powerful poems. Zhenya subtly feels this world, like a real poet, and her position is very consonant with mine.", - explains the actor.

At the same time, Anatoly Bely does not believe that modern Chekists are seriously afraid of cultural figures, and that is why they are trying to drown out their voice at any cost. In his opinion, the special services simply set themselves the goal of systematically eradicating any dissent, since it is basically intolerable for them.

«And, of course, some absolutely ridiculous pretexts are created for this, as was the case with the MDT, which was sealed up, because they allegedly did not have numbered mops. Personally, I see in this not stupidity, but a conscious mockery - they demonstrate their power and our impotence. And, of course, a bet is being made to win over public opinion. "Justification of terrorism", ISIS - it sounds very scary in the eyes of the layman. However, all this is a lie, a bright wrapper, which, unfortunately, some people buy into.", - the actor is sure.

"A dictatorial regime has established itself in Russia"

Anatoly Bely and Yegor Trukhin agree that now, like a hundred years ago, the same machine is engaged in repressions, and the modern heirs of the NKVD and the KGB only continue the work of their predecessors in the total cleansing of the space inside the country. However, Yegor, unlike Anatoly, believes that, in addition to organic intolerance for any otherness, the regime is still afraid of those it is trying to destroy.

«Theater is an incredibly powerful tool for working with the audience. In a sense, it can be compared with a church pulpit, with a rostrum. Maybe this is not the most correct comparison, but theaters do have a much larger audience than it might seem. There are several hundred theaters in Moscow alone, and they still influence people", - the director believes.

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At the same time, Yegor Trukhin notes that people who have come to power in Russia in the past twenty years are unlikely to have read any serious books at all, not to mention visiting theaters, and in addition to fear, they may be told by a total rejection of any attempt not to only to speak out, but also to think independently.

«Let's be honest - a dictatorial regime has established itself in Russia. We see a striking similarity between what is happening now and what happened at one time in the USSR and Germany. Both Stalinism and Nazism could not come to terms with anything that was somewhat at odds with the propaganda manual", - says Yegor.

The young director's forecasts for the future of Russia are rather pessimistic. According to his observations, there are a minority of people in the country who do not accept war and repression, while the majority prefer external or even internal forms of conformism. Yegor fears that the longer the war goes on, the more irreversible its consequences for Russian society will become.

«It seems to me that the Kremlin is using the war not only to destroy the Ukrainians, although for this too, but also to clean up any dissent inside the country under the pretext of wartime. This trend, with some interruptions, has been going on in Russia for more than a hundred years, and now I have the feeling that the country is literally bursting at the seams.", - concluded the director.

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