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Thousands protest in Novosibirsk for artistic freedom

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 April 2015

Russian government denies removal of director of Opera and Ballet Theatre was censorship.

Concerns were expressed at the church's sway over the state, and threats for artistic freedom in Russia. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

The protest, attracting several thousand people, followed the row over an avant-garde performance of  Wagner's Tannhauser which has divided the nation. 

The Orthodox Church claimed scenes in the opera depicting Jesus and showing a poster with a crucifix between a woman's legs was grossly offensive to believers. 

The Culture Minister sided with the church, and fired the director of Russia's largest theatre, replacing him with well-known Vladimir Kekhman, also Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg, who had called for his dismissal.

Sunday's protest saw demands for the ousting of Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky as well as Kekhman, and the restoration of Mezdrich in his post. Concerns were expressed at the church's sway over the state, and threats for artistic freedom in Russia. 

Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally

The protest, attracting several thousand people, followed the row over an avant-garde performance of  Wagner's Tannhauser which has divided the nation. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Strong feelings were aired on both sides with one cultural commentator Ludmilla Lebed claiming: 'Not even during times of the harshest communist censorship did we see this. This kind of meddling by the church into secular affairs smacks of inquisition.'

Kekhman complained that the performance staged by his predecessor in Novosibirsk amounted to 'sacrilege'. 

'I, as a believer, baptized, orthodox, as a Jew, take it as an insult. This is a demonstration of the internal wickedness in the style and spirit of the union of militant atheists,' he said.

However the Kremlin has strongly denied that censorship is involved. 

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: 'The state provides funds through budget subsidies, various grants, for cinema productions, staging performances in theatres.'

Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally


Tannhauser support rally

Sunday's protest saw demands for the ousting of Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky as well as Kekhman, and the restoration of Mezdrich in his post. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

As a result the state 'has the right to expect appropriate performances from creative teams - at least, that do not trigger such an acute reaction from the general public'.

He insisted: 'It should not be interpreted as attempts to impose any type of censorship.' He claimed that the removal of the Novosibirsk director was not related to the Tannhauser dispute. 

'I want to urge to read attentively the decree of the minister of culture,' he said. 'The former director of the theatre was fired not for the [Tannhauser] production, but for something like insubordination. 

'As he [Mezdrich] was appointed by the Ministry of Culture, at the federal level, he has to comply with subordination rules.' Yet 'this does not mean censorship in any way'.

Comments (2)

Yous are good & quick posting the comments these days, I think you all deserve to take a "Bow"! Well done, see you tomorrow.
Jaker, Dundalk
08/04/2015 01:54
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Church & State "Love-ins" are bad news...next they'll be telling you what you can have for breakfast. I come from a country where all through the last century the Church & State were in bed together, not making love, but making rules up for their citizens. But we the citizens turned over the bed & broke up the cosy relationship. Now its church doing what they're supposed to be doing & state doing what they're supposed to be doing, but well apart of each other. To all the people protesting against the church & state doing business in each others pockets..."Well Done"!
Jaker, Dundalk
08/04/2015 01:19
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2
1

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