One of Russia’s last independent news outlets took a stand for peace and made a powerful historical allusion in its final moments.
TV Rain, described by The New York Times as a “young independent television station”, announced on Thursday that it would cease operating indefinitely under intense pressure from the Kremlin.
Russia’s telecommunications regulator had already blocked TV Rain earlier in the week, and some of the station’s employees fled the country out of fear for their own safety, The Times reported. Thusday, the outlet delivered its final broadcast, which was streamed on YouTube.
“No to war,” said Natalia Sindeyeva, one of the founders of TV Rain, as station workers left the studio.
The station then began broadcasting Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, a reference recognized by many connoisseurs of Russian history.
As NPR noted in an article earlier this year about the significance of “Swan Lake” in Russian political history, Soviet state television aired the ballet on repeat after the death of Prime Minister Leonid Brezhnev. while a new party leader was being selected. He did the same after the deaths of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko.
Then, in 1991, Soviet television broadcast the ballet during the attempted overthrow of President Mikhail Gorbachev – a failed coup that helped precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union.
There are well-founded fears that reporting any news that diverges from the official government line in Russia could result in jail time or worse.
Just before TV Rain aired on “Swan Lake” on Thursday, a disclaimer appeared on screen stating that the show was the work of a foreign agent. This became a requirement for the station in August, when the Russian Justice Ministry declared TV Rain a foreign agent – a designation editor Tikhon Dzyadko vehemently denied – in the run-up to parliamentary elections.