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Amid the Ukraine crisis, a number of Russian artists are speaking out against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many of them come from the worlds of classical music, ballet and theater – art forms revered in a country that values its artistic heritage.
Renowned conductor Semyon Bychkov, who was born in St Petersburg but now lives in Europe, has canceled his scheduled performances with the National Youth Symphony Orchestra of Russia at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow which were scheduled for June . In a statement posted to Facebook on Friday, Bychkov wrote: “It is a painful decision as I looked forward with immense joy to making music with the exceptionally gifted young Russian artists. Yet to do so under the current circumstances would be a inadmissible act of acquiescence.” The Youth Orchestra is affiliated with the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, conducted by Valery Gergiev.
Bychkov, who is currently conductor and music director of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, continued: “I want the spirit of this decision to be unequivocal: it is in no way aimed at the orchestra or its audience. The emotional pain of ordinary Russian citizens right now, the sense of shame and the economic losses they are experiencing are real. Just like a feeling of helplessness in the face of the repression inflicted by the regime. Those individuals who dare to oppose this war are putting their own lives in danger. They need us who are free to take a stand and say, “The guns must be silent, so we can celebrate life rather than death.”
In a separate lengthy statement posted on the Czech Philharmonic’s website, Bychkov said: “Silence in the face of evil becomes its accomplice and eventually becomes its equal. … Keeping silent today is c is to betray our conscience and our values, and ultimately what defines the nobility of human nature.”
Russian-born conductor Kirill Petrenko, who emigrated to Austria at 18, made a statement Friday with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he is conductor. Petrenko wrote: “Putin’s insidious attack on Ukraine, which violates international law, is a knife in the back of the entire peaceful world. It is also an attack on the arts, which, as we know, unite across all borders. total solidarity with all my Ukrainian colleagues and I can only hope that all artists will unite for freedom, sovereignty and against aggression.”
Influential Russian hip-hop artist Oxxxymiron, also known as Miron Fyodorov, said in a video posted to Instagram on Friday that he was canceling six sold-out shows scheduled in Moscow and St. Petersburg to protest the invasion. “It was not Ukraine that invaded Russian territory,” he said. “It is Russia bombing a sovereign state.”
Artists from other disciplines are resigning from their work and also canceling projects. Alexei Ratmansky, who is the former choreographer of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and currently the artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theater in New York, left Moscow amid preparations for a new ballet at the Bolshoi which was to be created on March 30. .
On Sunday, Ratmansky – who is of both Ukrainian and Russian descent, grew up in Kyiv and still has family in Ukraine – said The New York Times that he doubts he will return to Moscow to complete the project “if Putin is still president”. He was also to create a separate ballet in May for the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
Elena Kovalskaya, a theater director who served as one of the artistic directors of the Meyerhold Cultural and Theater Center in Moscow, announced on Facebook on Thursday that she could no longer stay in her post. “It is impossible to work for a murderer and earn a living from it,” she wrote. The Meyerhold is a state-run theatre.
So far, some 10,000 other Russian cultural and artistic workers have signed an open letter against Putin’s actions. “We, artists, curators, architects, critics, art critics, art directors – representatives of culture and art of the Russian Federation – express our absolute solidarity with the Ukrainian people and resolutely say “NO TO WAR!” (“No to war” has become a rallying cry on Russian-speaking social media and at protests taking place in cities across Russia and around the world.)
Some foreign artists also choose to sever their ties with Russian institutions. On Saturday, French ballet dancer Laurent Hilaire resigned from his post as artistic director of the ballet of the Stanislavsky Moscow Ballet. “I’m leaving Moscow tomorrow in view of the situation,” he told AFP. “I’m leaving with a heavy heart, but the context no longer allows me to work calmly.”
Mindaugas Karbauskis, a theater director born in what was then Soviet Lithuania, suddenly left his role as director of the Mayakovsky Theater in Moscow last week. He did not specify the reason for his departure, but posted on his Facebook account on Friday: “I’m leaving too!”