The Year in Theater: Murky Demons on the Loose

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

  (Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – July 23, 2015) Words can be fashionable. They may be dangerous. The word of this year in Russian culture, I would argue, has shades of both. The lexical item of “obscurantism”-“mrakobesie” in Russian, suggesting demonic murk and gloom – is everywhere to be found in discussions of art these days. “In […]

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Why Russians fear August

Forest Fire file photo

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – Chris Weafer of Macro-Advisory – July 10, 2015) As we all know only too well, winters are long and cold in Russia while summers are relatively short but quite pleasant. Once Easter has passed, people start marking the calendar until they can throw off their winter armour and re-open their dachas. August is the […]

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Ukrainian Culture Ministry makes list of 117 Russian performers threatening national security

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Interfax – July 8, 2015) By way of implementing the law On Amendments to Certain Laws on the Protection of TV and Radio Space of Ukraine the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture has made a list of 117 performing artists from Russia that has been submitted to the relevant authorities, the ministry’s website says. The report notes that by way of […]

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Angelina Jolie Buys Rights to Film About Catherine the Great and Her Lover

Catherine the Great

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ilaria Parogni – July 7, 2015) Hollywood actress, film director and producer Angelina Jolie has purchased the film rights to Simon Sebag Montefiore’s book about the love affair between Catherine the Great of Russia and Prince Grigory Potemkin, the British author’s literary agency said Monday. Jolie’s production company, Jolie Pas, has bought the option to […]

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How culture continues to bring Russians and Americans together

Tchaikovsky Sheet Music

In an RBTH exclusive, Mary Ellen Koenig, Cultural Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in the Russian Federation, writes about the special unifying bond that culture can provide between Russia and the United States even in times when official relations between the two countries are tense. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Mary Ellen Koenig, special to RBTH – July […]

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The Top 10 Summer Books for Russia Watchers

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 3, 2015) Here at The Moscow Times culture desk, we like to think of ourselves as highbrows. We like opera. We spend our evenings reading the “Great Authors.” We think we understand the “Black Square.” But even we like to kick back on a hot summer weekend with a can of beer and a […]

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Quiet days for books on Russia published in first half of 2015

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – BOOK REVIEW: Chris Weafer in Moscow – June 18, 2015) The first half of 2015 can hardly be described as a vintage period for new books about Russia. It seems that the Ukraine crisis and recession have led to many authors delaying completing their work until there is a little more clarity on how […]

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NEWSLINK The Guardian: Moscow 25 years on: do I still recognise the city?

Moscow Night Lights Satellite Image

It is 25 years since this correspondent first set foot in Europe’s largest city. In those days, the air was thick with cheap gasoline, cars were all Zhigulis (Ladas) and ZiLs – or else dodgy, paperless German saloons driven by men with thick necks and leather jackets. A chic lunch was a kebab at the Baku restaurant on Gorky street; […]

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NEWSWATCH Time Magazine: Russia Just Opened a Theme Park for Warmongers; There are army rations for lunch, and tanks and missiles to play with

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

Time magazine reports on The Guardian reporting on Russia’s new “Patriot Park,” a military-focused theme park an hour outside Moscow. Want your child to learn how to use a grenade launcher? Now, they can at Putin’s ‘Patriot Park,’ a sort of Disneyland built to showcase Russian military prowess. Attractions include military rations for lunch and tanks and missiles to play […]

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Russians’ Social Bonds Increasing, Giving Them Resource for Protest, Schulmann Says

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 16, 2015) Social networks among Russians have grown and deepened over the last two years, according to a poll conducted by the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, thus creating the basis for the rise of civil society and more protests by making Russians less dependent on the state. In […]

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NEWSLINK The Guardian: Moscow’s suburbs may look monolithic, but the stories they tell are not

Moscow Night Lights Satellite Image

At the end of the 1950s, the Soviet Union began the largest experiment in industrialised housing in history. Owen Hatherley visits three of Moscow’s resulting mikrorayons, where the majority of Muscovites still live today

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Eleven Russian Superstitions (Because We Were Scared to Do Thirteen)

Spilled Salt and Toppled Salt Shaker

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Jennifer Monaghan – June 9, 2015) Russians are a superstitious lot. A survey by independent pollster Levada Center in 2013 found that 52 percent of Russians believed in omens, prophetic dreams and astrology. Admittedly, this was a decline from 57 percent in 2000 – but still represented more than half of the population at the […]

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NEWSLINK The Guardian: Is the ‘Moscow experiment’ over?

Moscow Night Lights Satellite Image

The plan was to create a new type of city that answered the needs of Moscow’s creative middle classes. But did the exit of Sergei Kapkov, the culture minister who ushered in these changes, also signal the end of the city’s urban revival?

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NEWSLINK New York Times: Museum Director at Hermitage Hopes for Thaw in Relations With West

File Photo of Hermitage Art Museum

These days, Mr. Piotrovsky, 70, has a dual mandate: Maintaining the Hermitage’s centuries-old ties with the wider world amid the chill, and making the case to the international art world that Russia is still a respectable partner. The loan of the Elgin marbles helped on both counts. He is also hoping to help resolve an impasse that has blocked all […]

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Authorities Again Threatened by Bolotnaya Square

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – May 12, 2015) Yelena Gremina’s production of “The Bolotnaya Square Case” at Teatr.doc may be the most benign dangerous 65 minutes I have ever witnessed. A contradiction in terms, you say? Not in the land, which, as the great poet Fyodor Tyutchev put it, cannot be understood by mind alone. The fact […]

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Moscow Government Approves Plans for Russian Disneyland

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 12, 2015) Moscow’s urban planning commission has approved plans for a children’s amusement park along the lines of Disneyland to be built in the Nagatinskaya Poima park in southeastern Moscow, City Hall said in a statement. The amusement park will include an indoor theme park operated by Hollywood animation studio DreamWorks, another park operated […]

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Moscow Times: More Than 80% of Russians Favor State Censorship of Literature, Film, Art

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber – May 8, 2015) Fourteen percent of Russians do not support state intervention when it comes to the content and dissemination of artistic creations, the survey also showed. A vast majority of Russians think the state should censor artistic creations believed to be vulgar, immoral or harmful to society, according to a survey […]

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NGO: Russia Among Top 60 Best Countries to Be a Mother

Large Mother Russia Statue Near Volgograd

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber – May 6, 2015) Russia is one of the top 60 countries in the world in terms of conditions of motherhood, according to a ranking published earlier this week by international advocacy group Save the Children. Russia ranks 56th out of 179 countries in Save the Children’s 2015 Mothers’ Index Ranking, which is […]

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Poll: Russians Haven’t Been So Positive About Their Country in 5 Years

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Peter Spinella – April 22, 2015) Russians are more positive about their country than they have been since the state-run Public Opinion Research Center began surveys for its social sentiment index five years ago, the pollster said Tuesday. The index, based on a comparison of respondents’ assessments ranging from “everything is terrible” to “everything is […]

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Russian store assistants smiling more, says customer service report

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Marina Obrazkova, RBTH – April 7, 2015) Russia has come 15th out of 69 countries for the friendliness of its customer service, according to data from the Smiling Report, an annual evaluation of how warmly shoppers are greeted around the world. Analysts and industry insiders say that Russia’s approach to customer service has drastically changed in […]

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Few in the Russian Intelligentsia Oppose Putin Even if They Don’t Support Him, Kirillova says

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 7, 2015) Many members of the Russian intelligentsia do not support Vladimir Putin and his repression at home and aggression abroad, but a significant and surprising number of them do, the result of a complex combination of their experiences over the last generation and Putin’s actions as well, according to Kseniya […]

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Soviet-Style Censorship Returns to Russian Arts

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman, Moscow Times Theater Critic – April 3, 2015) How many bulls does it take to trash a china shop? We may have an answer by the time the dust settles in a seemingly self-refueling controversy that keeps swirling around an opera house in Novosibirsk. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said this week on […]

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Moscow Times: Deeply Human Touch Brought to Erdman’s ‘The Suicide’

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – April 2, 2015) I have written about Nikolai Erdman’s tragicomedy “The Suicide” for 35 years and I have rarely seen it done with the deep, devastating understanding that Sergei Zhenovach brings to it at the Studio of Theatrical Art. That doesn’t mean this show is an unqualified success from beginning to end. […]

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NEWSLINK New York Times: Russian Artists Face a Choice: Censor Themselves, or Else

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

… In an interview last month in his office here, Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s culture minister, said it was the prerogative of experts at the research institute to look into Russian culture, such as the plays in question. “Maybe, that’s their right to do this,” Mr. Medinsky said. But he said the academics’ findings wouldn’t have repercussions for the theaters. …. […]

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Russian church denies filing complaint against controversial opera

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Interfax – April 1, 2015) The Novosibirsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church has denied having filed a claim against Tannhaeuser opera production at the Novosibirsk State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 1 April. In a statement to Interfax-Religion it said: “The Novosibirsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church points out that the […]

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Cultural Figures Demand Minister’s Sacking Over Opera Scandal

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ivan Nechepurenko – March 31, 2015) Leading cultural figures launched a petition Monday calling for the dismissal of Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, saying his position on a controversial opera production was an attack on freedom of creativity, while the Kremlin said it had the right to influence the content produced by cultural organizations financed by […]

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Online film festival offers chance to view little-known Russian movies

File Photo of Reel of Film

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – March 30, 2015) The sixth annual Double Dv@ Online Festival of Russian Film will take place on the website of Rossiyskaya Gazeta from April 6-20. Most films will be shown with English subtitles. Each film will be available for 48 hours. http://d2.rg.ru/ According to the press release: “The aim of the program is […]

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NEWSLINK New York Times: Russian Theater Director Fired for Offending Christians

St. Basil's Domes

In the latest skirmish between the Russian Orthodox Church and the cultural elite, the culture minister on Sunday fired the director of a Siberian theater who included a controversial interpretation of the life of Jesus in the Richard Wagner opera “Tannhauser.” The director, Boris Mezdrich, had failed to apologize and to take other steps to mitigate the outcry among the […]

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Three Russian contributions to theater that changed the world

Anton Chekhov file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Alexandra Guryanova, RBTH – March 27, 2015) In honor of World Theater Day on March 27, RBTH presents three of Russia’s greatest contributions to the art of theater, from the plays of Anton Chekhov to the methodologies of Stanislavsky and Vsevolod Meyerhold’s “theater of the grotesque.” The plays of Anton Chekhov Chekhov’s plays […]

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NEWSWATCH Foreign Policy Magazine: Is Russian Literature Dead? How the land of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy became a book lover’s afterthought

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

[“Is Russian Literature Dead? How the land of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy became a book lover’s afterthought” – Foreign Policy Magazine – Owen Matthews – March 24, 2015] Writing in Foreign Policy Magazine Owen Matthews addresses the lack of attention and celebrity for Russian literature created in recent decades, at least among American readers. The last Russian novel to become a genuine […]

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Wagner Opera Scandal Reflects Deep Divide in Russian Society

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ivan Nechepurenko – March 26, 2015) An avant-garde production of a Wagner opera in a Siberian city that has seen conservative Russian Orthodox activists declare war on the liberal intelligentsia is a sign of things to come, some in Russia fear. The production of “Tannhauser” at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater is accused of […]

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NEWSLINK: Valentin Rasputin, Russian Writer Who Led ‘Village Prose’ Movement, Dies at 77

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

Valentin Rasputin, a patriarch of the so-called village prose writers who emerged in the Soviet Union in the 1960s to address moral and environmental issues and depict the remains of a rural Russia about to be consumed by industrialization, died here on Saturday. He was 77. …   http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/world/europe/valentin-rasputin-russian-writer-who-led-village-prose-movement-dies-at-77.html?_r=0

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Fire in Novodevichy Convent bell tower did not damage building

Novodevichy Convent file photo

(Interfax – March 16, 2015) It took firefighters almost three hours to extinguish the fire in the Moscow Novodevichy Convent bell tower. The fire, which affected an area of 300 square meters, did not do any damage to the historical building. “The internal premises were not damaged by the fire and external facing plaster fell off in the places affected […]

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Religious Offense Charges Against Russian Opera Director Dropped

File Photo of Russian Orthodox Church at Kremlin, adapted from defense.gov Image

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Peter Spinella – March 11, 2015) A Russian opera director who found himself mired in legal controversy after he provoked the ire of a local church leader was cleared of a charge of offending the sentiments of religious believers, the theater announced Tuesday via Twitter. Director Timofei Kulyabin had faced administrative charges for offending religious […]

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Sherlock Holmes, Pavel Kogan and The Theory of Everything – What to Do in Moscow on Wednesday

Moscow Night Lights Satellite Image

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 4, 2015) Sherlock Holmes: Contemporary dance detective show set to Irish folk music, compositions by Handel and Schubert. Choreography by Yelena Bogdanovich. Natalya Sats Children’s Musical Theater. 5 Prospekt Vernadskogo. Metro Universitet. 495-930-5177. At 5 p.m. Golden Mask: Aida: Verdi’s opera about the forbidden love between an Ethiopian slave girl and an Egyptian army […]

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Moscow Times: ‘Leviathan’ Is Close Favorite as Oscars Draw Near

Movie Theater file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ali Sar – HOLLYWOOD, February 20, 2015) [DJ: It can be found on the Internet] Prognosticators are at work as the guessing game heats up in the Oscar race, especially when it comes to the best foreign-language film category with Russia’s “Leviathan” and Poland’s “Ida” occupying center stage. “Leviathan” has turned its director, Andrei Zvyagintsev, […]

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Embattled Teatr.doc Proudly Returns to the Stage

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – February 16, 2015) “I always thought this democracy stuff was, you know … ,” Alexei Yudnikov said, his voice trailing off with disgust still ringing in it. “Yes, yes! No, no!” A couple hundred people burst into laughter. The joke was both subtle and obvious. Yudnikov was emceeing the reopening of the […]

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Why Russian children still love the ballet

Bolshoi Theater file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Maria Fyodorishina, special to RBTH – February 14, 2015) The Russian ballet tradition is one of the most influential in the world. Despite the fact that most ballerinas stop performing by their late 30s and dancers have less than a five percent chance of becoming a soloist, parents still enroll their children in […]

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Few Russians left unmoved by “Leviathan” of a movie

Movie Theater file photo

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – FILM REVIEW: Anna Kravchenko in Moscow – February 10, 2015) Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan”, probably the most anticipated film in post-Soviet Russia, hit the screens of more than 600 cinemas on February 5. The film made RUB7.2mn (€97,000) in its first day of release, an impressive sum for Hollywood-dominated Russian distribution market. Weekend box office […]

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Moscow Times: Crimea and Sochi Might Just Have Made Russians a ‘Happy’ People

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – February 5, 2015) Russians were much happier by the end of 2014 than a year earlier, according to a recent survey by WIN/Gallup International, which showed the country’s “happiness index” more than doubling over the past year. The index – which is obtained by subtracting the percentage of respondents who said they were unhappy with […]

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Russia about to Lose Its ‘Thick’ Journals and Culture Ministry Won’t Help

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, January 22, 2015) Russia’s “thick” journals, the pride of its intellectual life for more than a century are dying, the result of changes in the media marketplace, but despite 2015 having been declared “The Year of Literature” in Russia, the Russian government is unwilling to do anything to save them. Indeed, it […]

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Moscow Times: Russian Culture Ministry Reverses Plans to Ban Films That Undermine ‘National Unity’

Movie Theater file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 20, 2015) The Culture Ministry has reversed plans to deny distribution licenses to films deemed harmful to Russia’s “national unity,” after the proposed restrictions drew widespread criticism. A ministry spokesman said some of the requirements set for films seeking clearance for screening in Russian movie theaters and on television had been lifted, the Interfax […]

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Russia Beyond the Headlines: Five reasons to watch Leviathan

Movie Theater file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Anton Dolin, special to RBTH – January 16, 2015) Andrei Zvyagnitsev’s film has already taken home a Golden Globe and Palme d’Or at Cannes for best foreign film and it is now up for an Oscar. Still wonder if you should see it? Let RBTH erase any remaining doubts. 1. This is not […]

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Top Russian Official ‘Ashamed’ Of Culture Crackdown, Quits Ministry

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Claire Bigg – January 15, 2015) A prominent Russian public figure has slammed the country’s culture minister for overseeing a deepening crackdown on artists critical of authorities, quitting a ministerial commission in protest. Yevgeny Savostyanov, the head of Russia’s Coordination Council on Intellectual Property Protection, said in an open letter that he was “ashamed” of Culture […]

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Bolshoi Packed for Tribute to Legendary Singer Yelena Obraztsova

Bolshoi Theater file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Layli Foroudi – January 15, 2015) Hundreds of Russians paid their last respects to renowned and much-loved opera singer Yelena Obraztsova in the Bolshoi Theater on Wednesday. Roses, carnations and sunflowers in all sizes and quantities were tearfully and lovingly carried up the theater’s dark aisle to be placed at the base of her casket, […]

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‘Top 15 Russian Fears for ’15’ — a ‘Versiya’ Checklist

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, January 14, 2015) Russians face so many problems and have so many fears that it is often a daunting task to ensure that one is keeping track of all of them. As a guide for the perplexed, Kseniya Veretennikova provides a checklist of the “top 15 fears” Russians have about the year […]

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A new drama in Moscow: Teatr.doc – a pioneer of ‘New Drama’ in Russia – has recently been evicted from its basement home in Moscow. But is it all an act?

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(opendemocracy.net – Alexey Krizhevsky – January 14, 2015) Alexey Krizhevsky is culture editor at gazeta.ru and member of Teatr.doc Teatr.doc is on the move. Having performed its last plays and a holiday evening, the theatre packed its bags and left the tiny basement in the centre of Moscow – its home for many years. The director of the independent theatre, […]

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U.S. Drama ‘House of Cards’ Features Putin Look-Alike in New Trailer

File Photo of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama Seated Before Russian and U.S. Flags

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 13, 2015) [Trailer here http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/u-s-drama-house-of-cards-features-putin-look-alike-in-new-trailer/514243.html] A trailer for season three of U.S. hit series House of Cards has fans in a frenzy over what appear to be heavy hints that the new season’s plot line will feature a character based on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The new series will see actor Kevin Spacey reprise […]

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Russian Film ‘Leviathan’ Takes Golden Globe, Chance for Oscar

Movie Theater file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ali Sar, Kevin O’Flynn – BEVERLEY HILLS, United States, January 13, 2015) Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan,” a dark and brooding film that depicts Russia as a corrupt and cruel society, took the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film late Sunday, making it one of the favorites to win the Academy Award in the same category next […]

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