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Archive for Life in Russia, Culture, Arts, Theater, Music

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

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

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

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

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

‘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”

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

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

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

Lifting the lid on Russia’s bad habits

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

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Maria Fyodorishina, special to RBTH – January 8, 2015) Psychologists and sociologists have identified several bad habits typical of Russians: smoking, swearing, drinking a lot of tea, and even the habit of passing the blame. What do the statistics say and what are the explanations behind these common

Russia’s Oscar Hopeful Is Dark, Critical — And Patriotic

Map of Russia

(RFE/RL – Robert Coalson – January 5, 2015) In the film Leviathan, a drunken mechanic in a far northern Russian town clashes with a greedy, drunken mayor who is determined to expropriate the man’s land for his own mansion. The mayor contemptuously refers to his subjects as “insects” and, in a fit of vodka-fuelled honesty,

Oliver Stone Interviews Yanukovych for Documentary on U.S. ‘Coup’ in Ukraine

Oliver Stone

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 31, 2014) Hollywood film producer Oliver Stone has said he wants to make a four-hour documentary telling the “dirty story” of the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in what he believes was a “coup” organized with the help of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. “A dirty

Best of 2014: People of the year

New Year's Eve on Red Square with Fireworks, Kremlin, Saint Basil's, Crowds

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Oleg Yegorov, special to RBTH – December 22, 2014) The year 2014 was complicated, with groundbreaking events aplenty on the political scene, as well as in technology, media and numerous cultural spheres. RBTH presents the Russians who in its view played the most noteworthy roles in politics, science,

Russia’s Cities Becoming Less Moscow- and Russia-Centric, New Studies Find

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

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, December 13, 2014) Two studies about how residents of Russia’s cities feel about where they live and identify themselves suggest that the residents of Russian cities away from the core of the country are ever less focused on Moscow as the center of their lives and identify

Russia Beyond the Headlines: Five Russian books for your Christmas gift list

Fyodor Dostoyevskty file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Phoebe Taplin, special to RBTH – December 3, 2014) Book reviews: Great Russian reads sparkling with wit, humor and drama that should be on your Christmas gift list. 1) ‘Crime and Punishment’ Fyodor Dostoevsky Hailed by AN Wilson in The Spectator as a “truly great translation” that captures

Marriage? No thanks, I’m too busy: Why Russians are delaying tying the knot

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Darya Lyubinskaya, special to RBTH – November 25, 2014) Russians are increasingly leaving marriage to a later age in order to focus on their careers and personal interests. While a decade ago 40 percent of weddings were between people under the age of 24, that figure is now

Hermitage’s Head Defends Contemporary Art Show

Hermitage Museum

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Kit Rees – November 21, 2014) He’s the head of one of the seemingly most conservative art institutes – St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum – but Mikhail Piotrovsky has been in the middle of a dispute about contemporary art this year as the museum hosted the 10th biennial Manifesta art festival.

The tricks of the trade: Helping students understand the Russian language

Russian Folk Singers file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Gleb Fedorov, RBTH – November 5, 2014) RBTH has surveyed the best Russian language teachers abroad about how they teach their students the language. They compare nouns to cats, infinitives to flour and even take their students to the bathhouse to drink mead – all in order for

Take a Vacation to Crimea at Embattled Teatr.doc

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – November 6, 2014) To be or not to be, that is the question these days for Teatr.doc. A move by city authorities to oust the famous little theater from its basement in the center of Moscow will probably be successful. The chances are better than good that

Russia Ranked Least Prosperous Country in Europe

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 5, 2014) Russia fell eight places from last year in the 2014 edition of the Legatum Institute Prosperity Index – a yearly rating of countries’ performance across several categories of well-being, including economic indicators such as gross domestic product, but also levels of safety, freedom, health and happiness. This

Moscow Times: Russia Beats U.S. and Japan as Best Place to Live for Expats, Survey Shows

World Map Showing Continents, Greens, Browns, Ice

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 24, 2014) Russia has ranked 17th on HSBC Bank’s annual list of the of the world’s best countries for expats, beating other destinations like Japan, France and the United Kingdom. Expats in 34 countries were asked in the HSBC Expat poll published Wednesday to judge their experiences on living

Honored Burials, Mass Grave for Theater Greats

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – October 13, 2014) Yury Lyubimov once told me about meeting the great director Vsevolod Meyerhold. This happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1987. I paid Lyubimov a visit to talk about his old friend, the playwright Nikolai Erdman, but the conversation, naturally and fortunately, took plenty of detours.

Nazi death squad leader: The musical

Map of Latvia and Environs

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – BALTIC BLOG: Mike Collier in Riga – October 9, 2014) If you are constantly battling to try and disprove Russian claims that your state is essentially neo-Nazi, it doesn’t help if an evening of musical entertainment then pops up giving Nazi death squads the razzle-dazzle of a Broadway musical.

Tolstoy’s Canadian Doukhobors Return to Russia Over 100 Years After Fleeing

Leo Tolstoy file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber – YASNAYA POLYANA, Tula Region – October 3, 2014) When they were in their 50s, Elaine and Alfred Podovinikoff packed up their lives in their native Canada and emigrated to a muddy, provincial Russian settlement with a single paved road and freely roaming chickens. The Podovinikoffs resettled just

RIA Novosti: Bolshoi Kicks Off Opera Season With Reduced Tchaikovsky

Bolshoi Theater file photo

MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti), Nastassia Astrasheuskaya – Less is more was the ruling principle for Bolshoi’s musical director Tugan Sokhiev at the premiere of Piotr Tchaikovsky’s rare opera The Made of Orleans. He chose to have no decorations or exquisite costumes in the concert opera, staged at the theatre for the second time in

Lyubimovka Marks Real Start of Theater Season

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – September 4, 2014) It’s not quite true that the Lyubimovka play festival is the first real event of each theater season in Moscow. This year, for example, some 10 top venues, including the Moscow Art Theater, the Mayakovsky and the Gogol Center, are already up and running.

Moscow Times: Study Finds Russian Women Spend Most Time in Front of Mirror

Two Babushkas file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – September 4, 2014) Russian women place first in the world in terms of how much time they spend in front of a mirror, a study conducted by U.S. company Harris Interactive revealed. Fifty-seven percent of Russian women between the ages of 18 and 49 spend at least 45 minutes getting

Russian Cultural Figures Targeted as New Opposition

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ivan Nechepurenko – September 2, 2014) With Russia’s political opposition either sidelined or splintered over Russian policy in Ukraine, dissenting cultural figures have become the new focus of pro-Kremlin witch hunts, with state media treating them as a political force and accusing them of treachery. The practice has echoes of

When literature came under state control: 80 years since the First Congress of Soviet Writers

File Photo of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – August 27, 2014) When literature came under state control: 80 years since the First Congress of Soviet Writers When the First Congress of Soviet Writers opened on Aug. 17, 1934 in Moscow, it marked a watershed in Soviet literature. The artistic freedom that had characterized the turbulent 1920s was

Ferapontov Monastery

Ferapontov Monastery file photo, adapted from wikimedia commons image at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ferapontov_Monastery_020509.jpg, posted by Enotovidnii

Subject: Ferapontov Monastery Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 From: William Brumfield <william.brumfield@gmail.com> My current article for Russia beyond the Headlines is devoted to the radiant frescoes created at  in 1502 by the artist Dionisy and his two sons. The monastery and its frescoes are on the UNESCO World Heritage list: rbth.com/travel/2014/08/08/ferapontov_monastery_sublime _beauty_in_the_russian_north_38893.html For best results

Moscow Times: Eight Things That Will Make You Jealous of Russians and Their Dachas

Map of Russia

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 9, 2014) [Missing photos here themoscowtimes.com/news/article/8-things-that-will-make-you-jealous-of-russians-and-their-dachas/504792.html] In summer, the dacha becomes the focal point of Russian existence. Children and grandparents live there while school is out, and those who still have to work head out for their own bit of greenery once Friday afternoon rolls around. It doesn’t have

The Winners of the 22nd Moscow Times Theater Awards

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – August 7, 2014) What a year. Drama. Histrionics. Villainy. Hubris. Intrigue. Tragedy. And I haven’t even begun considering the 2013-2014 theater season. You guessed it. It is time for the annual Moscow Times Theater Awards. For the 22nd year running, I take a look back at why

New Era Looms After Golden Age of ‘New Drama’

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – August 1, 2014) It has been an astonishing run. But doesn’t every run come to an end? The number of major playwrights that Russia put up over the last 15 to 18 years may make all other eras in the history of Russian drama pale by comparison.

Making sense of war: The perspective of five great Russian writers

Battle of Stalingrad file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Mikhail Butov, special to RBTH – July 23, 2014) The author is a writer and Russian Booker Prize winner. The current conflict in Ukraine is raising sensitive ethical questions, forcing us to consider the justifications and meaning of using military force, and whether it should be allowed at

The Nightmare of Being a Russian-Language Ukrainian Playwright

Ukraine Map and Flag

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – July 21, 2014) “I don’t know what to do about it, John. It is a nightmare and it is hell. And something in me has been broken irreparably.” Thus responded Maksym Kurochkin, a Ukrainian Russian-language playwright, to my question about what he is experiencing these days. As

Arts world up in arms as Russia bans swearwords in films, books and TV

Movie Theater file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headliines – rbth.ru – Nikolai Litovkin, RBTH – July 2, 2014) A law making it illegal to use swearwords in television, movies, literature, media reporting, concerts, and theatrical productions entered into force on July 1. Violators will face stiff fines. Prominent figures have expressed their dismay over the ban, arguing that it

Few Russian Artists Bother to Fight Creeping Trend of Censorship

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – June 23, 2014) As we approach July 1, the day after which obscenities will officially be banned in Russian art, the Russian creative community is doing what it can to make sense of a concerted push on the part of the government to regulate the arts and

Russians Unfazed by Nudists But Outraged by Transsexuals, Poll Shows

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – June 23, 2014) While a majority of Russians feel a sense of outrage toward transsexuals, most could not care less about nudists, a somewhat questionable poll concludes. The poll, published Monday by independent pollster Levada Center – presumably testing Russians’ attitudes to non-traditional behavior – showed roughly equal numbers of

Happy in Yakutia and Russia

Map of Russia

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – Ben Aris in Moscow – June 23, 2014) Could you be happy living somewhere where temperatures drop below 50 degrees Celsius in the nine-month-long winters? It seems hard to imagine, but the residents of Siberia’s Yakutia in the heart of the Asian part of Russia – the coldest place

The Russian novel returns: Solovki prison, the defense industry, and an agronomist called Gogol

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

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Georgy Manaev, RBTH – June 15, 2014) The shortlist for the ninth annual national literary prize “The Big Book” has been unveiled. This is Russia’s most influential literary award in mainstream prose and – with a prize fund of $174,000 – its most lucrative. The winners will be

Russia Day: The country’s most misunderstood day off

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

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – June 12, 2014 Nikolai Litovkin, RBTH – June 12, 2014) On June 12, Russia celebrates one of its youngest national holidays, Russia Day. Nominally a celebration of Russian statehood, the significance of the day is widely misunderstood, even within the country itself. What is the history of the

Volkostrelov Resurrects Soviet ’60s

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – June 10, 2014) In “1968. Novy Mir” at the Taganka Theater, Dmitry Volkostrelov shrewdly found a way to combine aesthetics, artistic methods and themes that are capable of unifying that distant era with the world we inhabit. Someone may think he did not do much, just put

Happiness is sharing dacha memories

Map of Russia

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Joy Neumeyer, special to RBTH – June 8, 2014) Tomatoes, bikes and boyfriends: Russians and Americans share their dacha memories When Natalia Filonova talks about her dacha, she can’t talk quickly enough. She rattles off the most recent improvements she’s made with breathless pride: 23 new trees, a

Russia’s got talent: The making of the nation’s future musicians and artists

Sheet Music in the Midst of Artist's Outline of Human Head and Brain

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Marina Obrazkova, RBTH – June 1, 2014) There are more than 5,000 music and art schools in modern Russia. Here children can learn to play different instruments and master the basics of painting or sculpture practically free of charge, in addition to their regular education. Teaching staff note

Moscow Places Near Bottom in TripAdvisor Cities Survey

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Breffny Morgan – May 29, 2014) Sanctions may come and go, but bad reviews last a lifetime. TripAdvisor, the second most popular travel website, has recently blasted Russia on several counts of being the world’s worst travel destination in its yearly Cities Survey. This is not an overt move by

‘Donkey Heart’ Shows Soviet Past Behind Family Turmoil

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Elizabeth Kaplunov – May 27, 2014) As the Soviet Union fades from the memories of the youngest generations of Russians, it still underpins the consciousness of their parents. The play “Donkey Heart,” written by Moses Raine and directed by his sister Nina Raine, focuses on the psychological setup of a

‘Culture’ Newspaper Condemns Contemporary Theater Again

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – May 26, 2014) I forced myself to read the entire article. It was not easy to do. But it had to be done. The Culture newspaper, which made headlines in April by attacking 29 contemporary Russian writers and directors as propagators of “sleaze, obscenities and perversion,” is

Bolshoi Theater announces plans for new season ahead of U.S. tour

Bolshoi Theater file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Dmitriy Romendik, RBTH – May 19, 2014) After a series of high-profile scandals at the Bolshoi Theater led to a change in leadership, fans of opera and ballet have been left wondering which direction the theater will now take. The Bolshoi has now announced the details of its

Medinsky the Media Magnet

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – May 19, 2014) Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky received an honorary fellowship on Thursday a few days late and not quite as planned. The institution doing the honors was Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, but a planned ceremony in Italy on May 12 was junked at

Local Promoter Speaks Out Against Boycotts

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Sergey Chernov – May 13, 2014) With a growing number of Western artists boycotting Russia in protest of its annexation of Crimea and destabilization in southeastern Ukraine, a St. Petersburg concert promoter has spoken out against their actions, saying that these musicians are only hurting fans. Ilya Bortnyuk, whose agency

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