The entire staff of the Moscow Film Museum have collectively resigned from their posts in protest against the institution’s new director, Larisa Solonitsyna, who joined the museum in July this year. In an open letter to Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky that was published on the museum’s official website, the team slam Solonitsyna’s “incompetence, authoritarian style of leadership [and] lack of transparency over decisions”.
Solonitsyna was appointed director of the museum by the Ministry of Culture on 1 July 2014, replacing Naum Kleiman, who had been museum director since 1992.
The letter reads: “The team’s distrust of the new head has grown alongside her increasing incompetency, both at the museum as well as the cinematography aspect of our business. Her authoritarian style of leadership has been completely evident, alongside a lack of transparency over decisions and a stubborn refusal to listen to employees.”
The letter also criticises Solonitsyna for the unfair dismissal of a number of staff members. “Under the pretext of ‘restoring order’, Ms Solonitsyna’s ‘disciplinary’ action began with her firing people without giving them a professional pretext or giving them the option of resigning voluntarily, instead selectively applying punishments with a clear intention to split the team.”
In October this year, the team at the museum expressed their dissatisfaction with Solonitsyna, with 13 members of staff filing a petition for Solonitsyna’s resignation.
Presidential advisor Vladimir Tolstoy has since urged parties to the conflict to understand the situation and prevent the destruction of the Cinema Museum.
The letter is published here, translated into English in full for the first time.
Dear Vladimir Rostislavovich!
It is with reluctance that we inform you that the hopes of the team at the State Central Museum of Cinema for the appointment of our director on 1 July 2014 were not met. Three months later, at our complete openness and willingness to work together, after continuous attempts to introduce a new head to combat the problems of a museum which has existed for a quarter of a century — all the science staff at the Museum of Cinema expressed distrust in Larissa Ottovna Solonitsyna.
This announcement was sent on 14 October 2014 to the director of the Department of Culture at the Russian Ministry of Culture M A Brizgalov, a copy of which was sent on to the Presidential Advisor V I Tolstoy.
The team’s distrust of the new head has grown alongside her increasing incompetency, both at the museum as well as the cinematography aspect of our business. Her authoritarian style of leadership has been completely obvious, alongside a lack of transparency over decisions and a stubborn refusal to listen to employees. Not having any experience in museums and without being acquainted with any part of our foundation, the director has repeatedly expressed offensive, unjustified doubts about the effectiveness of our work.
Under the pretext of "restoring order", Ms Solonitsyna’s "disciplinary" action began with her firing people without giving them a professional pretext or giving them the offer of resigning voluntarily, instead selectively applying punishments with a clear intention to split the team. But especially, Ms Solonitsyna has overwhelmed us with her ethical inconsistency — that, in relation to the collective and to the individual employees, she allows herself to use libel, blackmail, warrantless searches and unfounded accusations. During this time, our belief has been strengthened that all the efforts of the new leadership have been focussed on compromising the former activities of the Museum of Cinema, in order to eventually destroy it.
Founded in 1989, the Museum, which is the only film museum in the country, now has a first-class collection, reflecting Russian film culture throughout the history of its development. Over the past year, the collecting, attribution, description and digitalisation of creative materials (in the electronic catalogue there are now more than 150,000 items) was done by a proactive, hardworking and responsible team of specialists and professionals in the field of practical film studies.
Despite the loss of the museum’s premises in 2005, we all held fast to the directions of the museum. Only last year in 2013 we conducted 469 lectures and sessions in retrospective and thematic cycles. We also had 12 exhibitions, four of which were organised by the Cinema Museum, with no requests for additional funding.
Participants in our programmes have included young filmmakers who have since become the pride of Russian cinema: Andrey Zvyagintsev, Boris Khlebnikov, Alexei Popogrebsky, Andrei Proshin and many others. No one has ever been able to doubt or question how successfully the Cinema Museum’s mission, reflected in its concept and in its charter, has been carried out. For us — the representatives of three generations — this museum is not just a job, it is our lives.
We had hoped to be listened to. But the answer to our letter was tougher disciplinary action and the endless writing of instructions and decrees with an unrealistically short fulfilment time. Moreover, the ministry sent a new director to help the staff attorney with our “punishment”.
As a result of the activities of the new leadership, it not only became impossible to work productively, but it became unbearable to find ourselves in such an atmosphere of hostility, suspicion and contempt towards people. The activities of the museum are almost paralysed, current issues are not being resolved, and permanent partners are refusing further cooperation.
In these circumstances, we affirm the impossibility of working with L O Solonitsyna as director and declare that the entire staff of the Cinema Museum are resigning in full.
Naum Kleiman, president of the Museum of Cinema
Kristina Yuryeva, chief curator of the foundation
Elena Tarsier, senior researcher and curator, manuscript collection
Marina Rychalovskaya, senior researcher, manuscript division
Darya Kruzhkova, senior research assoicate, manuscript division
Svetlana Kim, senior researcher, curator of the Animation Foundation
Georgiy Borodin, stock archivist
Pavel Shvedov, senior researcher, curator of filmstrips
Emma Malaya, curator of the Mmorial Foundation and the Foundation of Photographic Film
Marianna Kushnerova, senior researcher, curator of photographs
Alexei Tremasov, research associate
Anna Bulgakova, researcher, curator of rare books
Yekaterina Maksimova, junior researcher
Anastasia Krylova, archivist for the Posters Foundation
Vera Rumyantseva, senior researcher, curator of the S M Eisenstein Memorial Department
Artem Sopin, researcher, S M Eisenstein Memerial Department
Olga Ulybysheva, head of the film department
Ivan Ulybyshev, assistant at the film library
Alexey Artamonov, PR manager
Maksim Pavlov, former deputy director for scientific and educational work, dismissed "in connection with the optimisation of staffing budget expenditures"
Anna Kukyes, academic secretary, on leave for child care
Michael Zraychenko, archivist of the Video Foundation, on leave
Vladislav Gaysinskiy (freelancer), site administrator