Russian cultural boycott grows as Ukraine crisis deepens

Russian cultural boycott grows as Ukraine crisis deepens
Actors of the Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania performing Anna Yablonskaya's play Pagans

18 March 2014
Text Nadia Beard

A growing number of European artists are cancelling performances in Russia in response to the country’s aggression towards Ukraine, including its impending annexation of Crimea. Among those pulling out is the award-winning Polish playwright Krystian Lupa and Latvian actress Guna Zarina, who was due to star in a performance of Medea at Moscow’s Gogol Centre this month. In a statement on the Gogol Centre’s website, Zarina said: “I, Guna Zarina, protest against the entry of Russian troops in the territory of Ukraine and the interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country!”

The Czech film festival Flahertiana and Canada’s Cinematheque Ontario have also announced their decision to withdraw from Artdokfest, Russia’s documentary film festival, later this year. Likewise, the Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania has pulled out of the annual Meetings theatre festival in St Petersburg. The theatre company decided to boycott Meetings after the festival’s director, Sergei Shub, signed an open letter in support of the Russian government’s policy in Ukraine.

In an open letter to Shub, the Lithuanian theatre company noted the importance of the cultural exchange fostered by the festival but added: “Unfortunately your act, respected Sergei, has nullified all our efforts and aspirations of cultural exchange. You have left us no choice, and we cannot be held accountable for our decision to pull out, because it was you who signed the statement of political bias, not us. Now it is for you to answer for this, and it will remain a stain on your conscience.”

Their voices join a chorus of dissent over recent weeks by artistic and cultural figures who have denounced Russia’s military presence in Ukraine. This weekend, art collective Chto Delat announced it would be withdrawing from Manifesta 10, a roving European biennial of contemporary art.