Museum of Cinema staff to return to work in surprising resignation U-turn

Museum of Cinema staff to return to work in surprising resignation U-turn

7 November 2014

The staff at the Museum of Cinema who collectively resigned from their posts last week will return to work in a surprising u-turn. All those who resigned last week, excluding former museum director and eminent film critic Naum Kleiman, have rescinded their resignations.

“All the staff at the museum, as well as most of the researchers, have returned to the museum after my urgent pleas. Everyone has returned there but me,” Kleiman told Interfax.

The team of 23 staff members signed an open letter last week slamming the leadership of Larisa Solonitsyna, who was appointed museum director in July this year by the Ministry of Culture. Citing her “incompetence, authoritarian style of leadership [and] lack of transparency over decisions”, the museum’s employees refused to continue working “in an atmosphere of hostility, suspicion and contempt towards people”.

“I’ve been trying to persuade them to return to work, because now we need more courage to stay than to leave,” Kleiman said. “I don’t want to have destroyed everything that we worked so hard to create. Though, I have a little bit of hope that the staff will be able to prevent the new director from destroying everything that was built by us.”

The museum staff expressed their dissatisfaction with the museum’s new leadership in October this year, filing a petition calling for Solonitsyna’s resignation.

The resignation of the museum’s staff sparked international outrage, with high profile actors, directors, film critics and academics signing open letters and petitions for the Russian government to review Solonitsyna’s position and allow the team to return to work.

“We rely on the great Russian film historians to be keepers of the flame of these films, to help us understand why they’re priceless,” reads an open letter addressed to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev written by actress Tilda Swinton, Mark Cousins and Thierry Fremaux. “Those of us who have met Naum Kleiman know that he is the first amongst these scholars. We are, therefore, deeply concerned to hear that Kleiman and his staff have been dismissed from the role of keepers of the flame.”

The open letter of resignation from the employees of the Museum of Cinema published last week is translated into English in full below:

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