Cutting works by Russian artists is ‘stupid’, says Pussy Riot member | Pussy Riot


Decisions by cultural institutions to cut works by Russian artists and writers are “just stupid”, a member of the Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot has said, as she called for the artistic community to unite against the invasion of Ukraine amid repression of activists in Russia “now at a level none of us have seen before”.

Maria “Masha” Alyokhina, one of Pussy Riot’s founding members, was responding to a string of decisions by cultural and intellectual institutions to cut Russian works, including the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra removing pieces by the composer Tchaikovsky from its programme, the Royal Opera House eliminating the Bolshoi ballet from its summer season, an Italian university cancelling lectures on Dostoevsky, and Netflix paused an adaptation of Anna Karenina.

“I think it’s just stupid,” Alyokhina said. “It’s not Tchaikovsky who invaded Ukraine. There’s no sense banning Tchaikovsky, but there will be sense in banning all Russian oil and gas.”

She added that as a Russian artist performing in Europe she hadn’t experienced any Russophobia since the start of the war. “It’s just irrelevant – we should be united as an artistic community to build the anti-war movement.”

Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarussian Nobel prize winner who writes in Russian, recently told the Hay festival that a major Hollywood film studio had cancelled an adaptation of her book the Unwomanly Face of War on grounds that images of Russian women in military uniforms “wouldn’t be accepted by audiences in the west”, although she argued that the book is about the universal human experience of war.

Alyokhina was speaking to coincide with the inclusion of her group’s Riot Days show in the Gulbenkian Arts Centre at the University of Kent in autumn. She said the show, in which she performs with fellow members Olga Borisova and Diana Burkot, was a “statement of solidarity with Ukraine” that shows “Putin’s regime from the inside”.

“For 10 years we told the west how dangerous it is to have a dictatorship in the biggest country, which has nuclear weapons and an army and empire ambitions, but business interests were more important,” she said, adding that she thought if sanctions had been imposed after the invasion of the Crimea in 2014, “there
would be no war”.

She said that it was a “dark time” for artists and activists in Russia, with repression “now at a level none of us have seen before” and prosecutions happening daily for crimes such as calling the invasion of Ukraine a war rather than a “special military operation”, protesting against it or sharing reports from western media.

As a result, she said many artists, intellectuals and journalists have fled the country to continue their work abroad, including bandmate Borisova, who is based in Georgia, alongside many other Russians unhappy with Putin’s regime.

The band are campaigning to see Putin tried for war crimes in a tribunal in The Hague, which Borisova said would “set a perfect example for the future that all dictators will see there is responsibility for their actions”.

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Borisova added that western countries can still do more to supply Ukraine with weapons, humanitarian aid and support for refugees, rather than just “pictures of Boris Johnson hugging Zelenskiy”, which she said made her think: “What are you doing except PR?”

EU membership would be “the least the European Union can do” for Ukraine, she said. “Ukraine is Europe, it’s a European society, they’re really fighting to become a part of it, and they deserve it, they’ve fought for it for 10 years already.”

But she has been heartened to “stand on stage and feel the solidarity” with European audiences on her tour so far, who she said for the first time “understand what we’re talking about”. “That’s great, I really want us to be all together against Putin,” she said.



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