Digest of Russian media
Russian Сrackdown on Music, Theater and Film: Nearly 80 Artists and Bands Blacklisted
February 28, 2024
The Russian news outlet Meduza, citing independent sources, published a list of "banned Russian musicians" received by producers and promoters working in the music industry. Even artists who took part in patriotic events were included.

"Promoters receive calls telling them not to organize events with these artists using state funds or put up outdoor advertising," a Russian promoter anonymously told Meduza journalists.

The list includes such well-known artists as Dima Bilan, who visited the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in January, Ukrainian-born singer Lolita Milyavskaya, who said in 2022 that Ukraine had "betrayed her," and singer Philipp Kirkorov, who is under Ukrainian sanctions.

The blacklist is not new – it was around earlier, but mostly comprised anti-war performers. Now, it includes even those who have not publicly spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine. Currently, it runs to nearly 80 artists and bands.

Many attribute the latest additions to the blacklist who had not previously aligned with the Russian opposition to an "almost naked” party hosted by influencer Nastya Ivleeva in December, with stars of Russian show business in attendance. Internet users, journalists and politicians expressed outrage that celebrities were partying during wartime.

"Now, when our men are dying on the front lines, at this very moment, during this vulgar event, someone is charging a tank — it's simply a demonstration that the party attendees do not live with this country and these people," wrote publicist Marina Akhmedova on her Telegram channel.

Blacklisted artists can no longer perform in Russia, so many of them are trying to improve their situation by showcasing their patriotism. For instance, singer Kirkorov, who also attended the “almost naked” party, visited occupied Ukrainian territory in February. According to a source from the Russian news agency TASS, he went there on a humanitarian mission and met with wounded soldiers. He also stated that he had no intention of leaving Russia.

“I'm not planning to go anywhere, I live here. I lived and will live [here]. I have a home here, I have children here, I have Bedros — my father [in Russia]," said Kirkorov during a performance for patients and staff at a hospital in the city of Horlivka, Donetsk Region.

Less than a month before his trip to Horlivka, Kirkorov was spotted at a Madonna concert in the US.

Not only blacklisted artists face concert cancellations. In several cities across Russia, concerts by singer Kristina Orbakaite, whose name is not on the blacklist, have been called off. A planned performance in Irkutsk was canceled following anonymous comments on the Telegram channel of Irkutsk Region Governor Ivan Kobzev that the singer is the "daughter of a foreign agent."

“Igor Ivanovich [Kobzev], can you tell us why the concert of the daughter of a foreign agent in the Russian Federation, Kristina Orbakaite, has not yet been canceled in our region? She has been canceled across Russia, including in Ulan-Ude, and what are we doing – supporting her?" a Telegram user asked in the comments.

"Hello! The concert of Kristina Orbakaite will be canceled," replied Kobzev to the comment.

Orbakaite's mother, celebrity singer Alla Pugacheva, is not a “foreign agent.” Pugacheva’s husband Maxim Galkin, himself a popstar, standup comedian and TV presenter, has been labeled a “foreign agent,” but he is not Orbakaite's father, and is even younger than she is. Both Pugacheva and Galkin left Russia after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

In February, a concert by singer Diana Arbenina in Russia’s Far East was canceled at the Request of Sakhalin Regional Duma Deputy Alexander Sharifulin. He wrote on his Telegram channel that Arbenina’s concerts are “harmful” and “inappropriate,” recalling that in 2014 Arbenina had not supported the annexation of Crimea and performed in Kyiv, where she “apologized for her Russian colleagues.”

“In 2018, Arbenina emphasized that she would never go to the Donbass. There were also ambiguous comments about the special military operation. And other statements that don’t do her credit. And we on Sakhalin and the Kuril islands support the decision of our president and the fighters who give their lives to defend the country and its people, “ wrote Sharifulin

Actors and directors also face bans on their work. For example, the play "Einstein and Margarita" was canceled in Yaroslavl. Local residents wrote letters to the regional authorities, objecting to the involvement of actors Ksenia Rappoport and Alexey Serebryakov, who have spoken out against the war in Ukraine.

"These artists live abroad, speak out against the conduct of a special military operation, but earn money in Russia. In 2023, this scandalous play [“Einstein and Margarita”] was canceled in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg. And in the Yaroslavl region, the Ministry of Culture provides them with a state concert venue," quotes the publication 76.ru the appeal of Yaroslavl activist Sergey Kazansky.

The Ministry of Culture of the Yaroslavl region explained the play’s cancellation to 76.ru journalists, by the need "to take public opinion into account".

Another similar case happened in the city of Perm. The local Youth Theater canceled the show of "Jewish Happiness," a play by writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, who also opposes the invasion of Ukraine. The theater director stated that the play's fate depends on the investigation into the writer's statements.

"Will we continue to stage the play? For now, we will wait for the assessment of Ulitskaya's statements by competent authorities. All we can do is wait. In this regard, we're captives of the situation," said the Perm Youth Theater director Artem Ageyev.

There’s also a list of over 250 books banned from sale because of “LGBT propaganda.” It Includes works by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Stephen King, Oscar Wilde, Chuck Palanchuk, Haruki Murakami and Paulo Coelho, among others. They disappeared from the shelves of some major bookstores.

Nizhny Novgorod Region Governor Gleb Nikitin criticized the ban, stating that it was created to “harm our country and undermine the authority of its institutions.”

“It’s clear that this list was compiled in an unclear manner, distributed under unknown
pretenses, and the intentions of its creator are unknown. But personally I believe that they wanted to harm our country and undermine the authority of its institutions,” wrote Nikitin on his Telegram channel.

State Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein explained on his Telegram channel that literary classics are not threatened in any way by the list, which was compiled even before the adoption of the LGBT propaganda law “when the industry did not understand how they would comply and were preparing for the worst.”
  • Sofia Sorochinskaia

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