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Detained former Gogol Centre director warns of irreversible ‘oprichina-like cannibalism’

Detained former Gogol Centre director warns of irreversible ‘oprichina-like cannibalism’

31 August 2017

Detained former Gogol Centre director Alexei Malobrodsky has alluded to the threat of an irreversible “all-encompassing oprichnina-like cannibalism” in Russia, in a letter to Moscow-based American journalist John Freedman.

Malobrodsky was arrested on 19 June over the alleged theft of state funds and has since been sitting in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention facility awaiting trial. In a letter to Freedman and his wife the actress Oksana Mysina, the former director urged the theatre world to engage in a process of “uncompromising resistance” against state authorities, in what is widely regarded as a politically motivated crackdown against the arts.

In a letter partially published by Nastoyashee Vremya (Current Time) and translated into English by Freedman on his Facebook page, Malobrodksy writes: “In the more than 2 months of my odyssey I have felt directly the full extent of the system’s villainy and perfidy. I have come to realize that not only my personal situation is on the line, that if we don’t create a precedent of uncompromising resistance, a precedent of victory, then all-encompassing ‘oprichnina-like’ cannibalism may never be turned back.”

“In this regard the support of ‘the international theatre community’ is especially important. It must not be just a figure of speech, but a real process existing in extended time. Because the band of investigators will draw out time, inventing more and more new nonsense, if only to force public attention to weaken,” he added.

The investigation into the Gogol Centre, which saw its current director and outspoken Kremlin critic Kirill Serebrennikov detained last week and placed under house arrest, has triggered global outrage within the arts world with many leading figureheads publicly decrying the investigation’s political motivations and calling for the charges to be dropped. American actress Cate Blanchett and Russian actress Liya Akhedzhakova have both expressed support for Serebrennikov, while renowned journalist Vladimir Posner signed a petition in early August calling for Malobrodsky to be released.

In response to the theatre world’s accusations of politically motivated state intervention, Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson to President Vladimir Putin, has maintained that there is no political background to the case against the Gogol Centre, and that whilst the court is yet to rule against Serebrennikov, “no one can call anyone guilty”.