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Not again! Sarah Chang runs into more trouble at Moscow airport

They turned her over coming in, now the Russian customs and immigration authorities have given the Korean-American violinist a torrid time getting out. Here are her tweets:

- I am so beyond tired and furious.I just spent 45 min with yet another customs officer,this time trying to get my stuff out of the country.

- He was saying the paperwork filled out by the customs officer when I arrived was fine for my violin,but not complete for my bows!!!

- He was trying to get me to leave my bows in Russia!!! The idiot!!!

- I’m usually not vocal about these things,I’m really not.I’m usually very respectful+polite,but seriously.leave my bows in Russia?ru kidding?

- And it wasn’t that I had filled out the paperwork incorrectly,he was picking on the customs form filled out by a Russian customs officer!!!

- The person who came with me from the orch management to the airport to see that everything was ok really did ething he cld,he was great.

- I had ALL the proper paperwork with me.ownership papers for my violin and my bows,insurance papers,all in my name, etc,etc.

- He obviously didn’t have anything to pick on w my paperwork,so he tried2say the customs officer at arrivals didn’t label the bows completely

- He said the officer labeled the entire name of my violin on the customs forms,but with the bows,he labeled only the family name. Ridiculous.

- I’m going to go to the lounge now and have a drink. And call someone to blow off some steam.

- Instead of a drink,I think I’ll get ice cream to make me feel better! :-) heehee!

Two questions:

1 Where was her agency, IMG Artists? They are meant to have a new office in Russia.

2 Would you, in Sarah’s shoes, go back to play in Russia without a Putin-signed guarantee?

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  1. Well, those things happen to thousands of people every day, and not only in Russia. Not very pleasant indeed (and, I assume, in many cases not necessary), but not very remarkable either. Or should she be treated especially favourable just because she is Sarah Chang?

    • Come on, Simon, where’s your heart? Indeed it’s not extraordinary to be hassled – but both going in AND leaving? And for the Russian official on the way out to say the Russian official on the way in completed paperwork incorrectly? That’s just simply ludicrous, and defies anyone’s patience. Whether she’s Sarah Chang or just plain Simon.

  2. Several years ago I flew into St. Petersburg in advance of a conducting engagement in Pskov. The host orchestra had made arrangements for low-priced but very pleasant pensions in the “big city” as well as a more-or-less acceptable Soviet-style hotel in Pskov. Having obtained the correct visa from the Russian embassy in DC, I literally had no problem getting in or out, even though I had a fair amount of equipment (video et al) as well as some music that I had shipped over in advance. While the facilities in St. Pete were not modern by Western standards, the customs personnel were at least well-mannered. I have to wonder why Ms. Chang had such difficulties.

  3. Video – and audio – gear tends to be less of a problem in my experience (though it can still take quite some time!) since it is more clearly defined with make / model / serial nr., etc..
    When it comes to musical instruments from the 1700′s etc., there’s rather less to clearly identify them, and there is usually a much higher value attached – with consequent Customs attention paid to them in case of illicit imports / exports.
    Russia and Switzerland are two of the most awkward places to get in and out of, in my experience. Neither is overly problematic provided you know the form and allow enough time, but doing it for the first time can be frustrating to say the least.

    Norman – I can’t see why you’d expect someone from IMG to be there if they’ve already organised for someone form the orchestra to help.
    And yes, were I in Sarah’s shoes, I would go back. Indeed, I have been in a similar situation, and I have gone back, in more than one country. These things happen, and the best you can do is learn from the experience and take reams of extra documentation the next time to make sure everyone is satisfied…

  4. Looks to me like the customs officer was trying to get a nice fat bribe.

  5. Malcolm James says:

    Hate to suggest the r-word, but could the fact that she is non-Caucasian have anything to do with it?

  6. So much for visiting Russia.

  7. Michael P. Scott says:

    I’m waiting for the blog she posts after the TSA in this country decides that her bows are sabres, swords, foils, or an épée and that her fiddle’s case is, because they’ve just watched The Untouchables, in fact a case for a Tommy Gun.

  8. I wouldn’t go to Russia even if somebody paid me for it.

  9. Did she, along with her violin and bows, finally get out of Russia?

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