Russian Culture After the USSR

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IS RUSSIA DONE? "Internal contradictions in Russia's thousand-year history have destined it to shrink demographically, weaken economically, and, possibly, disintegrate territorially. The drama is coming to a close, and within a few decades Russia will concern the rest of the world no more than any Third World country with abundant resources, an impoverished people, and a corrupt government. In short, as a Great Power, Russia is finished." The Atlantic 05/01

THE NEW CAPITALISM: "With Russia’s government strapped for cash, the country’s sprawling network of great arts institutions is being forced into the unfamiliar world of commerce. The Russia Museum is one of the winners, organising an ever-expanding network of souvenir shops, a web site, and this year a record 15 foreign exhibitions. None of this has come easy to Russia’s museums and theatres. For 70 years the former Communist regime paid their entire budget, and also taught that private enterprise was a sin." The Scotsman 11/27/00

GETTING PERMISSION: A new Russian initiative aims to educate Russian artists about intellectual property and copyright. "Even though Russia signed up to the international Bern Convention on copyright in 1994, it is taking time for the copyright mentality to take root. This has led to confusing and often farcical situations, such as Russian theater companies being forced to cancel tours abroad because they never bothered to get permission to stage the foreign play they intended to bring." St. Petersburg Times (Russia) 11/28/00

BETTER THAN THE BOLSHOI? Amid the turmoil of Russia re-inventing itself, and the bitter cold of St. Petersburg, ballet is thriving. "The Kirov (known in Russia now as the Mariinsky) is now widely recognized as Russia's best ballet company, surpassing the more famous Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow. Its foreign tours have been commercial and critical triumphs. Its performances have dazzled the demanding audiences of London and New York." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 02/21/01

SO WHAT'S IN A NAME? The famed Imperial Ballet ofRussia finally made its North American debut this week in Toronto. Or did it? Well, something called the Imperial ballet showed up, but in name only. Like many Russian performing arts companies these days, the Imperial is little more than one of those Russian pick-up troupes of freelance dancers that spends most of its time touring the world and trading off the dwindling mystique of an appropriated name. National Post 03/10/00

SAVING CLASSICAL BALLET: A fan, dismayed by the ballet he was seeing in Russia, decided to start his own company in 1994. This week the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre comes to America. Washington Post 10/20/99

WILL PLAY FOR FOOD: The National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia's tour of the UK wasn't going well and the budget was busted. Musicians quarreled with the conductor, then took matters into their own hands - they hit the street to play for money. Compassionate Swansea shoppers helped save them. BBC 11/28/99

POST-SOVIET CULTURE: As the Soviet Union's much-vaunted culture machine began to break down after the country's breakup, many Soviet artists fled to the West. Vladimir Spivakov, one of Russia's top violinists and conductors and founder of the Moscow Virtuosi, chose to continue working in his homeland. Now he may take on the ambitious new Moscow Cultural Center. London Telegraph 02/09/00

THE BOLSHOI'S HARD TIMES: Its theatre is crumbling, its artistic reputation has been battered, and its subsidies from the Russian government have fallen off. It's probably not much of a surprise that the Bolshoi's regime was sacked this week. The Times (London) 09/01/00

THE BOLSHOI BALLET IS BACK in New York after a 10-year absence. “By any cultural standard the return is a major event. The engagement is sold out: the company's mystique remains intact. It is no secret, however, that the Bolshoi has had its ups and downs. Not only do aesthetics change, but reality intrudes as well. More than 20 years of turmoil within the company, a turnover in directors and an adjustment to a society itself in turmoil will take its toll. New York Times 07/20/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

THE STATE OF A LEGEND: The Bolshoi Ballet has been selling out and winning raves on its current tour, reinforcing its stories place in the ballet world. "Every large performing arts center in the nation will no doubt shortly be calling Moscow to ask about 2002, and there's plenty of new repertory to choose from. However, the six Pavilion performances raised major questions about the current artistic level of the Bolshoi and, in particular, the quality of its coaching." Los Angeles Times 06/27/00

NOTHING A SOLD-OUT TOUR WON'T HELP: The Bolshoi Ballet started their first U.S. tour since the collapse of the Soviet Union with a three-hour “Romeo and Juliet” at Washington’s Kennedy Center. The 224-year-old Bolshoi has recently been recovering from an ousted artistic director and serious financial woes - that a sell-out U.S. tour should help ease. CNN 05/31/00

  • FIRST NIGHT: Lavish sets and costumes are a hallmark of the historic Moscow-based company; more surprising was the clean luster of the dancing. Leading a thoroughly excellent cast, the Bolshoi's prima ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili, used her dagger-sharp technique to emphasize the headlong passions that drive this story of unstoppable love. Washington Post 06/01/00

BALLET THAT'S BIG: The Bolshoi takes America by storm. But this is a different Bolshoi than the one we've seen before. "It is a different company now. Each time chooses its own dancers." New York Times 07/16/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

DANCING ON EMPTY: The Bolshoi Ballet is in London and the news isn't good. People are staying away in droves - only 30 percent of the house has been full. This despite popular classic pieces on the program. What gives? The Telegraph (UK) 05/15/01

WHY BOLSHOI LEADER HAD TO GO: While some were surprised by Russian president Vladimir Putin's dismissal of Bolshoi director Vladimir Vasilyev this week, others were not. "While critics could forgive Mr. Vasilyev his shortcomings as an administrator, they were angry about his failure to revive the Bolshoi artistically. His staging of 'Swan Lake' was deemed a flop, but what critics found even more dismaying was his inability to introduce the new ideas he had promised when appointed." New York Times 08/31/00

Bolshoi SHAKEUP: Fed up with perceived mismanagement and stalled rebuilding plans for the critically dilapidated theater, Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday summarily fired the Bolshoi Ballet’s top management staff, including its controversial general director Vladimir Vasilyev. The Guardian (London) 08/29/00

UNESCO TO THE RESCUE: UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational agency, is coordinating a $250 million international effort to rebuild Moscow’s 19th-centuryBolshoi Theatre, which is crumbling and close to collapse due to years of neglect. Theatres from around the world have already rallied around the cause by sending in contributions equal to one night’s earnings. NPR 07/31/00 [Real Audio file]

BETTER THAN THE BOLSHOI? Amid the turmoil of Russia re-inventing itself, and the bitter cold of St. Petersburg, ballet is thriving. "The Kirov (known in Russia now as the Mariinsky) is now widely recognized as Russia's best ballet company, surpassing the more famous Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow. Its foreign tours have been commercial and critical triumphs. Its performances have dazzled the demanding audiences of London and New York." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 02/21/01

THE BOLSHOI BRAND: The Bolshoi is no longer such a revered name. But a girl's gotta eat - so the company is franchising out its school, opening a branch of its school in Australia (even though the announcement seems to have surprised the school's Australian hosts). The Age (Melbourne) 02/22/01

BRANCH OFFICE: The legendary Bolshoi Ballet has opened its first school outside Russia - in Brazil. "The mayor's office paid for the ballet to set up the school and also funds scholarships given to a majority of the school's 165 or so students, who range in age from 7 to 14. Most of the students' families cannot afford the equivalent of $170 in monthly fees. But five days a week, three hours a day, they glide and stretch and twirl in the sun-swept practice rooms, take assiduous notes on the history of ballet and learn about the 233-year-old Bolshoi's legendary dancers, many of whose pictures decorate the school's gleaming walls." Newsweek 04/24/00

TWICE DISPOSSESSED: A wave of talented Russian composers fled the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s for new lives in Britain and throughout Europe. But the thriving composing community they envisioned hasn’t reestablished itself, and for the most part their work - some of it very good - goes unplayed and thus unknown. "Shunned by compatriot conductors, undiscovered by westerners, Russia's emigré composers are the unheard ghosts at Europe's over-subsidised feast." The Telegraph (London) 3/14/01

RUSSIAN BUILDINGS IN DANGER: "Russia boasts a staggering 90,000 official architectural landmarks, including churches and palaces from every era in its history, according to the Culture Ministry - and many are in danger of extinction. New-York based World Monuments Watch named seven Russian sites in this year's list of the world's 100 most endangered landmarks - more than any other country." (AP) 10/12/00

THE HOUSTON-MOSCOW CONNECTION: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow announce a long-term alliance to share and exchange artwork. "The first exchange will send 200 objects from the MFA's Glassell Collection of African Gold to the Russian museum in 2001, the first time in its 100-year history that it will exhibit African art. In December 2002, a trove of French paintings by such masters as Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso will travel to Houston." Houston Chronicle 10/26/00

VIVA LAS VEGAS: The Guggenheim and the Hermitage Museums are coming to Las Vegas. What will their new buildings look like? "Whether or not they succeed as architecture will go a long way in answering a question that has secretly terrified the profession for more than a decade: How does architecture assert its value in a world saturated by manipulative advertising and mass-market entertainment?" Los Angeles Times 10/25/00

CASUALTIES OF WAR: The art of Chechnya is being destroyed in that republic's struggle with Russia. “Many of the republic’s archeological and architectural sites are being destroyed since they are located at the centre of hostilities. War is war, and art and archeology are caught in the crossfire.” The Art Newspaper 06/19/00

CUSTOMS AGENTS WHO AREN'T ART EXPERTS: The export of art - any art - out of St. Petersburg, Russia has stopped because customs officials at the airport there say the value of artwork leaving is too difficult to determine and therefore too tough to figure the taxes owed. St. Petersburg Times (Russia) 07/18/00

RUSSIA'S FINEST: "The atmosphere has been electrifying" throughout the Kirov Ballet's recent five-week run at Covent Garden. "Three times in the 20th century the Russians have come to teach us a lesson in the lively arts. What has sustained them through the century is a peculiar blend of collective outlook and blind conviction." The Telegraph (London) 07/12/00

THE QUESTIONABLE TOURIST BALLETS: St. Petersburg is the home of great ballet, home of famed Russian dance companies. "Unfortunately, virtually every package tour of St. Petersburg feels the cultural necessity of including a ballet performance in its offering - rather as Paris tours once felt equally compelled to provide the Folies Bergere, or Le Moulin Rouge and Pigalle. But the tourists' ballets, as I recently discovered to my cost, are occasionally questionable. New York Post 07/12/00

Can't make it to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage? IBM has spent two years and $2 million putting the museum online in high resolution. Now you can see 3000 of the museum's artworks with just a few clicks. Hartford Courant 9/28/99

HERMITAGE MUSEUM announces plans to open a branch in London. Here's how the collaboration happened. 
London Telegraph 11/1/99

ART PACT: The Guggenheim Foundation and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum have inked a deal to share their collections, collaborate on exhibitions, and help each other develop a worldwide network of museums. New York Times 06/20/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

CHARGES OF MISMANAGEMENT of theHermitage Museum  come into play in Russian election. The Art Newspaper 03/17/00






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