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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Lifting The Curtain: Bolshoi Ballet Admits Pro-Putin Censorship

Censoring art because of creators' political views is nothing new in Russia — but it's rarely acknowledged. Now, the director of the Bolshoi ballet is saying the quiet part aloud.

image of a ballet performance

A production of War and Peace at the Bolshoi Theatre


MOSCOW — Vladimir Urin, the General Director of Russia's iconic Bolshoi Theater, has admitted to censoring the theater’s repertoire for political reasons.

In a rare revelation, Urin disclosed that creators of performances who publicly criticized the invasion of Ukraine had their names removed from the Bolshoi Theater's promotional materials. The admission marks a significant departure from the usual practice of Russian theaters, where such censorship is typically concealed.

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In an interview with the Russian state-published newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, Urin stated, "When certain creators of performances spoke unequivocally against the special military operation, their names were omitted from the posters."

He further revealed that the Bolshoi Theater faced heightened scrutiny and occasional cancellations of performances in response to public outrage, including a surge in critical letters and statements. The expiration of licenses for certain productions was also cited as a reason for cancellations following the onset of the conflict.

Urin also acknowledged that Western theater stars have become increasingly hesitant to collaborate with the Bolshoi Theater. “Before the socio-political situation changed, we were used to the fact that almost half the world came to the Bolshoi Theater,” he said. “We had many guest soloists and important joint productions, which is largely the essence of musical art. But today, there are only isolated cases when our Western colleagues agree to work with the theater," he said. And even those few ask “not to make their names public until the very last moment,” Urin added.

image of Bolshoi Theatre General Director Vladimir Urin at the Bolshoi Theatre

In a file photo, Vladimir Urin speaks at the Bolshoi Theatre

Sergei Karpukhin/TASS/ZUMA

A history of censorship

The Bolshoi Theater's move towards censorship became apparent in the spring of 2022 when the name of Kirill Serebrennikov, an outspoken critic of the war in Ukraine, disappeared from promotional posters. Productions directed by Serebrennikov, such as the ballet "Nureyev" and the opera "Don Pasquale," were subsequently cancelled.

The theater later reinstated the ballet "A Hero of Our Time," without Serebrennikov's name, but it was eventually removed from the repertoire in March 2023, with no explanation.

Cultural figures who have abandoned the country should be removed from cultural institutions.

This practice of censoring anti-war creators is not unique to the Bolshoi Theater, as other Russian theaters have also removed the names of opposition artists from their promotional materials. But prior to Urin's statement, theater administrations had refrained from openly attributing such actions to the creators' political opinions.

In Oct. 2022, a representative from the Ministry of Culture said that it made sense for cultural figures who had "abandoned the country in this difficult time" to be removed from cultural institutions and their promotional materials.

Urin concluded the interview by urging theater staff to continue their work with integrity, emphasizing the importance of remaining "decent people" amid evolving circumstances.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Finally Time For Negotiations? Russia And Ukraine Have The Exact Same Answer

The war in Ukraine appears to have reached a stalemate, with neither side able to make significant progress on the battlefield. A number of Western experts and politicians are now pushing for negotiations. But the irreconcilable positions of both the Russian and Ukrainian sides make such negotiations tricky, if not impossible.

photo of : Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, presents a battle flag to a soldier as he kisses it

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky presents a battle flag to a soldier at the Kyiv Fortress, October 1, 2023.

Ukraine Presidency/Ukrainian Pre/Planet Pix via ZUMA
Yuri Fedorov


The Russian-Ukrainian war appears to have reached a strategic impasse — a veritable stalemate. Neither side is in a position at this point to achieve a fundamental change on the ground in their favor. Inevitably, this has triggered no shortage of analysts and politicians saying it's time for negotiations.

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These conversations especially intensified after the results of the summer-autumn counteroffensive were analyzed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valerii Zaluzhny, with not very optimistic details.

Though there are advances of the Ukrainian army, it is mostly “stuck in minefields under attacks from Russian artillery and drones,” and there is a increasing prospect of trench warfare that “could drag on for years and exhaust the Ukrainian state.”

Zaluzhny concluded: “Russia should not be underestimated. It suffered heavy losses and used up a lot of ammunition, but it will have an advantage in weapons, equipment, missiles and ammunition for a long time," he said. "Our NATO partners are also dramatically increasing their production capacity, but this requires at least a year, and in some cases, such as aircraft and control systems, two years.”

For the Ukrainian army to truly succeed, it needs air superiority, highly effective electronic and counter-battery warfare, new technologies for mining and crossing minefields, and the ability to mobilize and train more reserves.

China and most countries of the so-called global South have expressed their support for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Meanwhile in the West, certain influential voices are pushing for negotiations, guided by a purely pragmatic principle that if military victory is impossible, it is necessary to move on to diplomacy.

The position of the allies is crucial: Ukraine’s ability to fight a long war of attrition and eventually change the situation at the front in its favor depends on the military, economic and political support of the West. And this support, at least on the scale necessary for victory, is not guaranteed.

Still, the question of negotiations is no less complicated, as the positions of Russia and Ukraine today are so irreconcilable that it is difficult to imagine productive negotiations.

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