Friday, October 31, 2014


Russia

Russian Immigration Officials, Cossacks Interrupt Pussy Riot Play

A performance based on the Pussy Riot trial is staged at Moscow’s Sakharov Center on March 3.
A performance based on the Pussy Riot trial is staged at Moscow’s Sakharov Center on March 3.
By RFE/RL
It was a performance about the intermingling of art and life. So it was fitting that life interfered with the show.

Immigration officers accompanied by a group of colorfully garbed Cossacks stopped a performance dramatizing last year's trial of three members of the punk rock collective Pussy Riot at Moscow’s Sakharov Center on March 3. Their stated reason was to examine the papers of the show’s Swiss director, Milo Rau.

Rau told Reuters that other motives were clearly behind the raid by Russia's Federal Migration Service (FMS).

"This morning during the [performance about the] Pussy Riot case, it was interrupted by the [Russian] immigration services. They checked my papers. They wanted to see if I have a visa. And I had one," Rau said. "They took a bit more time to check the contracts and all. So I think it was just an alibi to interrupt. But they found nothing. And I had very good lawyers, because all my participants are lawyers."

FMS spokesman Sergei Kalyuzhny told Interfax, rather ironically, that Rau entered Russia on a business visa, "which does not allow any working activity." However, no charges were filed after Rau’s documents were inspected.

'Real Arguments, Real Experts'

The Sakharov Center show was a three-day marathon from March 1-3 titled "Moscow Trials," a name deliberately chosen to evoke the ghosts of Josef Stalin’s show trials.

Swiss director Milo Rau stands outside the Sakharov Center.
Swiss director Milo Rau stands outside the Sakharov Center.
Based on improvisational interaction between the audience and "performers," who in many cases were participants in the actual events being depicted, the show spotlighted three recent high-profile cases that pitted avant-garde artists against the conservative Russian Orthodox Church.

Rau described his vision, noting that the show, which was staged with neither a script nor rehearsals, was all improvised, together with the audience.

"This is a kind of mock trial but with the real form of a trial, with real arguments, with real defense, with real lawyers, with real experts. We have artists involved, but we have no actors," Rau said. "So [everything] that is [being] said is real. And everybody [expresses] the real opinion of the people that [have] said it. So, like in a real trial, everybody has to [tell] the truth."

'Enemies Of Russia'

The first two days focused on trials spawned by art exhibitions at the Sakharov Center in 2003 and 2007 that presented works deemed offensive by the church and many Orthodox believers. In both of those cases exhibition organizers were fined for "anti-Christian provocations," rulings that were seen as assaults on freedom of expression in Russia.

A police officer walks past the Sakharov Center in Moscow.A police officer walks past the Sakharov Center in Moscow.
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A police officer walks past the Sakharov Center in Moscow.
A police officer walks past the Sakharov Center in Moscow.
The third day of this weekend’s performance focused on the trial of the Pussy Riot performance-art collective, three members of which were convicted in 2012 of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for performing part of an anti-Putin punk song in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

One of them, Yekaterina Samutsevich, who was given a suspended two-year sentence following an appeal, appeared in the Sakharov Center show.

"In principle, the idea is interesting -- the idea, in principle, to re-create the conversation, the discourse around the disputed judicial process, seeing it all over again, how it could have been, if the judicial process had been more fair," she said.

Pro-Kremlin journalist Maksim Shevchenko told Interfax that he believes the raid by the FMS officers was arranged by the Sakharov Center as a way of attracting attention to the show.

"Maybe they are enemies of Russia. You should talk to them. Maybe they are interested in liberal expansion," he said. "That's my opinion, the opinion of Maksim Shevchenko on the West. Maybe they are promoters of Pussy Riot and everything connected with them. Maybe Lady Gaga paid them, or Yoko Ono, or someone else. I don't know. Now I have serious questions."

Written in Prague by RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Reuters, and other media
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mamuka
March 04, 2013 17:27
> Rau entered Russia on a business visa, "which does not allow any working activity."

Klassno. Really, one can not invent this kind of absurdity, except maybe Kafka.
In Response

by: Milovan Rafailovic from: Lake Placid, FL.
March 10, 2013 14:59
When I lived in then West Germany, I had to have work permit specifying the type of work. What is absurd about the Russians demanding the same in the case of foreign nationals?

by: Jorjo from: Florida
March 04, 2013 18:57
The officials were doing their job even if it was politically motivated. Try to work on a 'business' visa in the U.S. and see what happens if you are inspected. True, the chances for inspection are rather slim but business visa does not allow for work - in Russia or in the U.S.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
March 05, 2013 22:15
there are millions of illegal Swiss migrants in Russia working unlawfully on business visas, taking jobs from Ukrainians, Tajiks, and Uzbeks. Someone has to stop it

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