A new Show Trial is coming up

August 26, 2017

In The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov referred more than once to the Show Trials organised by Joseph Stalin to eliminate his opponents from the political, military, scientific and cultural scene. Those trials were staged in the years 1936-1938, when the novel got its final form.

Since 2000, when Vladimir Putin (°1952) became president of the Russian Federation for the first time, the tradition of Show Trials was re-established. First, processes with dubious evidences and testimonies were set up against political and economic opponents such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Aleksey Navalny and Sergey Magnitsky, but now the focus shifted on the cultural sector with the arrest of theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov on August 22, 2017.

With the indictment against Serebrennikov, a new peak at the level of ​​absurdity has been reached. Indeed, he would have misappropriated, among others, the 2,3 million rubles (32.999 euros or 39.359 dollar) of subsidies he received from 2011 to 2014 for the production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream by his company Studio Seven. The Public Attorney said the piece has even never been staged. In reality, the play has been represented quite a few times, not only in Russia, but also in theatres abroad, among which the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris and the Théâtre des Martyrs in Brussels. It got considerable attention in the press - both pro and contra -, and has even been nominated for theater prizes. When confronted with this finding, judge Tatyana Vasyuchenko of the Presnensky Court of Moscow replied laconically: «The publication of an article does not prove that the event really has taken place».

If it comes to a trial, Serebrennikov is risking a sentence of ten years in jail.

As an aside: on the day Serebrennikov was arrested, singer Alexander Semyonov (°1956) of the satirical rock group Rabfak was found dead in a rental apartmentin Moscow. He might have died three days before, but according to copywriter Alexander Yelin, the police refused to open the door because «no smell of death was observed». Rabfak broke through on the eve of the presidential elections in 2011 with the song Наш дурдом голосует за Путина [Nash durdom golosuyet za Putina] or Our madhouse voted for Putin, with which the group also wanted to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012. Rabfak was - needless to say - not allowed to sing at the national finale, which was won by Buranovsky Babushky, the singing grandmothers.

In the Context section of this website you can read more about the political trials in Russia, both in the period of Stalin and today.

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Kirill Serebrennikov

Kirill Serebrennikov

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