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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yes, Culture Is Reviving

I recently came out of the Izvestia building and was asked "Do you have an extra ticket? " I have not heard that question in quite a while. It used to be quite common to hear these words in the old days, in the so-called period of stagnation. We are talking about theater tickets, of course.


In the Communist days the theater was something more than just a form of art. It was an arena where the battle for freedom was fought, where we struggled for the right to remain human beings under a totalitarian regime.


Theaters in those years were full, because they tried to tell the truth about the Soviet system, albeit indirectly, in allegories and hints. Ideologues and servants of that system understood the danger that the theater represented, and it was kept under the watchful eye of the censor. If parts of a play were considered dangerous for the regime they were mercilessly cast aside.


These were harsh times tor the best directors - Yury Lyubimov, Mark Zakharov, Anatoly Vasilyev, Anatoly Efros.


In spite of the strict censorship and oppression, they were sometimes able to get their message across. But it must be noted that the overwhelming majority of Soviet theaters were obedient executors of the will of the Party and sang the praises of the CPSU and its leaders.


During perestroika the theater became a place where everything that had been forbidden for seven decades was shouted out loudly and passionately. One of the most popular shows of that period was called "Speak! " The theaters were full of spectators.


But now theater has receded to the periphery of our lives. Plays no longer excite popular opinion. There are no more shows about which "everyone is talking". It is not just the theater that finds itself in this situation, but movies, literature, music.


We hear everywhere today "Culture is dying! " and numbers are cited to prove this: how little money the government is giving to culture and the arts.


It has become popular to assert that these new times will bring about the death of Russian culture, that it is about to disappear.


But I am convinced that Russian culture is not dying. On the contrary - it is beginning a new heyday. Take the theater. It has ceased being an ideological weapon. and it has ceased being a battlefield for fighting the Communist system. It has become what it was always supposed to be - art.


Roman Viktyuk, the well-known director, says: "During the period of stagnation the theater's function was to open wounds. Playwrights were needed who had the daring to speak about what was wrong. Now everything is open, and our task has changed. We can not endlessly say that everything is bad - people could lose hope. and I think that the question of hope and of the spirit are the most important ones today".


In the postwar years only two new theaters appeared in Moscow - the Sovremennik and the Taganka, while in the past five years dozens have come on the scene. Not all of the new theaters survive, but there are several have added considerably to the cultural scene.


Today people are attracted to the theaters by the quality of the art, by the director's talent, by the actor's mastery, instead of by hints and subtext.


Mark Zakharov, artistic director of the Lenin Komsomol Theater, popularly known as Lenkom, says, not without a certain coyness: "It seems that our ancient art is not subject to inflation, voucherization, or stagnation. I am talking to those who are always whining that no one goes to the theater anymore. Put on talented, or at least entertaining shows and you will have an audience".


Let us look at painting. They used to crush artists with bulldozers in Moscow. Now there are about 20 art galleries with widely diverging styles and directions. People have begun to buy paintings for their homes and offices, which used to be a great rarity.


There is also literature. True, the circulation of literary journals has fallen significantly. Novy Mir will probably never have a circulation of over 2 million, the way it did in 1991, but today 100, 000 is quite a wide circle of readers.


This year all the subscriptions to classical music concerts in Moscow were sold out by August. The conservatory is full every evening. My 10-year-old daughter and I were at a concert of children's music in the Tchaikovsky concert hall - and there was not an empty seat in the house.


I could cite other facts to prove that Russian culture is alive. For this reason I am amused by the exalted mourning over the extravagantly decorated tomb in which they are trying to bury Russian culture.


If the Communists did not manage to strangle our culture during their 70-year reign, despite concerted efforts to do so, then I do not think it will happen now, when we are free.


The history of Russian culture spans more than ten centuries, and no one will be able to kill it off in a few short years. If we want to talk about the death of culture, then we should focus on the gradual demise of the official Soviet culture, as the culture of Nazi Germany became a fact of history.


Of course there is not enough money for culture. This is obvious. But this is always the case- in any country, at any time.


There are always people who will scream about the imminent decline of culture. This is true everywhere and always. But, fortunately, such prophesies do not come true.


Nikolai Andreyev is a political observer for Izvestia.