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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cultural Icons Rally for Funding

The poet Andrei Voznesensky, renowned pianist Nikolai Petrov and directors of Moscow's libraries, theaters and museums took to the streets Friday to warn the government that unless more funds are given to the arts, Russia's next generation will lose its birthright.

Friday's demonstration began at noon on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad with the brass section of the state symphony orchestra playing Frederic Chopin's "Funeral March" to symbolize the gravity of the threat.

The general message was that Russian culture, with its longstanding traditions, is one of the few achievements of which the country and its government can still be proud, and yet it is being neglected to the point that it could be lost.

According to First Deputy Minister of Culture Konstantin Shcherbakov, out of around 2.5 trillion rubles ($500 million) allocated for culture in this year's budget, only 25 percent has been disbursed. All major cultural institutions in Russia are state-subsidized.

"Give us those pennies which we were promised to be given," said Petrov in the meeting opening speech.

Musicians and actors are not, however, in the worst position. The real crisis is hitting Russia's museums and libraries. Employees of the Lenin Library, the largest and most important in the country, said that every day irreplaceable books are being lost due to the poor conditions in which they are being kept.

The latest cut in financing has left almost all librarians -- together with musicians, actors and museums workers -- on salaries of little more than 150,000 rubles per month.

Activists at the meeting said they would not stop fighting until all debts have been paid. They are now planning to create a committee that will continue pressuring the government on behalf of all affected cultural institutions.

Meanwhile, if nothing is done by the government to improve the situation by Oct. 8, activists said that some institutions may stage strikes.