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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Guide to the Stars

There was a time when the word "alternative" really meant something. It was a synonym for something brand-new and cool - to set against a dusty Soviet past.

Now it stands for a political and cultural squabble between Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko.

Last week Kiriyenko, representing his new political movement New Force, presided over the presentation of the alternative Moscow arts festival at the Gelman gallery. The festival is called Neofitsiyalnaya Moskva, or Unofficial Moscow, and is slated to coincide with the Day of the City at the start of September.

The event is organized by Marat Gelman, whose reputation for things alternative is well known. He has used his gallery in the past as a forum for exhibiting fake kompromat material about the Russian ruling elite and for a recent exhibit, "The Newcomer," showing why many people hate Moscow.

The festival, which aims to target the young urban generation, will feature all kinds of nonconformist art, from film showings to literary disputes, involving such cult figures as novelist Viktor Pelevin and playwright Boris Yukhananov. The musical part of the festival will present the less traditional bands on the Russian pop scene, among them the Zapreshchyonniye Barabanshchiki, or Forbidden Drummers.

But it is not just art that stands at the core of alternative Moscow: It represents an angry reaction to the rule of the city administration and in particular Mayor Luzhkov. His cultural policy in the city was described by festival organizers as "conservative and unoriginal."

"It is very important to understand that Moscow and Moscow culture is something broader than the City Hall's circle of interest," Kiriyenko said in an interview published in the festival newspaper Moskovskaya Alternativa.

Perhaps it was such sentiments that irked the city administration. According to Ivan Zasursky, the festival press chief, city officials told the organizers earlier this week that Unofficial Moscow can't be staged on Pushkin Square. The space is to be occupied by a UNESCO ceremony in which a prize will be given to the city.

"There may be some maneuvers going on within the [city] government," Zasursky said. "We are looking for an alternative place".