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Dissident Russian artists getting squeezed by political pressure

 The climate of hostility toward critical voices that has already changed the face of Russian journalism and politics is focusing on a new target: the arts.

In Moscow, a city that prides itself on a rich cultural heritage, there are no official policies restricting artistic freedom. But from the theater to the rock concert stage to the contemporary art exhibition hall, artists who question the status quo are increasingly finding themselves targets for political censure — or even shutdown.

Last week, the well-known independent experimental theater company Teatr.doc learned that the Moscow city government had quietly terminated its lease for the space it has occupied since its inception in 2002. Reaction from the city’s arts community was swift and sharp, as directors and actors from other theaters took to social media to express outrage, draft petitions of protest, and offer their own stages as temporary havens for Teatr.doc when it is evicted in mid-December.

The decision to terminate the lease — made in May for unsanctioned renovations, according to the city’s property department, but not revealed until last week, theater directors said — left many questioning the source of the order. Moscow’s culture minister denied any involvement, leaving the theater community to speculate about whether it has a new enemy in the administration or is the victim of loyalists making a show of support for the state.

“I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist,” Elena Gremina, artistic director of Teatr.doc, said in an interview. “But somebody wants us to be removed completely, to destroy us. Somebody decided that we should not exist anymore.”

Continue reading at www.washingtonpost.com

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