On 21 December literary critic ALEXANDER ARKHANGELSKY spoke, at a meeting of the Council on Culture and Art with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, about the pressure being put on cultural figures and the need to humanise Russian culture and society.
“If such things take place at the federal level, in the glare of publicity, it’s not surprising that in places further from our national media the same kind of thing is happening. It is now one year that Yury Dmitriev, an outstanding historian, the author of classic works about Solovki, has been kept in detention, awaiting a verdict in his trial.
“The court – and this is a rare instance – rejected the results of the expert assessment that seemed to confirm his guilt. The case materials were again sent not to State institutions for expert evaluation, however, but to semi-private companies – a second time, let me emphasise.”
Dear Mr President, Esteemed colleagues:
[…] The best of laws will falter if the oversight agencies, the investigation and the courts act with a repressive intent. Often one hears it said: if it’s possible to investigate State officials, why not cultural figures? No one says that cultural figures cannot be investigated. People talk of something else: that neither officials, nor artists, nor ordinary citizens, should be intimidated and pressurised — no one. People may be investigated, not persecuted.
I cannot help mentioning a case that has already been raised in your presence more than once, that of Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky, Itin, Apfelbaum, and Maslyaeva. It is not the attempt to investigate that has led to protest, but the lack of any such attempt, and the use of pressure and intimidation.
Why keep Alexei Malobrodsky behind bars and accuse those named in the Theatre Affair of not staging a performance that was awarded the Golden Mask? Why deprive Sophia Apfelbaum of the chance to run the Russian Academic Youth Theatre? Why prevent Kirill Serebrennikov from running the Gogol Centre, and Yury Itin from getting on with the business of running the outstanding Volkov Theatre in Yaroslavl?
Why is the institution of surety being destroyed?
Let me recall that dozens of the most respected cultural figures have stood surety for each of those named and, furthermore, they represent different viewpoints and artistic trends: from Stanislav Govorukhin to Philip Kirkorov, from Vladimir Spivakov to Natalya Solzhenitsyn. Acting as a guarantor in this way is no call to halt an investigation. Surety offers a moral guarantee that the person under investigation will not go into hiding, and that the use of bail or an agreement not to leave the country will be sufficient, while permitting a person to go on working.
President Putin listens to Alexander Arkhangelsky‘s contribution and responds
If such things take place at the federal level, in the glare of publicity, it’s not surprising that in places more remote from our national media the same kind of thing is happening.
It is now exactly one year that Yury Dmitriev, an outstanding historian, the author of classic works about Solovki, has been kept in detention, awaiting a verdict in his trial. The court – and this is a rare instance – rejected the results of the expert assessment that seemed to confirm his guilt. The case materials were again sent not to State institutions for expert evaluation, however, but to semi-private companies – a second time, let me emphasise.
No one is saying there should not be an investigation. People are calling for an end to persecution, that the actual circumstances should be studied, and not distorted to suit a pre-arranged response. The council of journalists in Karelia requested that the measure of restraint against Dmitriev be changed. No reply. The founder of Memorial Arseny Roginsky made an appeal to the prosecutor of the Karelian Republic. The response avoided the issue.
Roginsky knew what he saying. A Leningrad historian, he was sent to a penal colony in 1982, for faking an official letter, supposedly, to a library. In 1980 drugs were planted on his colleague Konstantin Azadovsky, a literary specialist in Leningrad. Azadovsky wasted years, proving the falsity of these accusations in court. But many then said, “There’s no smoke without fire.” O yes, there can be.
Here, I cannot help saying that Arseny Roginsky, a great citizen of Russia, died this week and his funeral will take place on Saturday. Our thanks to him for all he has done for our country, for the restoration of memory. He did not offer a myth about past acts of repression, but real facts, as a historian should do. [ …]
On 18 December, Mr President, you said you were prepared to consider an extensive amnesty to mark the presidential elections [March 2018]. That is a most important initiative. […]
We, our society and our culture, must become more humane – it’s a political necessity. Then the proposed amendments to the laws about culture, which I fully support, will become a systematic corrective in a complex situation.
I am aware of certain things about which you have spoken.
Concerning others, I know nothing and will certainly look into the matter. In the case of Serebrennikov, as you well know, if it was a matter of persecution not investigation, his production would not be currently staged at the Bolshoi Theatre. That has happened […]
Concerning various types of investigation, I do assure you that they are not linked to persecution of any kind but, perhaps, to insufficiently developed legislative regulation of economic activities. I have already spoken of that today.
There is, incidentally, a rule that we cannot abandon: “Dura lex, sed lex – the law is harsh, but it is the law!” Even if it is not correct, we must implement it all the same. […]
Orthodoxy and the World – 22 December 2017
“A daily internet publication on how to be an Orthodox Christian today”
 On 30 Оctober 2017, at a meeting of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, held immediately before the opening of the Wall of Sorrow monument, the case of Yury Dmitriev had previously been raised by journalist Stanislav Kucher.
 At the same meeting on 21 December 2017 where Arkhangelsky spoke, Vladimir Putin said that, during the centenary year of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, “we have been seeking to encourage [Russian] society to abandon confrontation, and for people to see themselves as a single society …”