Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Putin and artists

The Washington Post's Philip Kennicott comments on Valery Gergiev, the Russian superstar conductor, leading a performance of Shostakovich's World War II-vintage "Leningrad" Symphony in a "victory" concert in Tskhinvali, the Georgian city now under Russian occupation:


"Dressed in black and performing on the steps of the bombed-out parliament building," Kennicott writes, "Gergiev has also engraved himself into history – wading brazenly not just into politics, but politics by other means, in a way that few other classical musicians would dare today."

Gergiev (a native of Ossetia, the disputed region on the Russian-Georgia border) is not the only artist drawn in by Vladimir Putin's reassertion of Great Russian nationalism and expansionism. Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Mstislav Rostropovich allowed themselves to be celebrated by Putin, effectively lending him their moral authority, in their last days; and we shouldn't be surprised to see other Russian cultural figures do so.

In time, we'll see how Gergiev squares his patriotism with the autocracy Putin is reimposing on his homeland.