One Saturday evening in December 2017, as it has regularly for nearly 200 years, the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre, draped by its famous scarlet-and-gold curtain, featured the long-anticipated premiere of a new ballet. Tickets had sold out almost instantly. The Bolshoi’s capacious hall, ringed by teetering loggia boxes, was filled with so many members of the ruling elite that the event seemed an updated version of an old Communist party central committee congress.
The highly awaited ballet was a staging of the life and work of Rudolf Nureyev, the famed dancer and choreographer whose defection from the Soviet Union in 1961 made international headlines. The director was Kirill Serebrennikov, who, at 48, was Russia’s most celebrated theatrical figure, an artist whose tastes run to the experimental and provocative. The ballet, titled Nureyev, portrays its hero as a genius whose talent, like his idiosyncrasies, made him difficult for the bosses of the time to understand – an inevitable object of suspicion.
Serebrennikov missed the performance. He was at home, in his two-bedroom apartment on Prechistenka Street in Moscow, a 40-minute walk away. The previous spring, prosecutors had accused Serebrennikov of fraud, alleging he had embezzled 68m rubles, almost £850,000, in state money during the production of theatrical festivals and performances over several years. He was now in his fourth month of house arrest. If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in prison. He was one of four defendants charged in a wide-ranging case that was at once numbingly typical (the Putin state regularly makes a show of putting on trial those it says misallocate funds) and deeply abnormal (before Serebrennikov, the last Russian theatre director to be arrested was Vsevolod Meyerhold, who was repressed on Stalin’s orders in 1939 and shot the next year). Few in Moscow believed that Serebrennikov’s real problems had anything to do with money.
The facts of Serebrennikov’s criminal case were overshadowed by public speculation about its import. What message was the Kremlin trying to send to the country’s artistic and cultural figures? If Serebrennikov did commit a transgression, what was the true nature of it? Or was the randomness of the charge the point – the idea that any director or artist or performer could end up in Serebrennikov’s position?
No matter the answer, his case appeared to be a sign of a deeper shift in Russian political life, a symbol – and a warning – of a state that had grown more inflexible, rapacious, and unpredictable, liable to turn even on those it once feted. It was not accidental that Serebrennikov came to face criminal charges at a time when Russia’s ruling ideology had turned inward and conservative, at times veering towards the outright retrograde and obscurantist.
The ballet should have premiered the previous July. But two days before the first show, the director of the Bolshoi suddenly announced its cancellation. The supposed reason was that the production was “not ready”. That seemed unlikely. A dance critic at Kommersant, a Russian daily, who had seen snippets of rehearsals declared that the world of ballet had not produced anything “bigger and more significant” in years, and that its choreography was like “breathing”. She predicted that Nureyev would be the Bolshoi’s most “successful and profitable ballet since the fall of the USSR”.
A more probable culprit, then, was the ballet’s nudity and overt theme of homosexual love. (Nikita Mikhalkov, a powerful film director close to the Kremlin, told journalists that the Bolshoi was not the place to “hang Nureyev’s cock”.) Rumours swirled of a call to the Bolshoi from a high-ranking Kremlin official, or a politically influential Orthodox cleric, which could have led to the theatre’s abrupt decision not to stage the work. That Serebrennikov had by then clearly fallen out of official favour made his ballet an obvious target.
Yet Putin’s Russia is marked by a discursive, nonlinear quality, full of contradictions for anyone trying to decode the meaning of events. And so, after a five-month delay, the Bolshoi presented Nureyev; but Serebrennikov remained out of sight, awaiting trial, the outcome of which would define the future relationship between art and the state in the Putin era. The question is, what is the aberration and what is the norm – that a ballet such as Nureyev was celebrated on the main stage of the Bolshoi, or that its director was under house arrest?
Serebrennikov was a particularly Russian type of rebel: one who sought, and attained, mainstream success, often with the blessing and support of the state. He was, for a while, the house avant gardiste of Putin-era Russia. Serebrennikov grew up in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia known for its scrappy, mafia-tinged local folklore. His mother was a schoolteacher of Russian, his father a urologist – in other words, archetypical members of the late Soviet provincial intelligentsia. Serebrennikov was educated as a physicist, but showed a talent for theatre from an early age, and was a popular director of local plays and televised films.
In the early 2000s, when Serebrennikov was in his 30s, he came to Moscow, where he staged a number of successful performances at the Sovremennik, a theatre founded during the Khrushchev thaw in the 1950s, and the Moscow Art Theatre, the historic stage made famous by Konstantin Stanislavsky and his eponymous acting method. I spoke with Mikhail Shvydkoy, Russia’s minister of culture at that time, who remains a high-profile and influential figure in the arts. Shvydkoy presided over a relatively laissez-faire period in the state’s role in culture, including support for innovative, and at times unconventional, artforms – sometimes making the ministry more progressive than other arms of the state, or even the viewing public. As he put it to me: “I always repeat the words of Alexander Pushkin: ‘The government is the sole European in all of Russia.’”
Shvydkoy watched Serebrennikov’s career develop and appreciated his thoroughly modern sensibilities, as well as his professionalism and creative ability to execute that vision. “Kirill is very talented and very genuine,” Shvydkoy told me. “Yes, he is extravagant, and he creates a certain element of provocation in his art, but this is natural and correct.” All the same, Shvydkoy went on, “he always existed inside the system: he worked with Moscow’s largest theatres, or at the Bolshoi; he filmed movies.”
Serebrennikov’s star rose in tandem with the Putin system’s purposeful dalliance with contemporary art. For a time, in the mid-to late 00s – during Putin’s second presidential term and Dmitry Medvedev’s short-lived reign – the Kremlin launched a kind of stage-managed social modernisation, which came to include state support for innovation and experimentation in the arts. Anna Narinskaya, a longtime journalist and arts critic, told me that by fostering the avant garde, the Kremlin hoped to send different messages to different audiences. For the west, it was an “invitation to get involved”, as Narinskaya put it: foreign curators and architects and contemporary artists regularly passed through Moscow to present or oversee large-scale projects. Russia’s own intelligentsia and creative professionals were meant to see the state’s interest as a “call for collaboration: ‘Come work for us.’” And the country’s young people got a relatable style, an aesthetic that was attractive and modern.
Not that Serebrennikov and others had any real choice. Much of Russian cultural life is dependent on state funding; nearly all of the country’s more than 600 major theatres are state institutions, and rely on government support for 70% of their budgets. Fundraising and endowments are almost nonexistent. “You don’t have a choice between making a film with state participation or without,” Narinskaya said. “The question is: do you want to make a film at all?”
In the mid- to late 00s, the person behind the Kremlin’s efforts to attract – some might say co-opt – artists and cultural figures was Vladislav Surkov, the influential adviser to Putin who did the most to construct the country’s postmodern, make-believe politics. Surkov is a self-styled cultural sophisticate, whose tastes range from William S Burroughs to Tupac Shakur. He and his deputies would regularly fly to Salzburg for the opera. It was Surkov who came up with the term “sovereign democracy” to describe the Putin system, essentially a clever way of masking soft authoritarianism. He deftly created stylish youth groups and political parties. He arranged for a beloved Russian alternative rock singer, Zemfira, to perform at a pro-Putin youth camp in the countryside. In Moscow, he organised a regular evening of poetry and experimental theatre.
It wasn’t long before Surkov took an interest in Serebrennikov, and Serebrennikov in Surkov. Alexey Chesnakov, a former Kremlin political adviser who worked for Surkov, told me that Surkov knew that Serebrennikov and other artists of his type “felt things very subtly, in a way that Surkov understood, but other officials did not, and could, in a way, elevate the state”. The two men were not especially close, but their interests overlapped to some degree. Serebrennikov could use the resources of the state to realise his creative ambitions; and Surkov could harness the talents of people like Serebrennikov to further his own vision of Putin-era cultural life, at once vibrant and edgy, yet within prescribed boundaries. “It was a time when a lot of people were attracted to the state, to the process that was taking place,” Chesnakov said. “It wasn’t merely profitable to be close to the state, but interesting.”
Narinskaya, the journalist and critic, recalled Surkov as “this kind of grey cardinal”. He seemed to run the whole of Russia from behind the scenes. “He was demonic, mysterious. How could you not be interested in him? Plus, he had the power to give you a lot of money.” As for Serebrennikov’s part, Narinskaya added: “He knew how to make nice with the bosses. He was friends with ministers and oligarchs and beautiful socialites.”
Serebrennikov never had any ideological affinity with the regime. Quite the opposite. In 2011 and 2012 he even frequented the anti-Putin protests. Surkov’s innovation was to downplay ideology and bet on style, not substance. The height of Serebrennikov’s dalliance with Surkov came in 2011, when Serebrennikov staged a theatrical production of Almost Zero, a novel likely written by Surkov under a pen name. I heard various explanations for how Serebrennikov came to direct the play: one person suggested it was an implicit condition of being given the budget to stage a large-scale contemporary arts festival; others said that Serebrennikov saw something curious, even subversive, in the text, and set out to make a play that was less than flattering to its author.
In his book on Putin-era Russia, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev describes the sold-out premiere in Moscow. The crowd was full of “hard, clever men who rule the country and their stunning female satellites,” Pomerantsev writes. Serebrennikov’s actors talked directly to the audience, accusing them of being “at ease in a world of nepotism, corruption and violence”. Pomerantsev described their reaction: “The bohemians in the audience laughed uncomfortably. The hard men and their satellites stared ahead unblinking, as if these provocations had nothing to do with them.” As he writes: “Thus the great director pulled off a feat entirely worthy of the Age of Surkov: he pleased his political masters – Surkov sponsors an arts festival that Serebrennikov runs – while preserving his liberal integrity.”
In March 2011, not long before the Almost Zero premiere, aides at the ministry of culture passed a message to Serebrennikov: he should ask for the state’s blessing. Medvedev was then president, and he was as responsible as Surkov for the state’s interest in and support for cultural projects and contemporary art. Medvedev had championed the idea of building a top-down, state-led business incubator called the Skolkovo Innovation Center, and now he wanted to do something similar in the arts – a state-supported initiative called Platforma. Serebrennikov would be one of its directors. “Serebrennikov was told that if he were to come forward with this request, it would be approved,” a former employee of the ministry of culture told me.
For a time, the experimental stagings at Platforma – which also featured dance, music, and media art – were among the most relevant and energetic in the country. Serebrennikov’s production of Scumbags, a raw, cruel play about Russia’s lost generation of the 90s, was particularly successful. Surkov imagined that the project would inspire a network of cultural centres around the country, provincial hubs for contemporary art and innovation. Around the same time, in 2012, I went to the Bolshoi to see The Golden Cockerel, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera from 1907, which Serebrennikov turned into a satire of contemporary Kremlin politics. A military parade featuring huge missiles being towed across the stage was an allusion to Russia’s annual Victory Day celebration; a horde of children glorifying the tsar was a nod to the pro-Putin youth groups fomented by Surkov.
Perhaps no bureaucratic appointment did more to remake the surface experience of life in Moscow over the last decade than the naming, in 2011, of Sergei Kapkov as the city’s minister of culture. Kapkov, then in his late 30s, was close to the oligarch Roman Abramovich, who had kept his fortune intact throughout changing political winds and had developed a taste for contemporary art. The first large-scale project Kapkov oversaw in Moscow was the widely loved renovation of Gorky Park. A programme to refresh the city’s network of public libraries followed. Kapkov’s name became shorthand for a benevolent and tasteful form of authoritarian modernisation, a top-down makeover of the capital that wasn’t necessarily democratic – Kapkov relied more on his own judgments than on any sort of open civic process – but was worldly, clever, and attractive.
In 2012, Kapkov asked Serebrennikov to take over the Gogol Center, Russia’s leading avant garde theatre and arts complex, which had trouble drawing sizable crowds. The appointment was controversial, especially among the theatre’s actors, a conservative bunch, who staged protests in front of the mayor’s office and sent protest letters to parliament and the prosecutor’s office. Serebrennikov fought back and eventually turned a core group of his former pupils into the Gogol’s primary troupe.
Marina Davydova, a prominent editor and theatre critic friendly with Serebrennikov, was buoyed by his rise in the country’s drama scene. She perfectly understood the logic in his dealings with the authorities. “The state shows up and says: ‘We will give you money to do all the projects you’ve been waiting to do,’” she said. “Why should you say no?”
Davydova suggested that, in a way, the state needed Serebrennikov more than the reverse. “There are few such people in the world of Russian theatre, who are thoroughly modern and innovative, who can pull off art-house productions, but can do it on big stages, where thousands of people will come and see it.”
Aside from individual productions, which varied in quality and were far from universally loved, the Gogol Center was most significant for the kind of venue it came to represent: a cultural space in the most sweeping sense, where people could gather not just to watch a play but to listen to lectures, participate in seminars and masterclasses, or simply sit around and talk in the cafe.
Davydova told me that she warned Serebrennikov that this period could not last long. “Don’t get too close to power,” she told him. “There are people inside the system who are supporting you now – but others will come to fight them, and, when they do, they will destroy you in the process.” As she put it to me: “This was not a moral demand, but an understanding of the algorithms of history.”
The algorithms began to shift in late 2011 and early 2012, with the appearance of protests on the streets of Moscow. The demonstrators were largely middle-class professionals: Serebrennikov’s audience, and the sort of people whom Surkov thought he could cleverly manage. Putin’s response – turning to a new ruling ideology that blended conservative values, anti-western resentment, disdain for urban elites and an elevation of the Orthodox church – heralded the end of the state’s enthusiasm for experimental and avant garde artforms. Putin demoted Surkov and named Vladimir Medinsky as Russia’s minister of culture. A nationalist ideologue with spurious academic credentials, Medinsky shifted the ministry in a strongly conservative direction. His arrival was “abrupt and palpable”, said the former ministry employee. “We started to get all these questions about why we are supporting this strange and unnecessary art.”
A period of political conservatism followed, both inside the Kremlin and outside. In 2013, Serebrennikov wanted to host a screening at the Gogol Center of a documentary sympathetic to Pussy Riot, the punk group who had staged a protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The movie would be followed by a public discussion with two of the women from Pussy Riot, who had just been released from prison after serving terms of nearly two years. Kapkov intervened and forbade the event. Serebrennikov decried the move as censorship – “cynical, pointless, and stupid,” he said – but given that the Gogol Center was formally a state theatre under Kapkov’s remit, he had no choice. In a public statement, Serebrennikov described how, even in the country’s gathering conservative revanche, it had seemed that some “free air” remained, if only “in fashionable cafes, at home, with friends”. But now he changed his mind: “That’s it! Fuck! There’s no air!”
When I spoke with Kapkov, he responded to my questions more frankly – and more cleverly – than most Putin-era officeholders. He acknowledged that his move was an act of censorship, but presented it as a paternal gesture, an unpleasant but necessary decision to protect Serebrennikov and the Gogol Center. “They were silly,” Kapkov said. “They didn’t realise how seriously they could get hit over the head.” Kapkov’s aversion to Pussy Riot was not ideological but rather bureaucratic – their appearance at the Gogol Center would be fuel for the theatre’s many enemies in the state apparatus, those already predisposed to dislike Serebrennikov and everything he was involved with. Why hand them the revolver they will use to shoot you? At least pick a grander and more meaningful kamikaze mission than a film screening, Kapkov thought. “Don’t choose to die under other people’s flags.”
Kapkov is the archetype of the enlightened Putin-era bureaucrat, at home among Moscow’s beau monde, regularly dropping stories of how he had just returned from New York or Tel Aviv, but with a dispassionate recognition of how the country’s byzantine politics work, the intrigues and power struggles that decide people’s fates. He told me the scenario he feared if Pussy Riot were to appear at the Gogol Center: “They will upset the patriarch, let’s say. The patriarch calls Putin. Then Putin’s chief of staff calls the mayor and gives him an earful. The mayor calls me and says, angrily: ‘What have you done?’” After that, Kapkov explained, it would be that much harder for him to defend Serebrennikov’s next production, to explain why this or that staging is not too inflammatory or transgressive for a state theatre – or to keep Serebrennikov in his job at all.
In 2014, with Russia caught in its standoff with the west over Ukraine, the reactionary wave intensified. Politics and cultural life became marked by reflexive aggression and paranoia, and whatever enthusiasm had once existed for the avant garde and risque in the arts shrank into oblivion. As Kapkov understood it, the Kremlin had been interested in building up a new generation of artists as a way of engendering civic pride, but annexing Crimea – the end result of its fallout with Ukraine – had solved that problem. Russia was now a proud nation.
“That’s it, we don’t need anything more from you,” Kapkov said, paraphrasing the Kremlin’s shift in tone toward the cultural community. “We’re at war now.” A policy document proposed by Medinsky’s ministry of culture called for “a rejection of the principles of tolerance and multiculturalism”.
It was only a matter of time before Kapkov left office as well. He stepped down as Moscow’s minister of culture in March 2015, his departure as much a reflection of the end of a particular era as his arrival had been of its beginning. He presented his decision to leave office as a protective measure, similar to cancelling the screening of the Pussy Riot movie. His presence inside the state structure was becoming increasingly tenuous, with many officials primed to see him as a kind of double agent, a person of questionable loyalties who was providing cover for all manner of louche and unreliable cultural figures, Serebrennikov among them. Those who wanted to see Kapkov’s downfall would go after the artists seen to be under his protection. “I understood that at a certain moment I would be told to fire Serebrennikov,” Kapkov told me. “By leaving, I saved Serebrennikov’s job for another two years and another two seasons at the Bolshoi.”
Serebrennikov kept working as if nothing had changed. If anything, he responded to the aggressive political environment with confrontational works that did not hide their concern – derision, even – for the direction in which Russia appeared to be heading. The change in the national mood just made his extravagance and irreverence seem more egregious. In 2016, he directed The Student, a film that mocked the country’s increasing clericalism and intolerance. It was visceral and unpleasant viewing, and won the François Chalais prize at the Cannes film festival. Serebrennikov, and the state that effectively employed him, were moving in opposite directions.
Investigators began poking around in the accounting ledgers at the Gogol Center in the spring of 2017. The first arrests came in May, when three of the theatre’s employees, including its financial director, were taken into custody. At that point, Serebrennikov was only a witness, but it was clear that he would end up a target. The crux of the accusation was that his production studio embezzled state funds meant for Platforma. It appeared to be an absurd charge. At one hearing, prosecutors claimed that a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream had never happened at all. But the play had won several awards, been performed abroad and been widely reviewed. Prosecutors dismissed news clippings presented by the defence, saying: “A newspaper article cannot confirm that the performance took place.”
Hopes of the theatre’s supporters were buoyed in May, when Evgeny Mironov, the influential director of Moscow’s Theatre of Nations, handed Putin a letter in support of Serebrennikov and his colleagues. Putin, accepting the letter, was heard to utter the word “fools”, presumably about the overzealous investigators leading the case. But maybe Putin’s insult was directed toward the defendants and their sympathisers. Or, perhaps, Putin himself no longer had the same omnipotent hold over the country’s investigators and secret police.
As the investigation continued, Serebrennikov kept up a ferociously busy schedule. He spent much of the summer of 2017 in St Petersburg, where he was directing Summer, a movie on the life of Viktor Tsoi, a Soviet rock legend and counterculture hero from the 80s. On the evening of 22 August, Russian investigators showed up at Serebrennikov’s hotel room in St Petersburg. They took him into custody, placing him in a police van and driving through the night back to Moscow.
In the morning, a judge sentenced him to house arrest while awaiting trial. At the hearing, Serebrennikov said: “The charges brought against me are impossible and absurd. I thought that we were engaged in a bright and powerful project for our country, our homeland.” He finished by asking for his release on bail – an appeal that was denied. “I am an honest person, and I ask the court to allow me to work,” he pleaded.
The indictment centered on the studio’s use of obnal, or off-the-books cash. It is a tricky question, because obnal is, in essence, a way of turning entirely legal funds into illicit funds, which can be spent on whatever you choose: to line one’s own pockets or simply to procure necessary goods and services. State funds can be released only a certain period of time after a particular good or service has been delivered. But for a large theatre, all sorts of vendors demand payment right away: repairmen, prop studios, lighting technicians. Thus, in principle, Serebrennikov and his colleagues at the theatre could be left with the need for technically illegal cash for entirely legal needs. The law itself became a kind of trap.
“It’s quite obvious to me that they did not create a criminal group in order to steal money,” said Mikhail Shvydkoy, the former minister of culture. “They created their company in order to make plays and works of art – and, in the process, it’s possible they could break the law somewhere.” If anything, he suggested, Serebrennikov was led astray by his own success, imagining that he was more protected and secure than he really was. Shvydkoy offered a riddle in the form of a Latin saying: “What is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to the bull,” he said. “And the moment when a bull begins to feel like Jupiter, all manner of funny things start happening.”
Serebrennikov’s arrest set off a flurry of speculation and guesswork inside the close-knit world of Russian film and theatre, said Michael Idov, a Soviet-born American author and screenwriter, who with his wife, Lily, had written the screenplay for Summer. Everyone was asking the same questions: “Why Kirill? Why now?”
There was a natural impulse to try to pinpoint Serebrennikov’s transgression, whatever it may have been, as if by identifying the source of this strange new illness, you could convince yourself you were not immune to it. But those details remained unknowable, which left everyone all the more on edge. Idov told me that nonetheless, some broader lessons were already clear. “Before,” he said, “the risk was being unable to get funds or coverage for your next project – but not jail time.” What’s more, he went on, “if the system has its sights on you, no amount of previous compromise will help you. And so maybe all the previous compromises aren’t worth it.”
One day in April 2019, at a court hearing in Serebrennikov’s case, which by then had stretched on for more than a year, the judge made an unexpected ruling. He ordered Serebrennikov freed from house arrest. The trial would continue to plod toward its eventual resolution, but in the meantime, the defendant could live and work as he pleased, with no limitations other than showing up for court and not leaving the country. It was not an acquittal, but given the realities of the Putin-era criminal justice system – a steamroller that, once set in motion, moves only in one direction – it was the closest thing to it.
As he walked out of the courtroom, Serebrennikov looked happy but stunned, as if he could not quite believe the idea that he was again a free man, at least for the time being. “It isn’t easy psychologically,” he told a waiting crowd of supporters and journalists. “But there’s much to do.” There was no shortage of plays to rehearse, premieres to get ready for, new projects and scripts to think over. “But nothing has ended,” he said.
The charges against him remained, as did the spectre of a decade-long prison term, even if the authorities seemed to be shifting toward what those in the law enforcement apparatus would consider a benevolent compromise: for example, a guilty verdict with a conditional sentence, which means time served and a soft form of pro bation. The reason for the court’s sudden leniency was as mystifying as the reason for the charges in the first place, but it seemed clear that the Kremlin no longer had much interest in the case – in the intervening period, Putin had won re-election, and whatever short-term utility there had been in sending a warning to the cultural intelligentsia had faded.
A week later, the Bolshoi Theatre hosted a ceremony to mark the close of the annual Golden Mask festival, a celebration of the best performances in Russian theatre. It is a resplendent and glamorous evening, Russia’s equivalent of the Tony awards, an occasion for the country’s cultural elite to dress up in glittering formalwear and toast one another’s successes. The year before, with Serebrennikov at home under house arrest, he won the award for best opera for his staging of Chaadsky, a madcap, satirical work based on the verse of the 19th-century writer Alexander Griboyedov.
This year, his attendance came across as the ceremony’s marquee event. In keeping with his regular uniform, he wore a black jacket over a black shirt, with a pair of chunky black glasses and a black knit cap pulled over his close-cropped hair. The hosts announced Nureyev the winner of best ballet, and Serebrennikov, along with Yuri Possokhov, the production’s choreographer, ascended the steps to the Bolshoi stage and looked out at the audience, rapturous with applause.
“We had a happy life making this performance, and it goes on,” he said with a wide, cheerful grin. Later, he was called back up to accept the best director award for Little Tragedies, his Pushkin adaptation at the Gogol Center. He noted that Pushkin is suitable for all occasions in Russia: “When you’re going for a walk and when you are under house arrest.” He closed with a call to “protect the freedom of the artist in the theatre with all our might, against all odds”.
Eventually, last September, a Moscow court returned Serebrennikov’s criminal fraud case to prosecutors two years after his high-profile arrest, a move that observers say is a key step toward his case being thrown out, leaving Serebrennikov free to work as he pleases. He had pulled off a successful and unexpected second – or maybe third – act.
Having enjoyed the state’s favour and been a subject of its ire, he had wriggled out of its clutches and back on to the Bolshoi stage. The state ultimately retained all the power yet, nonetheless, it felt as if the momentum of events had unmistakably shifted in Serebrennikov’s favour. That is the potential upside of living in the shadow of the state’s capricious and ever-changing demands: just as your downfall may come with no warning or explanation, so, too, can your redemption.
• Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin’s Russia by Joshua Yaffa is out now, published by Granta. Go to Guardian Bookshop to order a copy for £11.43
- We should beware Russia’s links with Europe’s right
- Fifth Eastern Economic Forum to Start in Russia's Far East on Wednesday
- The arts thrive in Putin’s Russia – though they play a complex game of censorship
- In the broken-down heart of Siberia, Putin is still Russia’s ‘good tsar’
- In Putin’s Russia, the hollowed-out media mirrors the state
- Opinion: Vladimir Putin's great deceit
- After 20 years, is Vladimir Putin's untouchable image crumbling?
- Vladimir Putin: Sanctions hurt Europe more than Russia
- Opinion: Donald Trump's tricky Syria 'gift' to Vladimir Putin
- Masha Gessen depicts Russia's slide to totalitarianism under Putin
- Opinion: Putin's empty promises
- Britain urges EU to toughen Russia sanctions
- PM Modi holds 'excellent' meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bishkek
- Opinion: 20 years of Vladimir Putin destabilizing the world
- Russia wrote off $20 billion of African countries’ debts ― Putin
- Putin’s view of power was formed watching East Germany collapse
- Russian Gov't to Submit Draft AI Development Plan to Putin Soon - Deputy Prime Minister
- How 'dirty money' from Russia flooded into the UK – and where it went
- A thousand miles from Moscow: how Putin forged his Russian heartland
- Far From the War Front – Russia
‘They will destroy you’: in Putin’s Russia, how far can an artist go? have 5377 words, post on www.theguardian.com at January 17, 2020. This is cached page on Asean News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.