17. September 2013, 07:38 Uhr
(Bonn) The consulate general of the Russian Federation denied the author and director Milo Rau the issuing of a visa to enter the country. In March 2013 the play “The Moscow Trials”, staged at the Sakharov-Centre in Moscow, was interrupted for several hours by the Russian Migration Service because of suspicion of a violation of visa regulations. The case was quickly revealed as being untenable. Russian and International media were talking about an open attack on the arts and the freedom of speech. This time the director intended to conduct talks about the upcoming movie with involved parties, these renewed actions from the Russian state suggest a political motive. The Russian philosopher and regime critic Michail Ryklin sees a typical strategy by “Putins Kremlin: The obvious political motive is not being named, but a violation of visa regulation is being constructed.”
“It makes me angry the our government is denying Milo the entry into the country” says Yekaterina Samutsevich (“Pussy Riot”), who was performing as herself during the play. “It is a disgrace for our nation. I hope the German Government is able to handle this serious incident and defends the right to enter Russia.” The leader of the theater program at the Sakharov-Centre, Mikhail Kaluzhsky, criticizes the move heavily: “This act is a clear evidence for fear of any dissent and shows a strong tendency to avoid any free exchange of ideas and artistic methods in Russia.” Despite the denial of entry the movie “The Moscow Trials” will be completed by the end of the year.
In March 2013 the director and author Milo Rau (“Hate Radio”, “Breiviks statement”, “The last days of the Ceaușescus”) caused an international stir with his play “The Moscow Trials”, performed at the Sakharov-Centre, Moscow. The three day trial with real protagonists from the government as well as from the opposition re-negoiated real law trials against artists and art curators (e.g. the “Pussy Riot” trial). It was interrupted twice for several hours: First by the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Government, which checked the working permit of the director, and secondly by a troop of Cossacks. Participants in the fierce debate about religion, art and the freedom of speech were, amongst others, the regime critic and philosopher Michail Ryklin, the punk activist Yekaterina Samutsevich (“Pussy Riot”), the curators Ekaterina Degot and Maral Gelman, the expert in the field of religion and public TV host Maxim Shevchenko and several orthodox believers and government representatives. The lay-jury was chosen randomly from inhabitants of Moscow and ruled at the end of the three day trial the artists narrowly not guilty.
“Milo Rau hits the spot in our day and age with his documentary theater” writes the german weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” about these events. The “Moscow Times” underlines the fact, that “those who are not being heard, were able to talk.” A heated debate about the freedom of the arts followed the theater project, which by many national and international observers was seen as a possible beginning of a new dialogue between artists and religious representatives. But it is clear now, that the rather pessimistic conclusion of the Putin biographer Masha Gessen is true. She wrote shortly after the end of “The Moscow Trials”, which were interrupted several times by the Russian Government, in the “New York Times”: “When some of the people you are representing on stage can really threaten you, shut you down, deport you or put you in jail, it might be too early to be putting such a play together.”
The consulate general has now denied Milo Rau the visa to enter the country without giving sufficient reasons. The artist wanted to travel to Moscow to conduct more Off-the-record conversations for the documentary movie “The Moscow Trials”. “Unfortunately this was to be expected” says the philosopher and regime critic Michail Ryklin, who participated on the side of the defenders at “The Moscow Trials.” “After the intervention of the Federal Migration Service during Milo Raus play in March, this is another blow by the Russian administration. Because this is Putins strategy: The real reason will not be given, but another violation is being constructed. I predict that the Federal Migration Service will simply say that Milo Rau has violated the visa regulations, just what they sad back in March.”
Mikhail Kaluzhsky, the leader of the theater program at the Sakharov-Centre, interprets the visa denial as a bad sign for the cultural landscape in Russia: “The refusesal to issue a visa to Milo Rau demonstrates that all the branches of state authority in Russia are in fact controlled by clerical forces. This act is a clear evidence for fear of any dissent and shows a strong tendency to avoid any free exchange of ideas and artistic methods in Russia.” The surprising denial to enter the country could be a reaction to the The “Magnitsky Act”, which denies entry into the USA of 18 persons, mostly people from within the Russian Administration. The american congress passed the bill in late 2012 and was signed into law by President Obama on December 14, 2012. The political activist, publicist and renown literature scientist Elena Volkova thinks this is very much probable: “I think it is the angry reaction to the american denial of entry for some member of the russian administration. Milo Rau is now in good company with the Dalai Lama or the journalist Natalia Morar who did some research about the financial transactions of the Kremlin. They too were denied a visa.”
Movie producer Arne Birkenstock (Fruitmarket Kultur und Medien GmbH) views the interference with the work on the documentary movie “The Moscow Trials” as evidence of how topical the project currently is. It is, after all, against the line of cultural politics in Russia. “The only surprise is, that it reveals the really bad PR strategy of the Kremlin and their obvious fear.” In the style of a court drama with an open end, the new documentary movie from Milo Rau, shows in cross-examinations, pleas, and in debates previously to the piece staged at the Sakharov-Centre a modern Russia torn apart. Despite the denial of a visa the movie “The Moscow Trials” (camera: Markus Tomsche, sound: Jens Baudisch, edit: Lena Rem) will be finished by the end of year and will premier at festivals in the beginning of 2014.