In the heart of Moscow, this cellar transformed into a theater is its stage. And poetry is his weapon. Against “war”, this word that the head of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, used for the first time at the end of last year, but “this word that cannot be pronounced”, warns Igor from the start. This is the title of his poem. This young Muscovite is one of the budding poets invited that evening to recite his verses.
Here, as elsewhere in Russia, since the start of the “special operation” in Ukraine, according to official understatement, the law threatens legal action against any public opinion deemed critical, with a penalty of up to fifteen years in prison. “To oppose the war, to say it loud and clear, is dangerous in our country. Our audience is small but you never know who is coming to infiltrate and listen to us…”, winces Varvara, one of the organizers of this poetic evening.
On this cold Friday evening, on an improvised stage not far from the statue of Pushkin, a poet adored by an entire nation, Igor hides his nervousness badly. The large white letters inscribed on his black T-shirt seem to give him strength when he appears in the spotlight: “Freedom. »
But it is the other word that forms the framework of his poem, this war which has weighed like a sword of Damocles since last February. “In the beginning, there was the word. But this word is the end”, declaims the young man, your strong, clear voice. “This word, we have all brought it up, nourished it. We made her bed. But if we have freed it, we cannot put it away again (…). It is terrifying to say this word. I will be punished for saying it. Do you see the four fucking horses rushing in harness? »
“Poetry makes it possible to say in verse what is forbidden in prose”
For Igor as for the organizers, the poetic evenings are acts of resistance. Regular for years, they have taken on a new dimension over the past few months. “Many of our young poets fled the country; some have been arrested, others are afraid. Poetry helps to live this period, to make understand what we feel. It makes it possible to sublimate, to say in verse what is forbidden in prose, to circumvent the laws”, confides Varvara, the organizer of the evening. Caution and discretion are required, necessary precautions in these times of repression. This is why La Croix prefers to cite them anonymously.
“We have become clandestine pacifists,” similarly quipped Maria, a renowned actress on one of the great stages of the Russian capital. “When there is war around, at least there is culture! I am against this conflict and against Putin’s Kremlin. But it’s important to continue to show shows, ”she says, adding that many male colleagues have left the country for fear of mobilization. But it is better not to talk about it because it can put them in danger. Everything has become so difficult, sad and precarious. In the meantime, we can resist inside the country itself! »
Some theater directors have put classics back on stage which, in the current context, have taken on another dimension. Such as this play by Bertolt Brecht where the line “don’t start the war if you can’t win it” has recently caused discomfort or applause depending on the public’s opinion.
moment of silence
Backstage, on stage and in the hall, “the show goes on as if nothing had happened…”, smiles the director of one of these large public theaters where, every evening, cultural All-Moscow meets in a atmosphere oscillating between enthusiasm and depression. “The vast majority of artists are against the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine. But we can’t say,” whispers his assistant who herself is considering leaving Russia. Out of “disgust at this war which is not ours”.
“I will stay in Russia until the day the risk of prison arises. For my children, I will leave”, warns for her part Irina who, a director in one of the few small independent theaters in Moscow, has in recent months added poems to her shows. “Anti-war verses! “, she enthuses.
She makes fun of the authorities who claimed that the smell in the Mariupol theater came from the remains of fish and not from the corpses of people who died under shelling, officially denied. “Every theater has a lot of fish,” she quips in her poem. “On the surface wander the decorated and the popular. Cold. Dumb. They swim in deep waters. The show ends with a long minute of silence.
Investigation of a Russian independent publisher
The Russian edition is beginning to bear the brunt of the “anti-LGBT propaganda” law, passed in November 2022, which provides for a fine for any person or organization promoting homosexuality in public, online, in a book, at the cinema… The independent publishing house Popcorn Books, which addresses gender and LGBT issues, is indeed the subject of an investigation by the Ministry of the Interior for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations”, according to the Reuters agency. after the filing of a complaint by the deputy Alexander Khinshtein. The latter, who revealed his approach on January 10, worked on the text of the law.