(New York, NY) — Russian police have launched an audit of a Moscow-based underground theater, according to Russian-language media reports. In a statement today, PEN America said the investigation into Teatr.Doc is yet another attempt by the Russian government to censor critical artistic voices.

The inquiry was prompted by a member of parliament who sent a complaint to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and a state prosecutor’s office, accusing the theater company of engaging in anti-Russia propaganda. That MP, chair of the Duma’s Culture Committee Elena Yampolskaya, later said she merely forwarded a complaint from “concerned citizens.”

“The artists at Teatr.Doc, who have already suffered after the recent deaths of two of their founders, are now forced to suffer through an entirely fabricated investigation,” said PEN America’s Eurasia project director Polina Kovaleva. “This is a vile, unconstitutional attack that is meant to cast a chill across Russia’s artistic community. The continued persecution of Teatr.Doc as well as the theater project Seventh Studio are unwarranted and should halt immediately.”

Russian police are said to be investigating the company for any signs of alleged “propaganda” related to terrorism, drugs, or supposed “gay propaganda.” Teatr.Doc has staged a number of productions that have drawn the ire of its critics, including the show Coming Out about the challenges of being gay in Russia. Another production, War Is Near, addresses the ongoing Ukraine war and the case against filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, recipient of the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award who spent five years in a Russian prison on bogus terror-related charges. Teatr.Doc also produced a show called Rave 228, exploring the lives of people who use drugs and the state’s draconian measures for dealing with people suffering from substance abuse disorders.

PEN America has been closely following attacks of artistic freedom in Russia and advocating on behalf of persecuted artists and writers such as Oleg Sentsov, Kirill Serebrennikov, and Pavel Ustinov. PEN America also leads the Artists at Risk Connection, a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892