NEW YORK—Russian authorities’ raid on renowned theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov is demonstrative of an intensifying trend of persecutions of artistic figures the government cannot control, PEN America said in a statement today.

On Tuesday, Russian police and security agents briefly detained Kirill Serebrennikov, award-winning theater and film director and artistic director of the Gogol Center. Officials raided the center and Serebrennikov’s home, citing a dubious embezzlement accusation related to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization run by Serebrennikov from 2011 to 2014. The accusation stems from a 2015 request by Art Without Borders, a pro-Kremlin foundation, for an investigation into “obscene language, propaganda of immoral behavior, and pornography” found in state-funded theater productions, according to Russian news and culture website Meduza.

“Using bogus financial charges like embezzlement, Russian authorities have increasingly targeted cultural figures and institutions like Kirill Serebrennikov in an effort to silence art and expression on themes the government finds distasteful,” said Polina Kovaleva, program manager for Russia and Eurasia at PEN America. “That the attack on expression in Russia’s bid for control of its people has extended to include the theater threatens to completely close Russia’s already shrinking space for artistic expression.”

In 2015, Serebrennikov announced that he would not take part in the state-sponsored Golden Mask theater festival, explaining on Facebook that he did not want his “performances to be watched and evaluated by people who wrote a lot of vile denunciations and libels about me and the theater in which I serve.” In October 2016, Serebrennikov backed fellow director Konstantin Raikin, who drew the world’s attention with a bold public speech decrying artistic censorship in Russia.

In December 2015, PEN America released Discourse in Danger: Attacks On Free Expression In Putin’s Russia, a groundbreaking report on the expanding reach of the Russian government’s restrictions on free expression onto other cultural spaces and modes of expression, including social activism, scholarship, art, and theater. 

###

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
Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1 646.779.4830