in Russia, opponents of war armed themselves with verse

In the heart of Moscow, this basement-turned-theatre is the stage. And poetry is his weapon. Oppose ” war “the word first used by the head of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, late last year, but “the word that can not be spoken”, warns Igor’s input. This is the title of the poem. This young Muscovite was one of the novice poets invited that evening to recite his verses.

Here, as elsewhere in Russia, since the start of “special operations” in Ukraine, according to official statements, the law threatens legal action against public opinion deemed critical, with a penalty of up to fifteen years in prison. “Opposing war, to say it loud and clear, is dangerous in our country. Our audience is small but you never know who will come to infiltrate and listen to us…”grinned Varvara, one of the organizers of this poetic evening.

On this cold Friday evening, on an improvised stage not far from the bust of Pushkin, a poet revered by the entire nation, Igor barely concealed his nervousness. Big white letters scrawled across his black T-shirt seem to give him strength when performing in the spotlight: ” Freedom. “

But it is the other words that form the framework of his poem, the war that has weighed down like the sword of Damocles since last February. “Originally, there was that word.But this word is the end”cried the young man, your voice strong and clear. “This word, we all raised it, fed. We made his bed. But if we release it, we can’t keep it anymore (…). It’s terrible to say this word. I will be punished for saying it. Did you see those four damn horses galloping? »

“Poetry makes it possible to say in verse what is forbidden in prose”

For both Igor and the organizers, a poetic evening is an act of resistance. Common over the years, they have taken on a new dimension over the last few months. “Many of our young poets left the country; some have been caught, others are afraid. Poetry helps to go through this period, to understand what we feel. It makes it possible to sublimate, to say in verse what is prohibited in prose, to circumvent the law., confided Varvara, the organizer of the evening. Prudence and discretion are needed, necessary precautions in these times of repression. That’s why junction prefer to quote it anonymously.

“We have become underground pacifists”just as ironically as Maria, a well-known actress on one of the big stages of the Russian capital. “When there is war, at least there is culture! I am against this conflict and against Putin’s Kremlin. But it’s important to keep performing.”he said, adding that many male colleagues had fled the country in fear of mobilization. But it’s better not to talk about it because it can harm them. Everything became so difficult, sad and precarious. Meanwhile, we can fight at home! »

Some theater directors have returned to the stage classics which, in the current context, have taken on another dimension. Like this work by Bertolt Brecht where is the replica “Don’t start a war if you can’t win it” recently caused disquiet or applause depending on public opinion.

moment of silence

Behind the scenes, on stage and in the hall, “The show goes on as if nothing had happened…”the director of one of these great public theaters smiles, where, every evening, All-Moscow culture meets in an atmosphere oscillating between enthusiasm and depression. “Most of the artists oppose the Kremlin’s attack on Ukraine. But we don’t know “, attacked his assistant who, herself, was planning to leave Russia. Through “disgust at this war that is not ours”.

“I will stay in Russia until the day the prison risk arises. For the sake of my children, I will go”cautions for its part Irina who, a director in one of Moscow’s few small independent theaters, has in recent months added poetry to her performances. “Anti-war verses! »he was enthusiastic.

He mocked the authorities for claiming that the smell in the Mariupol theater came from fish remains and not from the bodies of people who died under shelling, which was officially denied. “Each theater has a lot of fish”he quipped in his poetry. “On decorated and popular surfaces wander. Cold. Stupid. They swim in deep waters. The show ended in a long silence.


Russian independent publisher investigation

The Russian edition is starting to bear the brunt of the “anti-LGBT propaganda” law, passed in November 2022, which stipulates fines for anyone or an organization that promotes homosexuality in public, online, in books, in cinemas…Independent publisher Popcorn Books that raised gender and LGBT issues have indeed become the subject of an investigation by the Ministry of Home Affairs for “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations”, according to Reuters, following the filing of a complaint by lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein. The latter, who revealed his approach on January 10, is working on the text of the law.

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