Prominent Russian Director Is Convicted of Embezzlement

“Today, we must focus solely on the fate of one of the most important contemporary theater artists,” he said. “The trial, and especially the way it has been conducted over the years, must trigger a worldwide storm of protest, that will hopefully last for a long time,” he added.

Other Moscow directors, too, had staged performances with nudity, politically hued plots and veiled or open criticism of life in Russia under Mr. Putin — leaving the precise reasons for the crackdown on Mr. Serebrennikov vague.

The effect, Pavel Lungin, a movie director, said in an interview, has been a broad chill.

“We tried to explain it to ourselves,” he said. “‘Maybe this is because of the homosexuality,’ or ‘maybe this is because of the contemporary art.’” But the real lesson of the case, he said, was a blunt warning to the country’s cultural elite. It was, he said, “that we can imprison anybody, whether they are guilty or not.”

In a closing statement earlier this week, Mr. Serebrennikov had blamed the security services and a “culture of loyalty” at the Ministry of Culture for his prosecution.

“Everything sometime will become clear, when the archives of the special services are opened and we understand who gave the order, who invented this case, who fabricated it, who wrote the denunciations,” he said.

In the meantime, he said, it was clear enough that the contemporary art troupe he founded, with “its confluence of genres, bright and unusual, turned out to be essentially foreign to the entire system of culture bureaucracy.”

The case, he said, was not about accounting but “changes in the social climate” in Russia. “I don’t regret at all the years of my life I dedicated to art in Russia, although it brought hardship, repression and slander. I’m very proud of every day.”


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