Press Release: Protests Against Gergiev and Matsuev Performances in New York

We are coordinators of “Signerbusters”, an international group, which engages in educating local communities about the ongoing aggression and war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine since 2014.Our educational campaigns are aimed at raising awareness of the US public and cultural institutions of the Russian hybrid soft power war against the US, as well as exposing the Russian cultural elite who openly and vocally supported the war.

We write to inform you about our upcoming protests against appearance of conductor Valery Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsuev at the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic. Gergiev and Matsuev are two of the staunchest supporters of the current Russian regime, open supporters of Russia’s ongoing aggression and war against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea which has caused immeasurable suffering and killed thousands of people in Ukraine. Both are leading Putin’s tools in using culture as a propaganda weapon in the West.

The reason for this protest is explained below.

In March 2014 Valery Gergiev and Denis Matsuev actively advocated for annexation of Crimea by Russia and joined a host of other Russian artists and cultural figures in signing an open letter in support of Russian President Putin’s policy of war, occupation and annexation in Ukraine and Crimea. That policy was condemned internationally by many countries including the United States.  

Being Putin’s confidant, Mr. Gergiev also became an Honorary Member of the Community Council at the Investigative Committee of Russia, federal government agency controlled by President Putin, which considered in today’s Russia, notorious for multiple human rights violations, as a new punitive body.

In 2017 Valery Gergiev received an award from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation “for works and creative projects that contribute to the militaristic-patriotic education of Russian citizens”. This is how he was gratified for his involvement in promoting wars in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria.

Denis Matsuev also is Putin’s confidante and supporter. He currently is a member of the working group tasked with drafting the constitutional changes.

Although both Gergiev and Matsuev are obviously involved in politics, they shamelessly repeat hypocritical statement that they keep their art separate from politics. The involvement of artistic intelligentsia into political actions of the government – signing the letter in support of annexation of Crimea – was clearly intended to whitewash military invasion of Ukraine in the eyes of Russian society. This type of propaganda campaign via “collective open letters” has a long tradition in Russia and is rooted in the USSR and Stalinism.

Designed to target mostly Russian audience, the letter was officially released in Russian only and has never been translated into any other language by Russian officials (the English translation linked here was made by one of our members.) Although Gergiev and Matsuev signed the letter willfully and voluntarily, they have no desire to appear to Western audience as the official supporters of annexation of Crimea and war promoters. On the contrary, they position themselves as messengers of peace through classical music.

It is worth noting that principal sponsors of Mariinsky Foundation of America SBERBANK and VTB are under US sanctions.

Press in the US has done some coverage of reputational and other damage of accepting or acquiescing to the “soft power” exerted in the United States by unsavory foreign regimes or outright corrupt powers. There is nothing new about foreign regimes’ buying influence and reputation by exerting such soft power: Goebbels and the Third Reich have been notorious for doing that, from hosting the 1936 Olympics in Berlin to financing Berlin Philharmonic’s tours abroad. There were two articles published by The New York Times in 2019 aimed to disclose more facts and information on the unsavory foreign donations as disguised means of exerting influence and such power.

We wish cultural venues in the US would come to an understanding that Putin’s Russia is actively using art and culture in waging a hybrid war against western moral and cultural values. Such powers are often exerted on some of the best and famous venues to provide access to those venues to Putin’s loyal cultural emissaries. While some of the venues in the US have started to refuse their appearances, we urge such iconic venues as Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra to stop supporting performances of openly politically tainted artists including Valery Gergiev, Denis Matsuev, Anna Netrebko, Hibla Gerzmava, Vladimir Spivakov, YuryBashmet and others. Their political actions and unequivocally damaged political reputation extend well beyond their musical activities.

We find this involvement of arts into politics, especially to support war, aggression and a large-scale devastation, absolutely unacceptable in the modern civilized world. Our protests, held internationally, are ethical rather than political. They are intended to inform the international community of hypocrisy, cynicism, and unscrupulousness of the signers of that disgraceful letter, with whose sincere blessings thousands are dying, hundreds of thousands are injured, millions are displaced, and human rights of tens of millions are violated.




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