Category: Uncategorized

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.

S I G N E R B U S T E R S

 

Journalists, Our Movement Needs Your Powerful Word!

Dear Canadian and American Journalists,

I am Anna Filonenko, a Chicagoland resident, a member of Ukrainian community and your former colleague, writing to you to bring you attention to a hypocritical and dangerous event about to happen in your countries in March. The La Maison Symphonique in Montreal, Canada, The Metropolitan Opera House and David Geffen Hall in New York, USA, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, USA have invited Valeriy Gergiev to perform on their stages, underestimating the true mission of this Russian propagandist. Gerviev, along with other leading 510 Russian cultural figures, signatories of the notorious letter in support of Putin’s anti-Ukrainian politics, uses his talent and glory to whitewash Kremlin’s crimes: wars in Ukraine and Syria, annexation of Crimea, parts of Moldova and Georgia, violent riots on European streets, election meddling in the USA…you name them, it’s a long list. But despite the intensity and degree of Putin’s crimes, his authority and power remains solid in the eyes of the general public. The Kremlin spends tons of money, hundreds of millions dollars on Big propaganda, Russian famous “The Firehose of Falsehood”. Gergiev is one of Putin’s soldiers of spreading misinformation about true deeds of the Russian Federation. 

I am from the industrial region of Ukraine. I was born in one day, year and city with the current Ukrainian President Zelensky. I spent my school years in a small town of coal miners near Donbas, and graduated from Dnipropetrovsk National University with a Journalism degree, where I was taught the power and appreciation of the Word and to become Ukrainian. Yes, after spending my childhood under a strong prorussian Donbass influence, only in my 20s I first realized my country’s and own true identity, culture, and history. That’s what Ukrainians, Belorussians, Estonians… other post-Soviet people feel and urge to educate neighbors, colleagues, friends about the falsehood Russia is soooo excellent at. 

Are we heard? Chicago journalist Howard Reich wrote in his memoirs “Prisoner of Her Past”: “The World could not bear to hear their stories, society at large making it clear to survivors that they simply get on with their lives” about the tragedy of the Eastern European Jews. Mr. Reich was so right, pointing at this defensive mechanism our suppressed and unheard minds do and it can be applied to all survivors of Totalitarian regimes. I’ve run away and can observe “Donbas” from a safe distance now, in Loznitsa’s movie, for instance. I’ve run away, but cannot simply get on with my life, watching how Russia spreads its influence across the ocean, under Gergiev’s cover, for instance. I am an American with a Ukrainian heritage, a living witness of what Russia truly does if it gets a silent permission to. The New York Times did a great job describing how The Kremlin incorporates Russian cultural figures into propaganda, into the Cold War II against Western Society and Democratic values.

The New York Times: Oligarchs, as U.S. Arts Patrons, Present a Softer Image of Russia

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

“The smear job on Chrystia Freeland is only the start. Canada is a logical next target in Moscow’s clandestine war”- said a Canadian journalist Scott Gilmore about his country’s potential threat.

It is incomprehensible that The La Maison Symphonique, The Metropolitan Opera House and  New York Philharmonic David Geffen Hall, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra have invited such a notorious person to the Canadian and American land, the land of Freedom and Democracy. Arts Against Aggression movement followers and concerned citizens asked those venues to cancel Gergiev’s concerts, to stop his hypocritical performances and Orchestras’ shameful involvement. Those concerts in March will stain our true cultural treasures’ reputation heavily. I hope the iconic venues value their names and would do everything to prevent this mistake from happening. I hope this matter gets your, Journalists, attention. Our movement needs your powerful Word.

Thanks in advance,

Anna Filonenko 

Press Release: Artists of War and Aggression Make Cultural Venues Worry About Reputational Damage (by Arts Against Aggression)

Since 2014 “Arts Against Aggression” engages in educating local communities about the ongoing aggression and war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. 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 update you on the recently concluded US tour of musician Igor Butman, one of the staunchest supporters of the current Russian regime, an open supporter 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. In March 2014 Mr. Butman was one of the signatories of an open letter in support of Russian President Putin’s policy of war, occupation and annexation in Ukraine and Crimea[1]. That policy was condemned internationally by many countries including the United States.

Mr. Butman, a US citizen, is a member of Putin’s “United Russia” party and has shown such undivided loyalty to the Russian regime as to advance and become a member of the Supreme Council of the party together with the highest ruling Russian “nomenklatura”.  US citizen Butman openly spoke of his disregard of the American oath of allegiance, saying that everyone says those words at naturalization and the reason he became US citizen was visa free travel.  US citizen Butman also served as President Putin’s reelection confidant during the Russian presidential campaign. Mr. Butman has made no secret of his performances in Crimea, possibly in violation of the US Presidential executive order imposing sanctions on the Russian-occupied region and prohibiting exports of US goods and services there.

In an eerie resemblance with the rewards the leaders of the Third Reich lavished on artists and musicians who openly collaborated with their regime, US citizen Butman’s loyalty to Putin’s Russian regime of war and aggression has been lavishly rewarded. As a few examples, his orchestra, as well as his newly opened Jazz Academy in Moscow, are funded by the Russian government.

By the time Mr. Butman started his US tour in 2020, his reputation has been already damaged to the extent that several jazz clubs canceled his scheduled US performances (such as Regatta Bar in Boston, the Blue Llama in Ann Arbor, and the Promontory club in Chicago) and cut short his whole tour. Those cancellations were the result of the coordinated educational campaigns of the “Arts Against Aggression” activists who wrote letters to the owners, managers and patrons of those venues and clubs, as well as to the media, informing them of the possible reputational damage of providing their venues to Mr. Butman. [2]

From the very beginning of Mr. Butman’s 2020 US tour in New York, his performances were greeted by four consecutive days of sustained protests and educational campaigns by our sister group Signerbusters. Dozens of people who had tickets to the performances decided not to attend, and some of them even choose to join the protesters. Mr. Butman dismissed the protestors as “not really adequate[3]. After New York performances, Mr. Butman’s next stop was Washington DC.

During his performance at the Russian Embassy in Washington, US citizen Butman made no secret that his US tour was a part of the Russian propaganda machine which used government-owned media platforms to announce and promote Mr. Butman’s US tour. For example, Russia Today, a propaganda channel registered as foreign agent in the US, ran an interview with Mr. Butman as a part of the promotional campaign of his tour[4].

Protests against Mr. Butman’s appearances continued in Boston where Jewish Educational and Cultural Center Makor gave him a venue after the Regatta Bar cancellation. As reported by The Boston Globe, Mr. Butman and attendees of his Boston show were greeted by «The real price of Russian Jazz” installation, a life-sized cardboard cutout of President Putin and visually striking stand-ins for Putin’s victims: free press, civil rights, freedom of expression, minority rights, free and fair elections, and the Constitution[5]. The installation emphasized that most of the price for this and other performances by Mr. Butman was paid by Russia’s civil society.

It is worth noting that Mr. Butman has repeatedly stated he is just a musician, that he brings his jazz music to people and that he does not engage in politics. This is shamelessly hypocritical, of course, because the principle of keeping art separate from politics may be a good one under democratic regimes and in peacetime, but, as Mr. Butman’s example demonstrates, it cannot function in an authoritarian reign of brutality and war.

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. Two such articles were published by The Boston Globe in 2014 and 2017 on the Putin supporter’s recitals in Boston[6],[7]. There were two later 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 [8],[9].

For the first time since 2014 cultural venues in the US have 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, Yury Bashmet and others. Their political actions and unequivocally damaged political reputation extend well beyond their musical activities.

[1] The website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation: https://www.mkrf.ru/press/news/deyateli-kultury-rossii-v-podderzhku-pozitsii-prezidenta-po-ukraine-i-krymu20171009103201 .

An English translation is available here: https://russianartists4war.com/letter/ , Mr. Butman is signatory #63.

[2] Cambridge Day: Regattabar shouldn’t give time to Butman, Putin supporter, member of United Russia

http://www.cambridgeday.com/2019/12/09/regattabar-shouldnt-give-time-to-butman-putin-supporter-member-of-united-russia/

[3] Urdu Point: Russian Jazz Legend Butman Denounces Protest Against His Concert In Boston https://www.urdupoint.com/en/world/russian-jazz-legend-butman-denounces-protest-828695.html

[4] RT America: Russian-born jazz virtuoso Igor Butman discusses US-Russia relations and the power of music https://www.rt.com/shows/news-with-rick-sanchez/480090-news-with-rick-sanchez-february/

[5] The Boston Globe: Russian saxophonist met with protests in Brooklinehttps://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/02/13/lifestyle/pro-putin-saxophonist-igor-butman-met-with-protesters-brookline/

[6] The Boston Globe: Russian musicians’ support for Putin not playing wellhttps://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/style/2014/06/13/pro-putin-classical-performers-facing-music-abroad/0wvZRpjd0hfzEmdMK3OWAN/story.html

[7] The Boston Globe: Pro-Putin musicians to face protests at Boston concert https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2017/05/31/pro-putin-musicians-face-protests-boston-concert/68dzMVAUBK8VHCRhkXMH8O/story.html

[8] The New York Times: Oligarchs, as U.S. Arts Patrons, Present a Softer Image of Russia https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/06/arts/russia-oligarchs-arts.html

[9] The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/06/arts/american-university-russian-influence.html

Putin’s Booster at the Blue Note Jazz Club in January/February 2020.

To: Danny Bensunan, CEO, The Blue Note Jazz Club
Dear Mr. Bensunan,

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that the Blue Note Jazz Club has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, the Blue Note is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

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In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

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To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

The Blue Note  is a well-known and respected venue in New York City. We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play music that for close to a century has been a symbol of freedom of expression and respectfully call on you to reconsider allowing Mr. Butman to perform at your venue.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

09C25006-7924-4692-AE20-D802C02FD246.jpeg

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict

International War Crimes Supporter at Keystone Korner on February 6, 2020.

To: Todd Barkan, Manager, Keystone Korner


Dear Mr. Barkan,

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that Keystone Korner has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, Keystone Korner is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

1F8998F3-3290-4AF7-B568-4C61BF8ABC4D

In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

DEE3D039-6B56-4F57-B753-8566C6EEC1B4

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

The Keystone  is a well-known and respected venue in Baltimore. We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play music that for close to a century has been a symbol of freedom of expression and respectfully call on you to reconsider allowing Mr. Butman to perform at your venue.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

09C25006-7924-4692-AE20-D802C02FD246.jpeg

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict

Arts Against Aggression to protest Putin’s Booster at Center Makor (Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline) on February 12, 2020

Vladimir Foygelman, Jewish Educational & Cultural Center Makor President and CEO

Dear Mr. Foygelman:

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that Center Makor has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, Center Makor is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

1F8998F3-3290-4AF7-B568-4C61BF8ABC4D

In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

DEE3D039-6B56-4F57-B753-8566C6EEC1B4

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play at the center that claims its mission to be integration of Russian-speaking Jews with the mainstream Jewish community, a community that is overwhelmingly opposed to Russian assault on Western values and institutions. While we regret that your actions leave us no other choice, we are hereby informing you that we intend to stage a creative art-protest against Mr. Butman on the day of his performance at Center Makor on February 12, 2020.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

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About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict