Putin once saw advantage in giving writers a degree of freedom, even to be critical. Those days are long gone, and Russia’s artists are fleeing
As much as Russia is the country of Tolstoy and Rachmaninov, it is also the country of Stalin and the Lubyanka prison – a nation built as much on beauty as it is on the blood of its people. Russians cherish their cultural history just as strongly as people cherish ours in Britain. And yet historically, to be creative in Russia is to incur a significant risk, for an act of creation is also an act of freedom.
In the years of the Soviet Union, speaking one’s mind might mean being taken to a windowless room and then to Siberia. Today, Russians can – and do – face the same kind of danger for speaking out against Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. In the words of Pyotr Stolypin: “In Russia, every 10 years everything changes, and nothing changes in 200 years.”…