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Vladimir Putin’s Longtime Ally Valery Gergiev Appointed Head of Bolshoi Theatre

By Sara Schabas on December 4, 2023

Valery Gergiev
Valery Gergiev (Photo: Mil.ru)

Conductor Valery Gergiev was announced on Friday as the new head of Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre.

What’s Up: On Friday, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow announced that the conductor Valery Gergiev will become the institution’s new general director. Gergiev already leads the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, giving him control over the two main bastions of Russian classical music culture.

Refresher: Valery Gergiev, 67, has been an ally of Vladimir Putin’s since the 1990s. He has appeared in television campaigns supporting Putin and publicly expressed his support of Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Gergiev has refused to denounce the war in Ukraine, leading to his blacklisting from the many international orchestras and opera houses where he once conducted. He replaces conductor Vladimir Urin, who has led the Bolshoi since 2013.

Digging Deeper: Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, many Russian cultural figures opposing the war have been removed from their posts. The head of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts was recently replaced. Conductor Vladimir Urin’s future has been tenuous since his name appeared on a public petition expressing opposition to the war in Ukraine. Some believe Putin’s wish to have singular, allied control over arts institutions emphasizes his Russian imperialist agenda.

Sara Schabas
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