Demonstration in front of the Gogol Center in Moscow following police raids and the detention of artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov. Photo: Dorian Batycka for Hyperallergic

Artists Protest Raid of Major Moscow Theater

The Moscow Times reports that the Gogol Center, a contemporary theater in Moscow, was raided this morning by police as part of an alleged embezzlement case involving $21,000. The police searched fifteen other addresses, in addition to the home of Kirill Serebrennikov, the theater’s artistic director, who was detained and is being questioned at an undisclosed location.

According to Dorian Batycka of Hyperallergic, the raids were carried out without a court order, and performers and the theater’s staff were not allowed to leave the premises.

Dozens of artists gathered to protest outside the theater shortly after the incident, and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov launched a petition calling for Serebrennikov’s release. Its signatories declare their support for the celebrated director and urge investigators to remain objective since Serebrennikov is known as a vocal critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“We know Kirill Serebrennikov as one of Russia’s brightest and best directors. He is an honest, fair, and open person,” Russian actress Chulpan Khamatov said as she addressed the crowd assembled outside the theater. “We want to express our full support for our colleagues and hope that no violence will be conducted against individuals involved in the investigations. We also admire the Gogol Center actors’ decision to perform tonight, not to cancel the play despite the sudden impediments.”

In 2015, the Gogol Center’s accounts were pored over by government officials. The head of Moscow’s culture department, Alexander Kibovsky, claims the theater has fallen into about $1.4 million worth of debt. The Moscow police have not yet released an official statement on the raids.