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Russia's Commissioner for Venice Biennale Fired for Political Column

Published: April 10, 2014 (Issue # 1805)



  • Former commissioner Grigory Revzin designed the award-winning 2012 pavilion on the theme of Skolkovo.
    Photo: Nico Saieh / Flickr

Grigory Revzin, an architectural critic who had been selected to curate Russia's pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale of Architecture, announced Monday night that he had been fired by direct order from Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.

"I just got a call from the Culture Ministry and was told that this morning Minister Medinsky personally decided to fire me," Revzin wrote on his Facebook page, adding that he believed the firing was due to a column he wrote for Lenta.ru on March 2 that criticized Russia's policy on Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the Culture Ministry announced that Semyon Mikhailovsky, head of the St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Art had been appointed to replace Revzin. Mikhailovsky does have prior experience organizing exhibitions, though he has not yet worked on a project on the same magnitude as the Venice Biennale, a world-renowned forum for architecture that receives considerable media attention.

"Semyon Mikhailovsky will replace Grigory Revzin, whose very active creative and journalistic work has recently prevented him from fully participating in the project, preparations for which are proceeding at full speed," Deputy Culture Minister Yelena Milovzorova said, Interfax reported.

Revzin, a historian and architectural critic, was first appointed commissioner of the Russian pavilion in 2010, and in 2012 he presented the Skolkovo project, for which he was awarded the Venice Prize, the second-place award for the biennale.

Revzin's column on Lenta.ru expressed surprise at Putin's decision to intervene in Ukrainian internal affairs, saying that "sending the military into Ukraine is a risk, a card game: the adventurous Saakashvili might play this way, but Putin what happened to him?"

The column further expressed a belief that any possible conflict in Ukraine would unite educated Russians against Putin. "War this is a transformation of all Western-leaning citizens that is, the absolute majority of successful, educated, self-sufficient city dwellers into a fifth column," Revzin wrote.

However, Revzin's column is not wholly critical of Putin's actions, and in fact expresses a certain amount of sympathy with the president's position, describing attempts to portray Putin's government as a reincarnation of Stalin's Russia as "fake," noting the wide divide between "millions of repressed individuals [under Stalin] and the seven sentenced in the Bolotnoye Case."

Lenta.ru itself has been pressured by the government in recent weeks, with long-time head Galina Timchenko forced out and replaced by Alexei Goreslavsky, the reputedly pro-Kremlin former head of Vzglyad.ru, after receiving an official warning about possible "extremism" charges. Following the change in leadership, at least 39 of Lenta.ru's staff members, including 32 journalists and all of its photo editing staff, quit in support of Timchenko.

With only three months remaining until the opening of the biennale, the change in leadership comes at an inopportune time. With Revzin's strong track record in the two biennales he previously managed, Mikhailovsky will have big boots to fill as he gets up to speed on plans for the coming season.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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