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Local Promoter Speaks Out Against Boycotts

With more international artists canceling concerts in Russia, Ilya Bortnyuk says they are only hurting their fans.

Published: May 7, 2014 (Issue # 1809)



  • U.S. band The National are the latest act to cancel their Russian concerts.
    Photo: A2

  • According to Bortnyuk, making a political statement at a concert would be more effective than simply canceling altogether.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

With a growing number of Western artists boycotting Russia in protest of its annexation of Crimea and destabilization in south-eastern Ukraine, a St. Petersburg concert promoter has spoken out against their actions, saying that these musicians are only hurting fans. Ilya Bortnyuk, whose agency Light Music has brought many international acts to St. Petersburg and organized the popular Stereoleto music festival since 2002, believes that boycotting targets the wrong people, with politicians left unaffected.

In fact, he believes that boycotting is actually helping Russian President Vladimir Putin further isolate Russia from the rest of the world.

Of course, its not right, Bortnyuk told The St. Petersburg Times in a recent interview. If they want to make a statement against the politics of Vladimir Putin or our state, they should do something that could really influence the situation or at least bring their message to those they are protesting against.

As a result, people who have nothing to do with it [the politics] in the least degree are the ones who are being punished. This is the main thing that I disagree with.

If you want to punish McDonalds, you dont buy their products. However, if you stop buying kebabs from a kebab stand nearby because of its proximity to McDonalds, it will not harm McDonalds at all. Even if there is an indirect link between them, its most likely that the people whom they are protesting against wont even know about it, thats what its about.

Bortnyuk founded Light Music in 2000. Since then, it has brought such acts as Sparks, Sonic Youth and Morrissey to the city and launched the annual Stereoleto festival in 2002. The upcoming Stereoleto festival, scheduled for July 12 and 13, will feature acts from Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Georgia, Cuba, France and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to Bortnyuk, the refusals from international artists to perform in Russia have become more frequent after the Federation Council voted unanimously on Mar. 1 to send Russian troops to Ukraine.

At least three artists have refused to come to Russia, one of which is quite well-known, he said. I also know a few other cases where artists have refused to come when approached by different promoters. So far, I dont know of any more cases of artists canceling already scheduled concerts, except for The National.

Last month, The National, one of Americas premier indie rock bands, canceled concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev, citing the current political climate as their reason.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Sept. 18


Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.



Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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