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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

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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