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06. April 2005

Von Moskau bis Grosny

A manifest from international culturally active people for cultural freedom.

For cultural freedom, from Moscow to Groznyy

The „Etudes Sans Frontières” („Studies without Borders”

The organization´s first and foremost mission concerns the students from Groznyy (their arrival in Paris and the development of cultural and educational projects in this city). On the occasion of the year of Russia in Paris´s „Salon du Livre” (Book Show), we have decided to dedicate one day to the cultural liberties, from Moscow to Groznyy, on Sunday, March 20th in the W gallery (44 rue Lepic, Abesses). We would be delighted to see you participate in this special day and most honored if you would kindly sign the manifesto that we want to release prior to the event. Sincerely yours, Raphaël Glucksmann. The manifest was amongst others signed by: Isabelle Adjani, Jane Birkin, Norbert Blüm, Elena Bonner, Pierre Boulez, Andrea Breth, Jean Michel Carré, Patrice Chéreau, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, André Glucksmann, Jean-Luc Godard, Xenia Hausner, Jack Lang, Bernard Henri Lévy, Elisabeth Orth, Michel Piccoli, Willi Resetarits, Bettina Rheims, Robert Schindel, Jorge Semprun, Mario Vargas Llosa The complete list of the signees can be found here. Text of the manifest: For cultural freedom, from Moscow to Groznyy The Parisian Book Show celebrates this week the year of Russia. Because we admire the Russian culture, its literature, its paintings, its music and its cinema that brought so much to the European culture, we, artists and writers of France and elsewhere, seize this opportunity to renew our support to the freedom of speech and of creation in Russia. These liberties are being threatened today by the return to dogmas and practices that we hoped had disappeared. In June 2002, the „Putin´s Youths” launched their campaign against the so-called „bog-literature” by setting up huge toilet pans in front of the Bolchoi Theatre in Moscow. The public was then invited to dump Vladimir Sorokin‚s books in them. The „purifiers” anathema also hit the works of Pelevin, Erofeev, Chirianov and even the impure Karl Marx. „When you burn books, you end up burning men" wrote the poet Heinrich Heine prophetically. What happens when you throw them down the „bog”? How not to worry when young „orthodox patriots" destroy the works of ”satanic” artists within the Sakharov Museum‚s walls? How not to be surprised that the organizers of the exhibition are brought to trial instead of the vandals? They are accused of „incitation to religious and racial hatred”. The judiciary expert statement proclaims that the presented works were an „insult” to the orthodoxy and the State. Other artists are being prosecuted for the „subversive” installations they presented during the very recent bi-yearly Contemporaneous Art Show in Moscow. What room is there left in Vladimir Putin´s Russia for creation and protest? Is the Russian free culture once again doomed to dissidence? In this „new Russia”, hatred of the other, of his religion and his culture is a cancer that plagues society as well as the State. Some representatives in the Duma have just signed a letter calling for the prohibition of Jewish cultural and religious organizations. The hunt for Caucasians has become a national sport. A movement for the nation‚s unification around the traditional „State Church Homeland” triptych is threatening the freedom of speech in general and of artistic expression in particular. The same drift reaches its peak in the undertaking of systematic destruction of the Chechen people and its culture, followed „down to the bog!” by the Kremlin troops since 1999. From Puchkin and Lermontov to Soljenitsyn, not to forget Tolstoi, a number of great Russian writers saw in the rebelliousness of the Caucasian people a horizon of freedom for the Russians themselves. „The Gulag´s Archipelago” celebrates the Chechens‚ culture of resistance: „There is a nation upon which the psychology of submission had no effect; not just isolated individuals, rebels, no, a whole nation. It is the Chechens‚” This atavistic insubordination is regularly being punished by this very power that imprisons the artists considered as rebels. Its cinemas, theatres, museums and its rebel spirit earned Groznyy its nickname as „the Caucasian Paris”. Groznyy has been eradicated from the map with impunity and in a quasi-general indifference. Chechnya has become a ghetto. In this prison, the Chechen culture is threatened with destruction. Today, a people without culture might disappear and become the target of all fanaticisms, these eternal enemies of art and creation. We, artists and writers of France and elsewhere, seize the opportunity of the Year of Russia at the Parisian Book Show to say that a Europe that allows for total destruction of a culture at her doors is not the Europe we are dreaming of, the Europe in which we want to write, create or simply live.


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