Rolling Stone: Kremlin Cracks Down on Moscow's Artists: 'The Life We Had Before the War

My own departure was peaceful enough. No one stopped me at the Finnish border. But on the day I was leaving Russia, probably by a coincidence, I received a text message with photos of my mother’s house in Moscow and my father’s house in St. Petersburg, with threats that I should walk carefully there, otherwise I might accidentally “slip and fall into the river.”

My case was the latest in a chain of attacks on the arts and free speech in Russia. Only a handful of directors are left in Moscow, in a once-thriving theater scene. The bombardment of Russia’s cultural world took place in less than half a year, leaving the Moscow audience without the artists they love. There is only one reason so many artists have left: It’s unsafe and dangerous to express a negative opinion of what Russian authorities call “a special operation,” and what the world calls an invasion.

If I knew that I would only go to jail in Russia, that they would not send me to kill or be killed on the front, I would have kept creating art in Russian theaters, factories, and basements. Now, I’m in exile in New York, studying at Columbia University, trying to find a way to stage plays again, and waking every night around 2 a.m. — morning in Moscow — trying to find some safe passages for colleagues in the Moscow art scene who have been left behind.

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How long before Russia follows Iran’s example?

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