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Friends in low places

Russian amateur theaters and their sponsors, 1970‑1983
Les amis « du bas de l’échelle » : Les théâtres amateurs russes et leurs sponsors, 1970‑1983
Susan Costanzo
p. 565-588

Résumés

Cet article étudie les relations des théâtres amateurs novateurs dans les villes de la République russe avec les sponsors locaux dans les clubs, les départements culturels et au Komsomol. Les organisations au niveau du rajon, de la ville ou de l’oblast´ jouissaient d’une grande liberté en matière culturelle et recouraient aux services des amateurs pour atteindre les objectifs annuels. Le théâtre amateur a constitué une importante composante des activités culturelles là où il n’y avait pas ou peu de théâtres professionnels. C’est dans ce climat que les amateurs populaires ont forgé des relations symbiotiques avec ces amis « du bas de l’échelle ». Leur soutien mutuel a engendré des productions novatrices qui ont renforcé la vie culturelle locale et parfois même défié les priorités centrales. La pièce d’Aleksandr Volodin, Dve strely, produite au Maneken de Čeljabinsk et celle d’Evgenij Švarc, Drakon, à Moscou et à Leningrad constituent quelques exemples spécifiques de ces productions.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 TsGA Moskvy (Tsentral´nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv goroda Moskvy), f. 118, Otdel kul´tury Gagarinskog (...)

1At a January 1983 meeting of the culture committee of Moscow’s Gagarin raion (urban district) soviet, Valerii Beliakovich announced that his amateur troupe had recently premiered Eugène Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros. Like other absurdist dramas, it was “not recommended” for performances and had never been staged in the Soviet Union, but Beliakovich nonetheless did not hide his transgression. His listeners included low‑level governmental officials with responsibilities for cultural oversight, and one would expect them to express misgivings. But the transcript does not record any concerns, and performances continued.1 This acquiescence suggests the possibility that theater directors and supportive local officials could disregard Ministry of Culture and Communist Party restrictions on the arts. And they did so right in Moscow, a metro ride from the Kremlin. Given this proximity, it would not be surprising to find similar examples farther away in other cities where the Kremlin’s gaze did not easily penetrate.

  • 2 For the argument that they were hidden and uncensored, see V.N. Dmitrievskii, “Sotsial´nyi zakaz – (...)

2Indeed, the Soviet Union was dotted with innovative amateur troupes, here defined as those amateurs who were attempting to create high‑quality productions with a distinctive approach to either text or technique or both. They were neither hidden nor uncensored.2 Amateurs rarely avoided censorship, and they operated within official cultural institutions. Some innovative amateurs developed national reputations and won prestigious awards, while contributing to local and national theatrical developments in ways that sometimes contradicted central priorities. This study asks how they did so. Most amateur groups were content to produce plays that either supported Communist Party priorities or entertained spectators with light‑hearted escapism. These more numerous groups provided fodder for condescending assumptions that amateurs were innately inferior to professional work. Such attitudes may have initially shielded innovative amateurs from external scrutiny. But this larger group is not addressed here, although they faced many of the same challenges and opportunities. This analysis also does not attempt to provide a comprehensive picture of innovative amateurs of this era, and for the most part, their relationships with the professional realm are not explored here.

  • 3 For simplicity’s sake, I use “clubs” when referring to clubs, houses of culture, and palaces of cul (...)
  • 4 For an analysis of the impact of the Prague invasion on innovative Soviet amateurs, see Susan Costa (...)

3National cultural officials delegated oversight of most professional theaters to government and party organizations at the oblast´ or city level. Amateurs ranked lower, and their control was typically shunted further to clubs,3 raion culture departments, and local Komsomols. After a central crackdown on amateurs after the invasion of Prague in 1968 that lasted until late 1969, “stability” reigned for amateurs, much like other Soviet institutions in the Brezhnev era.4 Local organizations had discretion in cultural matters, and they needed amateurs’ services. In this environment, popular amateurs forged symbiotic relationships with these friends in low places who shared assumptions regarding the importance of theater. Their mutual support led to innovative productions that enhanced local cultural life but sometimes defied central priorities, and some local decisions had consequences on the national level. Not all local officials were lenient with amateurs, but the focus here is on the positive outcomes rather than the demoralizing struggles for artists from 1970 to 1983, although both were significant.

  • 5 Jerry F. Hough, The Soviet Prefects : The Local Party Organs in Industrial Decision‑making (Cambrid (...)
  • 6 Edwin Bacon, “Brezhnev Reconsidered,” in Edwin Bacon and Mark Sandle, eds., Brezhnev Reconsidered ( (...)
  • 7 Examples include William Taubman, Governing Soviet Cities : Bureaucratic Politics and Urban Develop (...)
  • 8 Stephen V. Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw : Experience and Memory in Moscow’s Arbat ( (...)

4A study of amateurs and their supervisors expands the understanding of urban lives and cultural developments at the time. This analysis takes as its starting point Jerry Hough’s work on “Soviet prefects,” party leaders at the oblast´ level and below who were responsible for implementation of central policies. He emphasizes their highest priorities : economics and industry. Hough notes other concerns, including law and order and ideology, but argues that lapses in these matters usually did not affect an individual’s career.5 Subsequent political science scholarship suggests that the prefects’ power grew enormous in the 1970s as long as they played by certain rules.6 This work illuminates the operations of local politics but has little to say about the impact on cultural activities.7 As study of the era shifted toward historians, cultural concerns predominate, and cities outside the Russian Republic have been included in an effort to address questions of ethnicity.8 They reveal that Moscow leaders undermined regional authority when they associated the region with ethnic or security risks. Although this recent work adds an important dimension to studies of urban life, this study of amateur theater incorporates a number of Russian cities that were not identified with “bourgeois nationalism” and threats to Russian hegemony. The absence of these complications does not suggest that the Russian experiences were more typical or more important, but they strengthen our understanding of the variety of urban experiences.

  • 9 Aleksandr Gershkovich, Teatr na Taganke (1964‑1984) (M. : “Soliaris,” 1993) ; Birgit Beumers, Yury (...)

5The study of amateurs not only allows a means to integrate cultural developments into analyses of cities themselves and their relationships with the center during the Brezhnev era. It also facilitates a more nuanced picture of cultural developments. Studies of the arts and censorship emphasize professional artists in Moscow and Leningrad. Amateur productions may seem uninspiring alongside the achievements of innovative and provocative professional theaters of the era. Best known are the most acclaimed Leningrad and Moscow directors : Iurii Liubimov, Georgii Tovstonogov, Oleg Efremov, and Anatolii Efros. Their efforts to move the theater away from ossified socialist realist theater incorrectly attributed to Konstantin Stanislavkii’s ideas rightly dominate the scholarship, but scholars usually do not include provincial theaters and rarely acknowledge amateurs’ contributions.9 An analysis of amateurs does not presume that their achievements rivaled these professionals, nor does it want to suggest that amateurs were unique or superior to provincial theaters, although in some cases they were equally popular in spite of their lower funding and status. Instead, they shared a single but diverse theatrical landscape.

  • 10 Dina R. Spechler, Permitted Dissent in the USSR : Novy mir and the Soviet Regime (New York : Praege (...)
  • 11 Zezina, Khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia ; Zorkaia, Khudozhestvennaia zhizn´ ; Mark Sandle, “A Tri (...)
  • 12 L.A. Bulavka, “Khudozhnik i vlast´ : vzgliad skvoz´ prizmu ‘zastoia’ [The artist and power : a look (...)

6Along with the emphasis on professionals, scholars tend to rely on binaries to explain the tensions in the cultural sphere, especially from the early 1970s : party against artists ; liberals against conservatives ; intelligentsia or conformists.10 As scholars have begun to challenge the label of “stagnation,” recent studies of the Brezhnev era have questioned these conventional oppositions. Some scholars have argued that censorship was worse in the 1970s than in the 1960s but did not prevent the evolution and growing diversity of content, styles, and techniques.11 Liudmila Bulavka examines the prevailing mythology of the relationship between artists and Soviet power. Arguing against the “absolute antinomy in which ‘the artist’ is from god and ‘the power’ is from the devil,” she suggests that only careful study of the details of a given case reveals the complexities of the diverse relationships. She posits “dialogue and cooperation” as one possible outcome.12 This partnership was common for some amateur theaters.

The role of amateur theaters in urban cultural life

  • 13 E. Anthony Swift, Popular Theater and Society in Tsarist Russia (Berkeley : University of Californi (...)
  • 14 RGANI (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv noveishchei istorii), f. 11, Komissiia TsK KPSS po voprosa (...)

7Amateur theaters had been a fixture on the Russian cultural scene since the tsarist era. As Anthony Swift has shown, popular theater in the second half of the nineteenth century offered a vehicle for various elite groups – intellectuals, factory owners, and temperance societies – to try to mold the broader populace. These groups had differing priorities and sometimes faced governmental opposition, but they shared an anti‑commercial outlook and objected to theaters as mere entertainment.13 In the Soviet era state and party cultural bureaucracies maintained a kind of super‑paternalism that encompassed the pre‑revolutionary “bourgeois” goals in an effort to influence public behavior and values.14

  • 15 On Soviet amateur theaters prior to World War two, see Lynn Mally, Culture of the Future : the Prol (...)

8Amateur theaters represented a dynamic force in the early Communist era, but like professional companies, they were mostly confined to multi‑act, realist dramas by the late 1930s.15 If professionals were expected to emphasize their responsibility to offer works of “art,” such as it was with the restrictions of socialist realism, amateurs were usually pigeon‑holed into the role of providing artistic education (vospitanie) so that the general public would become informed spectators of professional “art.” As a result, amateur theater ranked low in the cultural pecking order, and oversight was left to local sponsoring organizations, often clubs affiliated with a raion, institute or factory. Sponsors provided meager funding : a salary for the director and episodic money for costumes and sets. Casts performed gratis, and all troupes were prohibited from selling tickets until 1959. In effect, troupes seemed to have no budget and little independence.

  • 16 Anne White, De‑Stalinization and the House of Culture : Declining state control over leisure in the (...)
  • 17 Quoted in Blair Ruble, Soviet Trade Unions : Their Development in the 1970s (Cambridge : Cambridge (...)
  • 18 Valerii Beliakovich, Interview, Moscow, 19 October 1991. All interviews were conducted by the autho (...)
  • 19 PAIO (Partiinyi arkhiv Ivanovoskoi oblasti), f. 327, Obkom KPSS [Provincial Committee of the Commun (...)

9Like professionals, amateurs were subjected to censorship at various stages of the creation process. They submitted annual plans for new and ongoing productions as well as pedagogical and community activities. These plans were approved by supervisory organizations. In theory, self‑written scripts were reviewed by the amateur theater section of the local trade union or ministry of culture, but clubs sometimes bypassed it. A review committee observed a “dress rehearsal” and effectively censored a production prior to its public debut, but representatives from outside the club did not always participate.16 The partkom (party committee) only involved itself when serious concerns arose or when a troupe attained a significant reputation. As one trade union official noted, “The party does not bother with small change.”17 Thus, clubs had considerable leeway, and the amount of oversight varied considerably. Beliakovich claimed that he was virtually uncensored before 1983.18 At the other extreme, the Ivanovo obkom (oblast´ party committee) demanded in late 1976 that oblast´ governmental organizations review future productions of Regina Grinberg’s Ivanovo youth people’s theater in addition to its usual oversight by the sponsoring oblast´‑level Komsomol.19

  • 20 For studies of amateur theater in the post‑Stalin era, see Law, “The Soviet Theater in the 1980s” ; (...)
  • 21 Veniamin Fil´shtinskii, Interview, Leningrad, 4 October 1991.

10From the late 1950s, high‑quality amateur theaters gradually acquired a repertoire of ongoing productions staged by directors with professional training and performed by casts with considerable skills. Avoiding popular plays, they aspired to innovate and craft their own creative signature (tvorcheskoe litso). Not all productions tested the boundaries of toleration. They were just good theater, and these works helped to offset criticism when troupes staged controversial plays. With the loosening of restrictions on the arts during Khrushchev’s “thaw,” amateurs diversified their forms into traditional drama, poetry productions, or estrada [variety/sketch theater]. By the early 1970s, many poetry and estrada troupes had evolved toward multi‑act dramas, but considerable stylistic diversity remained.20 As was the case for professionals, innovative amateur productions in the seventies emphasized universal concerns rather than the direct social and political commentary of the sixties : the role of the individual in society ; the pressure to betray one’s principles and the cost of maintaining one’s integrity. Given that society in these plays was often represented as indifferent or hostile to non‑conforming individual morality, these “universal themes” could be interpreted as political statements, as Leningrad people’s theater director Veniamin Fil´shtinskii quipped : “Everything human (chelovecheskii) was anti‑Soviet, naturally.”21 As a result, whether or not a production was deemed anti‑Soviet depended on the outlook of the review committee, which could sanction a work that might not be approved elsewhere.

  • 22 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1958 godu. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The Economy of the RSFSR in 195 (...)

11In spite of the limitations of funding and censorship, good quality amateur theater was an underappreciated but vital component of the urban theatrical scene, especially in the post‑Stalin era as populations climbed. The number of professional theaters did not keep pace. In 1940, the Russian Republic supported 465 theaters. The destruction of World War two led to the closure of numerous theaters, and many surviving troupes were forced to rely on self‑financing (khozraschet) for operating costs while the state focused its funds on reconstruction and repairs of damaged facilities. Their numbers fell to 285 in 1957 and began in to creep up only the mid‑1960s.22 By 1971, the Russian Republic supported 305 professional troupes. Of that number 37 were located in Moscow and Leningrad.

  • 23 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1970 g. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The economy of the RSFSR in 1970. (...)
  • 24 Quoted in Bater, The Soviet City, 118.
  • 25 A. Iufit, ed., Ekonomika i organizatsiia teatra [The economics and organization of theater] (L. : “ (...)

12The remaining professional companies were scattered across the continent. All oblasti supported theaters, but many cities with populations of 100‑200,000 had no professional troupes. Tol´iatti (population 251,000 in 1970) and Angarsk (population 209,000 in 1970) also had none.23 According to a study, population growth did not prompt the Russian Ministry of Culture to allocate additional funds for cultural development in the 1970s.24 Expected to premiere four new productions each year, most theaters staged plays in one genre : multi‑act dramas, ballet, opera, musical comedy, puppet theaters, children’s theaters, or theaters for young spectators. As a result, even in oblast´ capitals, usually the largest city in the region, only one theater was dedicated to conventional drama for adults.25 Oblast´ officials lacked the funds and authority to open a new professional theater. In this environment, amateurs filled an important gap in services.

  • 26 I.K. Sidorina and M.Iu. Korbina, Narodnye teatry Rossii [People’s theaters of Russia] (M. : “Sovets (...)

13The Ministry of Culture signalled that amateurs would continue to play a central role in cultural services in 1959 when it established “people’s theaters,” a new category for amateurs. The initiative supposedly recognized long‑standing, high‑quality troupes who did not significantly challenge party ideology. But as the head of the All‑Russian theater society’s (VTO) Office of people’s theaters pointed out, many of the original recipients did not meet the eligibility requirements of either quality or longevity.26 The inconsistency reveals the unspoken motivation for the policy. It provided another means to support culture on the cheap with minimal investment in buildings, casts, costumes, sets, and administrators. “People’s theaters” received funds for a second staff position, usually a designer (khudozhnik) and were allowed to charge a small admission. However, according to the regulations, revenue was still controlled by house of culture staff and did not accrue to the troupe.

  • 27 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1964 godu. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The economy of the RSFSR in 196 (...)
  • 28 RGALI (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva), f. 970, Soiuz teatral´nykh deiate (...)

14Statistics reveal the growing presence of people’s theaters’ in urban life. Of the roughly forty‑two thousand amateur troupes sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, one hundred received the designation in 1959.27 The program quickly expanded to include trade union and Red Army troupes (as well as other art forms). The total number of theaters reached 1,300 by 1970 and roughly three thousand a decade later.28 Not all of them provided innovative productions, and troupes without the status were sometimes more innovative and more popular, but together they became a significant component to cultural options at a time when educational levels as well as the amount of leisure time were rising.

  • 29 G.G. Dadamian, “Sotsiologicheskie i sotsial´no‑ekonomicheskie problemy isssledovaniia teatra [Socio (...)
  • 30 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1984 g., 347. For the 1970s see also Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1973 (...)
  • 31 V. Patrushev, “V chas dosuga [In the hour of leisure],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 23 August 1983.
  • 32 John Bushnell, “Urban Leisure Culture in Post‑Stalin Russia : Stability as a Social Problem ?” in T (...)

15The growing number of theaters did not necessarily correspond to increasing attendance. Since the tsarist era, spectators did not always share elite priorities concerning leisure activities. The issue was particularly relevant as leisure time increased. By the late 1960s, both the work day and work week were cut, allowing for more free time. For a time, theaters seemed to benefit. In 1960, attendance at professional theaters was 56.9 million and rose to 69.8 million by the end of the decade. These figures, however, masked a less positive trend : attendance per one thousand population fell.29 The number of theatergoers stagnated in the 1970s and 1980s.30 It is unlikely that amateur audiences were offsetting these declines. Film, television, popular music, and discotheques most often filled the gap. By the early 1980s, adults spent between 75 and 80 percent of their free time at home.31 Even though these patterns reflected long‑standing preferences for visiting in Russian urban leisure, as John Bushnell has pointed out, sociologists and economists of theater did not recognize it as such.32 With more time and more choices, the public was not going to participate in amateur theater either as spectators or performers unless it suited them. State expectations for clubs did not change significantly along with these developments, however, so club supervisors needed to find ways to sustain troupes and attract spectators.

Forging symbiotic relationships

16The demand for services created an environment in which good troupes, however defined by their spectators, could thrive. Most amateur theaters, including the innovators, played by the rules and legitimated Soviet structures and assumptions about the role of culture in society. Innovative amateurs believed that theater should serve the community, although they abhorred censorship and the demand that art reinforce current communist ideology. Symbiotic relationships were based on amateurs’ desire to create and perform, on the one hand, and organizations’ need to provide their services, on the other.

  • 33 GARF, f. A‑628, Tsentral´nyi dom narodnogo tvorchestva [Central office of amateur creativity], op.  (...)
  • 34 Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Omskoi oblasti, f. R‑22, Omskii orden Trudovogo Krasnogo znameni nefteperera (...)
  • 35 See, for instance, RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1327, l. 56, Stenogramma konferentsii rukovoditelei na (...)

17Like most Soviet organizations, clubs had annual goals, and success was measured by the number of amateur groups, participants, and spectators. From the mid‑1960s, sponsorship of a people’s collective in any genre boosted funding. By 1982 all houses of culture were required to have one people’s group, and palaces of culture were expected to house at least two.33 If a people’s theater collapsed, a replacement was quickly needed so that the sponsor did not jeopardize its results or lose funding. This outcome was not unattainable. In 1977, for instance, the Oilworkers Palace of Culture in Omsk counted 38 amateur groups of all types, including ten “people’s” collectives, two of them theaters.34 In addition to performances on their home stages, troupes often gave shows at other locations, including schools and other clubs. Some traveled to rural regions of an oblast´ or even toured far flung regions during the summer. Popular people’s theaters had the extra benefit of paid performances and helped cash‑strapped cultural organizations fund other, less lucrative activities. Some troupes resented this arrangement, but others saw it as a point of pride.35

  • 36 TsGA Moskvy, f. 118, op. 1, d. 148, l. 1‑2, Spravka otdela o khode vypolneniia Postanovleniia TsK K (...)
  • 37 B. Bagariatskii, “My – teatr [We are a theater],” Kikhs (Klub i khudozhestvennaia samodeiatel´nost´ (...)
  • 38 TsGA Moskvy, f. 746, op. 1, d. 1480, l. 163, Doklad otdela kul´tury ispolkoma raisoveta [Report of (...)

18Even in Moscow and Leningrad, clubs needed to demonstrate a commitment to theater for their raiony, especially working‑class neighborhoods recently developed at the edge of the city. Although residents could attend performances in the city center, raiony officials were expected to demonstrate their commitment to improving the raion’s cultural level. Reports to Moscow authorities highlighted popular theaters. Characterized as “hugely popular,” Beliakovich’s troupe was usually discussed first in reports on Gagarin raion cultural activities.36 The Liublin raion Komsomol singled out Viacheslav Spesivtsev’s troupe “Gaidar” at the Pioneer Palace in a neighborhood otherwise lacking in cultural amenities.37 When boundaries changed, local soviets had to scramble to replace cultural activities that had disappeared into other jurisdictions.38

19The emphasis on quantity could have unintended consequences. A whiff of controversy could boost attendance. While some theatergoers were attracted to the innovations, others were just interested in witnessing a scandalous production as a means to increase their cultural capital. In these circumstances, demand outpaced the supply of seats (as was the case for popular professionals). For supervisors, spectators’ motivations were irrelevant to head counts. Of course, they had to weigh the benefits against the possibility of outside interference by more conservative higher‑ups. Unfortunately, such calculations tend to emerge in the documents when a club was denounced for an already approved production, a relatively unusual occurrence during this time.

  • 39 PAIO, f. 342, Obkom VLKSM, op. 26, d. 8, l. 311, Protokol 11 ot 5.VIII.1976 [Minutes #11 from 5.VII (...)
  • 40 Studios met in a nearby school. TsGA Moskvy, f. 147, op. 1, d. 3953, l. 45, Spravka o Molodezhnom t (...)
  • 41 Fil´shtinskii interview ; Mikhail Shchepenko, Interview, Moscow, 6 February 1991 ; N. Maiorova, “Ot (...)
  • 42 V. Potemkin, “‘Subbota’ v Voskresen´e [‘Saturday’ on Sunday],” Vechernii Leningrad, 7 April 1975.
  • 43 TsGA Moskvy, f. 746, op. 1 d. 1676, l. 21, Spravka o rabote otdela i uchrezhdenii kul´tury Gagarins (...)
  • 44 GAIO (Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Ivanovskoi oblasti), f. 464, Profsoiuz rabotnikov kul´tury [Trade unio (...)

20Amateur troupes contributed more than performances and spectators to the “bottom line.” The director might agree to establish a second studio troupe to train new participants, especially in successful theaters with relatively permanent casts and few meaty roles for novices.39 In this regard, Spesivtsev’s troupe excelled. In the mid‑1970s when his troupe was still located in the Liublin neighborhood, he had roughly two hundred participants, already an impressive number. (Fifteen to forty participants was typical.) By 1983 at the Krasnaia Presnia location in central Moscow, the theater included the core troupe, a secondary troupe, and seven studios for a total of almost four hundred participants. They averaged 24 performances per month on two home stages and off‑site.40 On a smaller scale, other troupes established “clubs” for dedicated spectators who met regularly and attended special events.41 The theater‑club “Subbota” [Saturday] developed an extensive mailing list for “regular guests” (postoiannye gosti) for such purposes.42 Other activities, such as “university of culture” lectures by troupe directors, attracted additional members of the public who might subsequently attend a play or other event at the house of culture.43 The best troupe in a region hosted VTO seminars led by Moscow professionals.44 All these activities counted toward clubs’ services.

  • 45 Lev Timofeev, “Kak nachinaiutsia novye kluby ? [How do new clubs begin ?],” Molodoi kommunist, no.  (...)
  • 46 Bagariatskii, “My – teatr,” 37.
  • 47 V. Spesivtsev, “Byt´ rezhisserom detstva [To be a director of childhood],” Komsomol´skaia pravda, 1 (...)
  • 48 Letter, Teatr na iugo‑zapade archive.

21Along with the cultural merits of troupes, clubs could point to the social benefits of their activities. Since the tsarist era, troupes were praised for their capacity to offer “constructive leisure activities” as an antidote to drinking and hooliganism. In the post‑Stalin era, this concern was voiced most often in working‑class neighborhoods. Troupes and sponsors alike advertised their activities as a solution. The founding story of “Subbota” recounted a group of aimless teens who fled their usual hang‑out and sought shelter from the rain. They heard Iurii Smirnov‑Nesvitskii’s lecture on theater history at the Vyborg palace of culture and were so enthusiastic that a theater was born.45 Spesivtsev’s group at the Pioneer Palace “tears kids (both actors and spectators) from the streets,” according to a Komsomol report.46 Both Spesivtsev and Smirnov‑Nesvitskii promoted their efforts as models for youth outreach.47 In Moscow’s Gagarin neighborhood, 29 supporters of Beliakovich contrasted his efforts to the local bars. Noting the bars’ comparatively lavish facilities, the letter sarcastically concluded, “It’s possible to think that [they] are more respected and useful institutions than theater !”48

  • 49 TsGA Moskvy, f. 118, op. 1, d. 238, l. 4 ; f. 754, Krasnopresenskii raiispolkom 1969‑78 [Krasnaia P (...)
  • 50 V. Spesivtsev, “Padcheritsa [Step‑daughter],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 6 January 1970 ; Idem, “Talantli (...)
  • 51 Fil´shtinskii interview.
  • 52 PAIO, f. 342, op. 26, d. 8, l. 336.

22Directors further demonstrated their social responsibility by participating in cultural affairs outside the sponsoring organization. They demonstrated good citizenship while furthering their own agendas and expanding their network of supporters. Both Beliakovich and Spesivtsev, for instance, served on raion culture committees, an opportunity to network and influence local policy implementation.49 While all troupes wrote press articles to advertise their productions, Spesivtsev also wrote newspaper articles about the current situation in the arts.50 Veniamin Fil´shtinskii led the theater section of the Leningrad’s office of amateur creativity, and in that capacity he and other section volunteers attended amateurs’ dress rehearsals in order to influence review committees.51 Regina Grinberg was so respected as a director that she sat on the artistic council of the Ivanovo Drama Theater.52

  • 53 Iurii Zaitsev, Interview, Moscow, 21 January 1991. For the opposing view, see Iurii Shushkovskii, q (...)
  • 54 Grinberg’s Ivanovo troupe (1976), Spesivtsev’s na Krasnoi Presne (1977), and “Maneken” in Cheliabin (...)
  • 55 TsGA Moskvy, f. 118, op. 1, d. 189, l. 31 ; Spesivtsev, “Talantliv” ; G. Papaeva, “Interv´iu v nome (...)

23Sponsors’ support for amateurs resulted from more than “hatch marks” and a little extra funding. In addition to pragmatic considerations, acclaimed amateur theaters added prestige. National and international recognition for amateurs offered further testament to the quality of their work and the supposed foresight of supervisors who supported them. Troupes competed annually at reviews, and festivals sometimes culminated in trips to Moscow, and their success enhanced their patrons’ status at home. Although some participants regarded these activities as another opportunity to require orthodox plays or censure heterodox groups, not everyone felt so restricted. Iurii Zaitsev, the designer in Spesivtsev’s troupe, shrugged off that more oppressive interpretation : “There are so many good plays.”53 An elite group received the national Komsomol award for achievement in the arts.54 Some amateurs were also invited to perform at international festivals. Sharing this limelight also helped to sustain good relations with local supervisors. Public “thank yous” allowed supervisors to share credit for the troupe’s achievements.55

  • 56 Bagariatskii, “My – teatr,” 37 ; N. Balashova, “Kommuna nomer raz [Commune #1],” Panorama, no. 10 ( (...)

24Another source of prestige came from a theater’s ability to attract celebrities. Some stars agreed to serve on troupe artistic councils that were supposed to provide creative direction and sometimes served as an internal censor, as occurred in professional theaters. But for amateurs, council members also operated as advocates. Spesivtsev’s artistic council included at various times writers Sergei Mikhalkov, Anatolii Aleksin, Viktor Rozov, Bulat Okudzhava, Boris Vasil´ev, Timur Gaidar, and Iulian´ Semenov, and directors Igor´ Il´inskii, Mark Donskoi, and Mark Zakharov.56 Troupes farther from Moscow had fewer such connections but often developed an advocate when they produced a play by a famous writer and invited him to the premiere. Famous fans sometimes wrote favorable articles in the national press, and the coverage legitimized the productions and attracted spectators. Club reports always noted visiting stars, and their support reflected the success of the amateurs and by extension the club. But amateurs could also call on illustrious patrons to dazzle low‑level administrators who had little opportunity to interact with the nation’s leading literati. The ongoing role for “friends in high places” suggests that, like professionals, amateurs continued to rely on influential patrons.

  • 57 Beliakovich interview.
  • 58 Shchepenko interview.
  • 59 Letter, Smirnov‑Nesvitskii archive.
  • 60 Khronika “Subboty,” [“Saturday” chronicle] Smirnov‑Nesvitskii archive ; Timofeev, “Kak nachinaiutsi (...)

25Along with these benefits for houses of culture, amateurs had other means to foster harmonious relationships. Party membership served some theater directors well, although not all of them joined. Valerii Beliakovich was quite cynical about his decision to join the party in 1980 : “I wanted to be treated like an equal.”57 His attitude was not typical ; some directors joined the party before they led an amateur group.58 Regardless of the motivation, the advantage was the same. Party meetings provided an opportunity to network, and directors were more likely to be included in party discussions if concerns about the theater arose. In these circumstances directors had an opportunity to mitigate controversy. Party members used their status to demand better treatment, as Iurii Smirnov‑Nesvitskii attempted when his “Subbota” was expelled from the Vyborg palace of culture in 1971. After learning the news, he complained about the palace partkom’s secrecy and claimed that he had the right, “as a party member,” to be involved in the deliberations.59 In this case, Smirnov‑Nesvitskii did not get palace partkom to reverse its decision, but he saved the troupe. Palace administrators apologized, and the gorkom (city party committee) supported the troupe in its move to the Leningrad office for amateur arts until a new permanent home could be found.60 Even when party membership was used to protect the troupe, it nonetheless legitimized the status quo while their productions criticized it. No one at the time expected the system to change significantly, and none of them was interested in joining dissidents.

  • 61 Andrei Rossinskii, Interview, Moscow, 4 April 1991.
  • 62 It is also noteworthy that only Viktiuk was dismissed because of his controversial production. Rosh (...)

26In spite of the numerous ways that troupes enhanced a neighborhood or club, positive relationships were not assured. Amateurs has other means to develop some leverage. In Moscow, troupes that encountered unaccommodating supervisors could relocate. Unlike their 1960s counterparts who tended to stay put and tried to negotiate with hostile staff or partkomy, amateurs in the 1970s shopped around for more congenial hosts. Andrei Rossiinskii moved his company “Laboratoriia” numerous times until he met administrators who would not interfere with his productions.61 Like Leningrad’s “Subbota,” Directors Spesivtsev, Liudmila Roshkovan, and Roman Viktiuk and their performers obtained new quarters in another part of town after expulsion. Only in Viktiuk’s case did his new circumstances prove to be short‑lived because the powerful partkom at Moscow University, his former sponsor, objected.62 This option was not available in smaller urban areas because troupes could not easily disappear into a vast urban wilderness.

  • 63 Bagariatskii, “My – teatr,” 37. Palaces of culture had the luxury of multiple stages, so films and (...)
  • 64 Elena Levikova, “Sinii most [Blue bridge],” Teatr, no. 5 (1982), 84 ; TsGALI (Tsentral´nyi gosudars (...)
  • 65 N. Pavlova, “Professionaly, kotorye liubiteli [Professionals who are amateurs],” Kikhs, no. 22 (197 (...)
  • 66 Zaitsev interview ; Beliakovich interview.

27Once a suitable home was established, troupes accrued a variety of benefits in exchange for their contributions to their sponsors’ goals. Their biggest concern was the opportunity to perform. The Pioneer Palace director gave Spesivtsev’s troupe unlimited access to the stage, and his amateurs performed two to three times per week. For most troupes, however, stage access remained an ongoing irritant because most clubs were required to show films fifteen days per month.63 When troupes became popular, this restriction frustrated performers, the public, and club staff. In response, some troupes opted to use their rehearsal room as a permanent stage, while others renovated underutilized spaces for their exclusive use.64 If neither of these options was possible, amateur troupes sometimes took over abandoned spaces elsewhere in the neighborhood, including a Sverdlovsk troupe that settled on the eighth floor of a dormitory without an elevator.65 Because sponsors provided few funds for renovating the dilapidated spaces, troupes were left to their own devices for acquiring necessary materials, and some of it was stolen.66 It is likely that sponsors were aware of the behavior but tolerated it because they had no alternatives.

  • 67 For a discussion of audiences of amateur productions, see Susan Costanzo, “Reclaiming the Stage : A (...)

28The new digs usually seated fifty to one hundred twenty spectators, while club performance halls accommodated from three hundred to well over a thousand theatergoers. The snug spaces led directors to innovative production techniques that fostered more intimate contact with spectators, but amateurs rarely suggested this motivation for the move. These developments helped to distinguish amateurs from conventional professional productions. Professionals also began to establish small “second stages” in the late 1970s, but their smaller venues lacked the “homemade” qualities of amateur productions that some spectators valued.67 The move was mutually beneficial : troupes had less regular oversight as well as complete control over performance and rehearsal schedules ; sponsors could add performances with less competition for the club stage.

  • 68 GARF, f. A‑628, op. 2 d. 531, l. 28‑29.
  • 69 GARF, f. A‑501, op. 1, d. 2157, l. 292, Pis´mo A. Popova, Ministr kul´tury RSFSR [Letter of A. Popo (...)
  • 70 RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1343, l. 3‑17, Soveshchanie rezhisserov narodnykh teatrov i teatral´nykh (...)
  • 71 Unfortunately, skimpy archives of club institutions offer no clues.

29A strong relationship also sometimes led to some financial independence. Clubs controlled the money, and troupes were prohibited from opening bank accounts. But already in the 1960s, the Ministry of Culture was turning a blind eye to people’s theaters with separate bank accounts as long as the supervisory organization approved. However, the Ministry refused to sanction the practice for all people’s theaters.68 It is also likely that some amateur collectives without the “people’s” designation were charging for tickets as well. This problem was widespread in the early 1960s and may have been one of the reasons that the Ministry of Culture established people’s theaters.69 The issue disappeared from discussions during the 1970s, although complaints about financial concerns persisted.70 Given that funding for clubs remained tight as the Soviet economy slowed, the practice was probably sanctioned by some club administrators, but everyone just stopped talking about it.71 Like the black market, unsanctioned ticket sales solved a problem for the state without having to reverse its ideological position on free culture for the masses. The independence also allowed directors to make minor decisions without having to consult with club directors, and both sides were liberated.

  • 72 TsGA Moskvy, f. 147, op. 6, d. 2, l. 60, Kharakteristika, Avilov, Viktor Vasil´evich.
  • 73 M. Trachenko, “‘Maneken’ gotovitsia k vstreche [‘Mannequin’ prepares for a meeting],” Vechernii Che (...)
  • 74 RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1486, l. 33, Pasport Angarskogo n.t. Urkutskoi oblasti 1958‑69 gg. [Passp (...)

30Troupes gained financial autonomy even as they became more entwined with clubs. Employment for participants blurred the boundaries between troupes and clubs. Other than all troupe directors and a second staff member in people’s theaters, everyone else volunteered after studying or working all day. As the quality of productions improved, some performers wanted to quit their day jobs and focus more time on the theater. Some houses of culture accommodated them by hiring them in other capacities. Viktor Avilov, Beliakovich’s lead actor, initially held various jobs, including delivering gravel at night when he joined the company. His working‑class status became part of the theater’s lore. But in 1979, two years after the troupe moved into its own renovated storefront, he was hired by the Gargarin club as an “Instructor.”72 It is unclear if he worked at the club or the theater and if he quit his other job. Aleksandr Mordasov, a “Maneken” [Mannequin] actor, became club director at the Cheliabinsk polytechnical institute, the troupe’s sponsor.73 In some cases, individuals held two jobs within a house of culture, which improved on the paltry salaries. In Angarsk, a people’s theater director also ran the palace of culture, and his set designer was a film projectionist.74 It does not appear that this overlap circumvented censorship, although it no doubt affected the troupe’s relationship to the club’s supervisory bodies and perhaps improved the troupe’s access to funds for production costs.

31One might conclude that the symbiotic relationships that developed between troupes and their sponsors led theaters to compromise their creative goals. Amateur directors maintained that that was not the case. Some administrators were either sympathetic to a theater’s aesthetic goals or at least did not see harm in a production. Furthermore, not all productions were controversial even in innovative theaters. A director with an optimistic outlook on Soviet society facilitated a good relationship. The absence of controversy surrounding a troupe eased the burdens on club administrators. Cheliabinsk politechical institute’s “Maneken” fits this description. The troupe also presents the strongest case that its relationship with local organizations enabled it to overcome a federal ban on a play.

Aesthetic opportunities among friends

  • 75 On Volodin’s work, see Tat´iana Lanina, Aleksandr Volodin (L. : “Sovetskii pisatel´,” 1989) ; Samue (...)
  • 76 Georgi Tovstonogov, O professii rezhissera [About the profession of the stage‑director], 2nd ed. (M (...)

32“Maneken”’s production of Aleksandr Volodin’s play Dve streli [Two shots] in 1977 best exemplifies the impact of local relations on national culture. Volodin’s creative history helps explain the significance of the Cheliabinsk production. Widely performed and popular with audiences, his first play Fabrichnaia devchonka [Factory Girl] was produced in 1956. Some critics hailed the play as an early example of the post‑Stalin trend that emphasized private lives, and its innovative style incorporated film techniques.75 It drew fire from other critics, and this ambivalence characterized responses to his work throughout the 1960s. Opposition to his plays increased as they evolved from empathetic portrayals of average people to parables with thinly veiled critiques of Soviet society. In 1967 acclaimed Leningrad director Georgi Tovstonogov, who championed Volodin’s early work, wrote with surprising candor about the writer’s difficulties : “Rather than promoting the development of Volodin as a playwright, we are doing everything so that he will simply leave the theater.”76 As Volodin’s work grew more critical, censors banned publication.

  • 77 See Marinov, “Volodin,” 123‑131.
  • 78 V. Komissarzhevskii, Teatr, kotoryi liubliu : stat´i, ocherki, zametki [The theater I love : articl (...)

33Written in 1967, his Two shots suffered this fate. In a setting weakly disguised as prehistoric, the play warns of the fate of critical intellectuals with the rise of intolerance and repression. A man, Ushastyi, is unjustly accused of murder. The investigation reveals a serious division within his tribe between its intelligentsia and warriors. The clan leader suggests that Ushastyi flee in order to prevent the possible collapse of the tribe in the midst of a war, but he refuses. He and his close friend are killed, and the leader abandons the clan in disgust. The survival of the clan is left in doubt at the end.77 In 1981 a critic described the conflict as “prehistoric nazism,” but nazism had long been used as an Aesopian reference to the Soviet Union.78 Interpretations of his plays, therefore, depended on the willingness of viewers to assume that he focused on universal dilemmas rather than contemporary Soviet society. At the national level, the choice was clear. After 1969, he could no longer get his plays published, and only one new, unpublished play was staged for a decade. Instead, he wrote less controversial screenplays.

34In spite of its unpublished status, Two shots premiered at “Maneken” in March 1977. The sanction of an unpublished play was infrequent but not impossible. All written works required a lit, the official designation that censors had approved it for publication. Theaters could bypass this process, but controversial scripts usually underwent significant rewrites, and productions were sometimes delayed for years. Once a staging was authorized for public performances, the script received its lit regardless of its publication status. As a result, the Cheliabinsk production provided the lit for Volodin’s play. This success did not guarantee that another company could stage Two shots, but it removed one justification for prohibiting it.

  • 79 For further discussion of the Moscow University troupes and the festival, see Costanzo, “Amateur pu (...)

35By the mid‑1970s “Maneken” had developed a national reputation. Four students, including future professional director Boris Morozov, established the sketch theater (estrada) in 1963. Boris’s elder brother Anatolii soon joined the troupe after becoming a faculty member of the institute. In 1966 the troupe received the award for “best troupe” at the national student estrada festival. Their work was not the most controversial, but it best captured the optimistic spirit of the Thaw, and throughout most of his career Anatolii Morozov retained a positive worldview.79 “Maneken” subsequently traveled repeatedly to Eastern Europe, where members met Polish avant garde director Jerzy Grotowski and experienced some of the world’s most innovative theater of the day.

  • 80 Yuri Bobkov and Aleksandr Berezin, Interview, Cheliabinsk, 16 May 1997. They are currently Artistic (...)
  • 81 In some cases, a theater could receive permission to perform a play only locally in order to minimi (...)

36“Maneken”’s international acclaim and party member Morozov’s outlook had long facilitated good relations with the institute partkom, the gorkom, and obkom. Recognizing the significance of Two shots, all three groups participated in several days of discussion prior to approval. According to two “Maneken” actors, the chairman of the institute’s partkom took personal responsibility for the production.80 It is hard to know if any party members genuinely believed that they might suffer for their action, but the obkom First Secretary had someone to sacrifice if necessary. In the end, the play was sanctioned for performances anywhere.81

  • 82 Liia Vainshtein, “Stsena plius kino [Stage plus screen],” Cheliabinskii rabochii, 19 March 1977.
  • 83 “‘Maneken’ v Chekhoslovakii [‘Mannequin’ in Czechoslovakia],” Komsomolets, 25 June 1977.
  • 84 A. Volodin, “Vazhno skazat´ vazhnoe [It’s important to say the important],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, (...)

37It might be tempting to conclude that Cheliabinsk’s distance from Moscow facilitated some sort of deception or at least an effort to keep the information from reaching individuals who might have opposed the production. That was not the case. Aleksandr Volodin attended the premiere. Word had also reached the capital’s theatrical community. Boris Morozov, Artistic Director at Moscow’s Red Army Theater in 1977, was not only aware of the play’s debut ; he attended opening night as the representative of the All‑Russian theater society (VTO) in a show of support.82 In addition to Cheliabinsk shows, the troupe performed it in Novosibirsk and at a festival in Czechoslovakia.83 The local press did not neglect the premiere in an effort to either protect or punish the troupe. Both Vechernii Cheliabinsk and Politekhnicheskie kadry published detailed analyses, including an article by Volodin.84 No one dwelt on the play’s unpublished status. Already the production represented a coup for the troupe and its supporters.

  • 85 Letter from Vlad Ferkel´ to Susan Costanzo, 29 May 1997. Anatolii Morozov had no recollection of th (...)

38Professional interest in Volodin’s play led to an invitation for a performance in Moscow while “Maneken” was attending the finals competition of the First all‑union review of people’s creativity in late 1977. The troupe’s official entry in the festival was Posle skazki [After the story] based on Chinghiz Aitmatov’s novel Belyi parakhod [The White Steamship], its newest production when the festival’s local‑level competitions started in 1975. After local and regional festivals, the best troupes including “Maneken” were invited to Moscow. It was customary that newer productions could be presented “outside the bounds” of the review, and Two shots was performed. The play’s Moscow opponents were caught unawares. According to a “Maneken” actor at the time, the Ministry of Culture summoned Anatolii Morozov the next morning. Officials attempted to ban all future performances of the work and demanded that “Maneken” not perform Sorok pervyi [The forty‑first], Boris Lavrenev’s orthodox play about the Civil War also scheduled outside the festival. Morozov produced the party document that sanctioned Two shots for performance anywhere, so the Ministry had no jurisdiction. Forty‑first appeared as planned.85

  • 86 Liia Vainshtein, “Teatr iz nashego goroda [A theater from our town],” Cheliabinskii rabochii, 24 De (...)

39Press coverage of the festival further reflects the disparity between the central response and local attitudes. The local Cheliabinsk press heralded the success of its local heroes. Cheliabinskii rabochii sent a special correspondent to cover “Maneken”’s reception in Moscow. The journalist gleefully recounted the amateurs’ success with audiences in the capital. Rather than shy away from discussion of Two shots, she raved that the performance hall was overflowing with luminaries of the Moscow theater world. She interviewed critic Viktor Komissarzhevskii, who praised “Maneken”’s production of Volodin’s work. His own article in Komsomol´skaia pravda a month later omitted it even though he declared that the troupe was the best at the festival. Vechernii Cheliabinsk also carried a lengthy article.86

  • 87 N. Rusakova, “Aktery prishli iz zritel´nogo zala [Actors came from the audience hall],” Sovetskaia (...)
  • 88 I. Sidorina, M. Korbina, “Tvorchestvo milionov [The creativity of millions],” Teatr, no. 7 (1978), (...)
  • 89 “V Tsentral´nom Komitete KPSS [In the Communist Party Central Committee],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 4 A (...)

40Komissarzhevskii’s reticence was characteristic of the minimal discussion of Two shots in the national press. A Sovetskaia kul´tura reporter noted that official entries were often stale by the time of national‑level competitions. Using “Maneken”’s productions both in the festival and outside it, she conceded that After the story “is perhaps the best in the repertoire,” but added “the collective is now already different.”87 She declined to name or describe Two Shots. A few mentions of the play were sprinkled among the published festival reports, but no details were forthcoming.88 Its absence prevented any free advertising for the play and its changed status, but the media did not condemn the troupe.89

  • 90 Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsialno‑politicheskoi istorii, f. 1‑m, Tsentral´nyi komitet VLK (...)

41Other than the press’s incomplete blackout, central authorities took no action. Neither the troupe nor local party officials suffered any consequences. In fact, “Maneken”’s national reputation continued to grow. The controversy made no impact on the festival results : “Maneken” was awarded laureate status for its performance of After the story, although the real highlight was Volodin’s work. The disregard of censorship also did not deter the national Komsomol organization from awarding the troupe with its highest prize for artistic achievement in 1979. The documents submitted to the Komsomol made no effort to hide the Volodin play and reported its enthusiastic reception in Czechoslovakia.90 The impunity in this case supports Hough’s view that the local party had the authority in this matter and its decision was not problematic enough to warrant intervention.

  • 91 M. Mel´nikova, “Teatr ‘Maneken’,” Nedelia, 19‑25 June 1978 ; A. Silin, “Sekret dolgoletiia ‘Maneken (...)
  • 92 Levikova, “‘Sinii most’,” 89 ; L.B. Zakshever, “O etalonnom repertuare teatral´noi samodeiatel´nost (...)

42“Maneken”’s breakthrough occurred at the beginning of a revival of Volodin’s plays, which gradually returned to stage and print. After the silence surrounding the Moscow performance, a shift appeared by mid‑1978 in national press coverage of “Maneken”’s fifteenth anniversary. The weekly Nedelia printed a full‑page article, mostly photos including one of a rehearsal of Two Shots. A caption acknowledged that it was the play’s first staging, and the production was praised. The journal Studencheskii meridian published a similar tribute. Praise for the troupe was effusive, and a large, captioned photo from the Two shots appeared.91 Volodin’s rehabilitation extended beyond “Maneken.” His plays returned to print with a 1980 collection that included Two shots. Another fable Iashcheritsa [Little Lizard], written in 1969, premiered at Moscow’s Maiakovskii Theater in 1981 and appeared in print in 1984. A “new wave” of interest in his plays developed in amateur theaters, and by 1983 Two shots was regarded as “a standard bearer” (etalonnyi) for amateur drama.92 Volodin also received recognition for his work in film : a 1978 award for his children’s films and a state prize for Ocennii Marafon [Autumn Marathon] in 1981. Although “Maneken” and Cheliabinsk party officials cannot be wholly credited for the reassessment of Volodin’s œuvre, the production gave a stamp of legitimacy to Volodin’s unpublished work and brought to the stage the shift in Volodin’s style that had only been imagined by the lucky few who had read an unpublished copy of the script.

  • 93 Evgenii Shvarts, “The Dragon,” in Three Plays, ed. and trans. Avril Pyman (Oxford : Pergamon Press, (...)
  • 94 Mark Zakharov, “Such a story,” Moscow News, 27 December 1987.

43Most successes in performing unsanctioned texts were less dramatic and more localized, but the ability to influence theatrical culture was not limited to amateur troupes in the provinces. Troupes in Moscow and Leningrad also contributed to the availability of controversial plays. One notable example stemmed from Evgenii Shvarts’s Drakon [The Dragon], a published but restricted drama from the 1940s. This fable examines the ease with which the public tolerates oppression. A village is terrorized by a dragon, and a girl must be sacrificed to him. Lancelot kills the dragon, but the town Burgermeister imposes a similar regime. Lancelot then defeats the Burgermeister, but it is unclear at the end whether or not Lancelot can escape replicating the deep‑rooted authoritarianism.93 The play was occasionally tolerated in children’s theaters but had no significant run for adults. It appeared at the Leningrad Comedy Theater a few times each in 1944 and 1962. Also in 1962, Mark Zakharov made his directorial debut with the play at the Moscow university student theater, where it was performed fifteen times before it too was banned.94

  • 95 According to informal records kept by the Union of theater workers (formerly VTO) library, theaters (...)
  • 96 Natal´ia Kaidalova, “Teatr nachinaetsia s repertuara [Theater begins with the repertoire],” in N. K (...)
  • 97 Vadim Lorber, Interview, Leningrad 2 July 1991 ; Tat´iana Zhakovskaia, Interview, Leningrad, 2 July (...)

44Although a few cities managed to mount professional productions by 1981, Moscow and Leningrad theaters remained silent.95 Amateurs stepped into the breach in 1981. Their productions reveal two different approaches to the Aesopian text. The production at Beliakovich’s Theater‑studio of southwest Moscow chose a “timeless” motif with costumes and set of no apparent era, a common strategy in both professional and amateur productions. No reviews appeared at the time, but none of his productions had yet been covered in the press, so it is unclear if the omission was intentional.96 The production by “Four windows” people’s theater in Leningrad created obvious links to the past and present. The program stated that “the author is also Lancelot.” Lev Shvarts, the troupe’s director (no relation to the playwright), initially performed as Lancelot, who wore contemporary street clothes and played a guitar. He sang Vladimir Vysotskii’s songs, an early effort to incorporate this unsanctioned but enormously popular music. In contrast to Lancelot, cowed villagers demonstrated their obedience by participating in “morning gymnastics” along with the eponymous Vysotskii tune that mocked official mobilization campaigns. At the end of the performance, cast members shed their theatrical trappings and listened to a magnitizdat recording of Vysotskii, another way of honoring the recently deceased bard while pointing to the play’s contemporary relevance. Vysotskii was presented as dragon‑slayer : his music became the weapon and the dragon represented complacent, oppressive authorities. Actor Vadim Lorber was surprised that the production had been approved, but the play itself and its unmistakable references to current day were now acceptable enough that the production, including references to Vysotskii, was covered in the Leningrad press.97

45By the early 1980s, amateur theaters were a vibrant feature of urban cultural life. In this environment of negotiation and mutual benefit, Beliakovich’s efforts appeared not so outrageous. Rhinoceros, Two shots, and The Dragon provide only three examples of amateurs’ contributions to theatrical diversity and trends in plays across the Russian Republic. Amateurs also embraced the work of Liudmila Petrushevskaia, whose depictions of Moscow intellectuals disturbed censors and baffled professional actors. Her plays debuted at Moscow and Leningrad University student theaters. In Leningrad and Irkutsk, productions of Peter Weiss’s 1964 play Marat/Sade appeared for the first time. In Perm´ and very briefly in Moscow amateurs introduced audiences to Polish dissident and absurdist playwright Slawomir Mrozek. These cases do not exhaust the innovations, especially production techniques that offered new ways to engage theatergoers, but recorded evidence of central and local disparities is often elusive.

  • 98 For a similar toleration in the Komsomol see Alexei Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was N (...)

46These performances all had the support of local supervisors who were responsible for censorship. Popular theaters and local cultural organizations were mutually sustaining at a time when television and film were siphoning off supporters from this more traditional art form. Plays offered an “orthodox” cultural activity at a time when youth were increasingly drawn to western music. Discotheques were more lucrative, but theater was required to meet annual goals. In this environment, plays deemed problematic elsewhere did not necessarily create difficulties for local sponsors. Local control was tolerated by central authorities as long as higher priority concerns such as ethnicity and security were absent. Supervisors recognized the bold content and style of some amateur productions, but the risks were few. Their personal attitudes toward these productions were not always clear, but they approved them.98 Press coverage of the better amateur theaters and their recognition at festivals suggest that the community beyond immediate supervisory organizations also supported heterodox plays.

47The “stability” of the Brezhnev era facilitated the development of these symbiotic relationships, but dynamic rather than stagnate characterizes innovative amateurs’ achievements. These bonds were tested beginning in mid‑1983 when central authorities disrupted the stability by issuing new regulations that threatened not only heterodox theaters, but also held supervisors directly accountable for productions now deemed unacceptable. The attempt to establish central dominance over local cultural matters suggests additional questions for the study of cultural activities at the time. Major central policy initiatives in the arts marked the beginning and end of the placidity of the Brezhnev era. Local officials confronted a dilemma : would the measures be enforced or could heterodoxy continue in spite of them ? When the Ministry of Culture learned of Rhinoceros, Beliakovich and his supporters banded together and gave the performance of a lifetime in an effort to preserve the theater. Not all troupes were so fortunate, and even “Maneken” was denied permission to rehearse a play for the first time in twenty years. The sudden retraction of local authority raises the question of periodization for the end of the Brezhnev era. Shifts in central cultural policy suggest the need for discrete study of the brief period between Brezhnev’s death in late 1982 and the Gorbachev era that began in 1985. This transition warrants the same scrutiny given to the “end” of the Thaw.

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Notes

1 TsGA Moskvy (Tsentral´nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv goroda Moskvy), f. 118, Otdel kul´tury Gagarinskogo ispolkoma raisoveta, op. 1, d. 238, l. 4, Protokol aktiva rabotnikov uchrezhdenii kul´tury ot 14 ianv 1983 [Meeting minutes of activist workers of cultural institutions on 14 January 1983]. The play opened on December 18, 1982. “Moscow Theatre of the South‑West presents,” brochure, Teatr na iugo‑zapade archive.

2 For the argument that they were hidden and uncensored, see V.N. Dmitrievskii, “Sotsial´nyi zakaz – teatr – zritel´ : sistema vzaimosviazei [Social demand – theater – spectator : system of interconnections],” in N.M. Zorkaia, ed., Khudozhestvennaia zhizn´ Rossii 1970‑x godov kak sistemnoe tseloe [Russian artistic life in the 1970s as a systematic whole] (SPb. : “Aleteiia,” 2001), 148.

3 For simplicity’s sake, I use “clubs” when referring to clubs, houses of culture, and palaces of culture as a group. The Red Army also sponsored troupes, but they functioned only in the military and are not addressed here. Agitbrigades are also omitted.

4 For an analysis of the impact of the Prague invasion on innovative Soviet amateurs, see Susan Costanzo, “Amateur Theatres and Amateur Publics in the Russian Republic 1957‑1970,” Slavonic and East European Review 86, 2 (April 2008) : 372‑394.

5 Jerry F. Hough, The Soviet Prefects : The Local Party Organs in Industrial Decision‑making (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1969), 5, 146‑148.

6 Edwin Bacon, “Brezhnev Reconsidered,” in Edwin Bacon and Mark Sandle, eds., Brezhnev Reconsidered (New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 11 ; Yoram Gorlizki, “Too Much Trust : Regional Party Leaders and Local Political Networks under Brezhnev,” Slavic Review, 69, 3 (Fall 2010) : 676‑700. For an opposing view, see Vladimir Shlapentokh, Roman Levita, and Mikhail Loiberg, From Submission to Rebellion : The Provinces Versus the Center in Russia (Boulder : Westview Press, 1997), 71‑78.

7 Examples include William Taubman, Governing Soviet Cities : Bureaucratic Politics and Urban Development in the USSR (New York : Praeger, 1973) ; James H. Bater, The Soviet City : Ideal and Reality (Beverly Hills : Sage Publications, 1980) ; Henry W. Morton and Robert C. Stuart, eds., The Contemporary Soviet City (Armonk : M.E. Sharpe, 1984) ; Blair A. Ruble, Leningrad : Shaping a Soviet City (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1990) ; Timothy J. Colton, Moscow : Governing the Socialist Metropolis (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1995) ; and “Late Soviet Regional Leadership,” special issue of Kritika : Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 14, 2 (Spring 2013). For a study of the cultural impact of provincial cities during the tsarist era, see Richard Stites, “The Creative Provinces in Early Nineteenth Century Russia,” Studia Slavica Finlandensia XVII, (2000) : 306‑23.

8 Stephen V. Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw : Experience and Memory in Moscow’s Arbat (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2008) ; Paul Stronski, Tashkent : Forging a Soviet City, 1930‑1966 (Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010) ; Sergei I. Zhuk, Rock and Roll in the Rocket City : The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960‑1985 (Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010) ; William Jay Risch, The Ukrainian West : Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2011).

9 Aleksandr Gershkovich, Teatr na Taganke (1964‑1984) (M. : “Soliaris,” 1993) ; Birgit Beumers, Yury Lyubimov at the Taganka Theatre (Amsterdam : Harwood Academic Publishers, 1997) ; Anatolii Smelianskii, The Russian theatre after Stalin, trans. Patrick Miles (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1999) ; Nicholas Rzhevsky, The Modern Russian Theater : A Literary and Cultural History (Armonk : M.E. Sharpe, 2009) : 113‑226. For examples that include amateurs, see Alma H. Law, “The Soviet Theater in the 1980s : Amateur and Studio Performances,” in Robert Finlay, Philip Hill, Bela Kiralyfalvi, eds., Theatre Perspectives No. 2 : Contemporary Russian and Polish Theatre and Drama (Washington D.C. : UCTA, 1980), 21‑28 ; Idem, Soviet Theatre in Transition. The Politics of Theatre in the 1980s (Washington D.C. : The Kennan Institute, 1984) ; Idem, “Some Observations of the Soviet Theater Today,” Soviet Union 12, 2 (1985) : 131‑36 ; Marie‑Christine Autant‑Mathieu, Le théâtre soviétique durant le dégel 1953‑1964 (P. : CNRS Éditions, 1993) ; K.Iu. Rogov, ed., Semidesiatye kak predmet istorii russkoi kul´tury [The Seventies as a subject in the history of Russian culture] (M. : “OGI,” 1998).

10 Dina R. Spechler, Permitted Dissent in the USSR : Novy mir and the Soviet Regime (New York : Praeger, 1982) ; Dirk Krechmar, Politika i kul´tura pri Brezhneve, Andropove i Chernenko 1970‑1985 gg. [Politics and culture under Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko 1970‑1985], trans. M.G. Ragauz (M. : “AIRO‑XX,” 1997) ; Vol´fram Eggeling, Politika i kul´tura pri Khrushcheve i Brezhneve, 1953‑1970 gg. [Politics and culture under Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko 1953‑1970], trans. L. Molchanov (M. : “AIRO‑XX,” 1999) ; M.P. Zezina, Sovetskaia khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia i vlast´ v 1950‑e‑1960‑e gody [The Soviet artistic intelligentsia and power in the 1950s and 1960s] (M. : “Dialog MGU,” 1999) ; Vladislav Zubok, Zhivago’s Children : the last Russian intelligentsia (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2009) ; A. Vislova, “Teatral´nyi kontrapunkt 60‑80‑x. Zastoi ili nadlom ? [Theatrical counterpoint in the 60s‑80s. Stagnation or breakdown ?]” in L. Bulavka and R. Krumm, eds., Zastoi : Diskontenty SSSR [Stagnation : Discontents USSR] (M., 2010), 313‑324.

11 Zezina, Khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia ; Zorkaia, Khudozhestvennaia zhizn´ ; Mark Sandle, “A Triumph of Ideological Hairdressing ? Intellectual Life in the Brezhnev Era Reconsidered,” in Bacon and Sandle, eds., Brezhnev Reconsidered, 135‑164.

12 L.A. Bulavka, “Khudozhnik i vlast´ : vzgliad skvoz´ prizmu ‘zastoia’ [The artist and power : a look through the prism of ‘Stagnation’],” in L. Bulavka and R. Krumm, eds., “Zastoi” : Potentsial SSSR nakanune raspada [“Stagnation” : The potential of the USSR on the eve of breakdown] (M. : “Kul´turnaia Revoliutsiia,” 2011), 408‑453, quoted, 418, 448. For other scholarship that questions the use of “stagnation” to describe the Brezhnev era, see Bacon and Sandle, eds., Brezhnev Reconsidered ; Zorkaia, Khudozhestvennaia zhizn´ ; Bulavka and Krumm, eds., “Zastoi” : Diskontenty SSSR ; Idem, SSSR : “Zastoi” [USSR : “Stagnation”]
(M. : “Kul´turnaia revoliutsiia,” 2009).

13 E. Anthony Swift, Popular Theater and Society in Tsarist Russia (Berkeley : University of California Press, 2002), 5‑7. See also Gary Thurston, The Popular Theatre Movement in Russia, 1862‑1919 (Evanston : Northwestern University Press, 1998) ; M.V. Iunisov, “‘Lishnii’ teatr : o liubiteliakh i ikh gubiteliakh [‘Superfluous’ theater : on amateurs and their destroyers],” in E.V. Dukov, ed., Razvlekatel´naia kul´tura Rossii XVIII‑XIX vekov [Entertainment culture in Russia XVIII‑XIX centuries] (SPb. : “Dmitrii Bulanin,” 2000), 372‑393.

14 RGANI (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv noveishchei istorii), f. 11, Komissiia TsK KPSS po voprosam ideologii, kul´tury i mezhdunarodnykh partiinykh sviazi [Commission of the Communist Party Central Committee on questions of ideology, culture and international party ties], op. 1, d. 155, l. 29, Protokol 1 ot 29.I.58 g. [Minutes #1 from 29.1.58] ; TsGA Moskvy, f. 4, Moskovskii gorkom KPSS, op. 113, d. 24, l. 23, Material k vystupleniiu na soveshchanii rabotnikov domov i dvortsov kul´tury, kluby i parkov g. Moskvy, 1957 [Materials for speeches at the conference of workers of houses and palaces of culture, clubs and parks in Moscow 1957] ; GARF (Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi federatsii), f. 5451, VTsSPS, op. 24, d. 1963, l. 13, O zadachakh profsoiuzov po vypolneniiu reshenii XXII s´´ezda KPSS [On the tasks of trades unions in fulfilling the decisions of the XXII Congress of the KPSS].

15 On Soviet amateur theaters prior to World War two, see Lynn Mally, Culture of the Future : the Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1990) ; Idem, Revolutionary Acts : Amateur Theater and the Soviet State 1917‑1938 (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2000) ; L.P. Solntseva et al., eds., Samodeiatel´noe khudozhestvennoe tvorchestvo v SSSR. Ocherki istorii. 1930‑1950 gg. [Amateur artistic creativity in the USSR. Essays on its history. 1930‑1950s] (M. : Gosudarstvennyi institut iskusstvoznaniia, 1995) ; Idem, Samodeiatel´noe khudozhestvennoe tvorchestvo v SSSR. Ocherki istorii. 1917‑1932 gg. [Amateur artistic creativity in the USSR. Essays on its history. 1917‑1932] (SPb. : “Dmitrii Bulanin,” 2000).

16 Anne White, De‑Stalinization and the House of Culture : Declining state control over leisure in the USSR, Poland and Hungary, 1953‑89 (London : Routledge, 1990), 74.

17 Quoted in Blair Ruble, Soviet Trade Unions : Their Development in the 1970s (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1981), 61.

18 Valerii Beliakovich, Interview, Moscow, 19 October 1991. All interviews were conducted by the author and in her possession.

19 PAIO (Partiinyi arkhiv Ivanovoskoi oblasti), f. 327, Obkom KPSS [Provincial Committee of the Communist party], op. 14, d. 28, l. 21, Protokol Obkom KPSS 15.11.76g. [Minutes of the Provincial committee of the Communist party 15.11.76].

20 For studies of amateur theater in the post‑Stalin era, see Law, “The Soviet Theater in the 1980s” ; V. Klimov, “Nekotorye osobennosti studiinogo liubitel´skogo dvizheniia v teatre 60‑80‑kh godov [Some peculiarities of the amateur studio movement in theater 60‑80s],” Zrelishchnye iskusstva, 2, 1 (1986) ; A.E. Porvatov, ed., Ot “Zhivoi Gazety” do Teatra‑Studii [From “Living newspapers” to Theater‑Studios] (M : “Molodaia gvardiia,” 1989) ; L.P. Solntseva et al, eds., Samodeiatel´noe khudozhestvennoe tvorchestvo v SSSR. Ocherki istroii. Konets 1950‑kh – nachalo 1990‑kh godov [Amateur artistic creativity in the USSR. Essays on its history. Late 1950s to early 1990s] (SPb. : “Dmitrii Bulanin,” 1999) ; M.V. Iunisov, Mifopoetika studencheskogo smekha (STEM i KVN) [The mythopoetics of student humor (STEM and KVN)] (M. : Gosudarstvennyi institut iskusstvoznaniia, 1999) ; A.P. Shul´pin, Teatral´nye opyty “Manekena” [The Theatrical experiments of “Mannequin”] (Cheliabinsk : “Biblioteka A. Millera,” 2001) ; Idem, Molodezhnye teatry Rossii [Russia’s youth theaters] (SPb. : “Dmitrii Bulanin,” 2004) ; Bella Ostromoukhova, “Le Dégel et les troupes amateur : Changements politiques et activités des étudiants 1953‑1970,” Cahiers du monde russe 47, 1‑2 (2006) : 303‑326 ; Costanzo, “Amateur Theatres.”

21 Veniamin Fil´shtinskii, Interview, Leningrad, 4 October 1991.

22 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1958 godu. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The Economy of the RSFSR in 1958. Statistical annual] (M. : Gosudarstvennyi statisticheskoe izdatel´stvo, 1959), 471 ; Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1978 godu. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The Economy of the RSFSR in 1978. Statistical annual] (M. : “Statistika,” 1979), 305.

23 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1970 g. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The economy of the RSFSR in 1970. Statistical annual] (M. : “Statistika,” 1971), 20, 18.

24 Quoted in Bater, The Soviet City, 118.

25 A. Iufit, ed., Ekonomika i organizatsiia teatra [The economics and organization of theater] (L. : “Iskusstvo,” 1971), 158‑171. By 1986, 345 theaters of all types operated in the Russian Republic. Spravochnik teatrov sistemy Ministerstva kul´tury SSSR [Directory of theaters of the Ministry of Culture USSR]. 2‑oe iz. (M. : Ministerstvo kul´tury SSSR, 1986), 6.

26 I.K. Sidorina and M.Iu. Korbina, Narodnye teatry Rossii [People’s theaters of Russia] (M. : “Sovetskaia Rossiia,” 1981), 21.

27 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1964 godu. Statisticheskii ezhegodnik [The economy of the RSFSR in 1964. Statistical annual] (M. : “Statistika,” 1965), 462. Statistics on amateur groups are highly unreliable because many troupes were ephemeral. In addition, some statistics only included Ministry of Culture troupes but not those sponsored by trade unions (which included those at factories, institutes and universities). Troupes sponsored by the Komsomol and Red Army were never included. When the number of troupes dropped by twenty‑five percent between 1965 and 1980, some insiders suggested that the quantity of actual troupes was unchanged, but the statistics were more accurate. See I.B. Zakshever, Puti samodeiatel´nogo teatra [The paths of amateur theater] (M. : “Sovetskaia Rossiia,” 1981), 8.

28 RGALI (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva), f. 970, Soiuz teatral´nykh deiatelei [Union of theater workers] (formerly VTO), op. 22, d. 1314, l. 3, Stenogramma zasedaniia soveta po narodnym teatram 30 noiabria 1970 g. [Transcript of the meeting of the soviet for people’s theaters 30 November 1970] ; GARF, f. A‑501, Ministerstvo kul´tury RSFSR, op. 3, d. 254, l. 144, Ob itogakh ucheta narodnykh samodeiatel´nykh teatrov i muzykal´nykh kollektivov [On the results of the review of people’s amateur theaters and musical collectives] 10.1.83.

29 G.G. Dadamian, “Sotsiologicheskie i sotsial´no‑ekonomicheskie problemy isssledovaniia teatra [Sociological and social‑economic problems in theatrical research],” in N. Khrenov et al., eds., Teatr i zritel´ (problemy sotsiologii teatral´nogo iskusstva) [Theater and spectator (problems of the sociology of theatrical art)] (M. : Ministerstvo kul´tury SSSR, 1973), 161.

30 Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1984 g., 347. For the 1970s see also Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1973 g. Staticheskie ezhegodnik [The economy of the RSFSR in 1973. Statistical annual] (M. : “Statistika,” 1974), 486 ; and Narodnoe khoziaistvo RSFSR v 1978 g., 305.

31 V. Patrushev, “V chas dosuga [In the hour of leisure],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 23 August 1983.

32 John Bushnell, “Urban Leisure Culture in Post‑Stalin Russia : Stability as a Social Problem ?” in Terry Thompson and Richard Sheldon, eds., Soviet Society and Culture : Essays in Honor of Vera S. Dunham (Boulder : Westview Press, 1988), 58‑86.

33 GARF, f. A‑628, Tsentral´nyi dom narodnogo tvorchestva [Central office of amateur creativity], op. 2, d. 531, l. 32, Vsesoiuznyi seminar rezhisserov narodnykh teatrov SSSR [All‑union seminar for directors of USSR people’s theaters] ; d. 377, l. 27, Postanovlenie Sovmin. RSFSR ot 12.4.73 ; Sbornik rukovodiashchikh materialov i normativnykh dokumentov po kul´turno‑prosvetitel´noi raboty [Resolution of the RSFSR Council of Ministers 12.4.73 ; Collection of leading materials and normative documents on cultural‑enlightenment work] (M. : Ministerstvo kul´tury SSSR, 1983), 44.

34 Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Omskoi oblasti, f. R‑22, Omskii orden Trudovogo Krasnogo znameni neftepererabatyvaiushchii kombinat im. 50‑letiia SSSR [Omsk order of the Red Banner 50th anniversary of the USSR oil refinery], op. 1, d. 1780, l. 10, Spravka o rabote Dvortsa kul´tury neftianikov [Information about the work of the Palace of culture for oil workers] ; d. 1922, l. 31, Spravka o sostoianii khudo. samo. Dvortsa kul´tury neftianikov [Information about the condition of amateur art at the Palace of culture for oil workers].

35 See, for instance, RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1327, l. 56, Stenogramma konferentsii rukovoditelei narodnykh teatrov Urala i Zapadnoi Sibiri 27.V.71 [Transcript of the conference of leaders of people’s theaters in the Urals and Western Siberia 27.V.71]. Their income never reached the impressive levels of increasingly popular discotheques. See Zhuk, Rock and Roll, esp. 183, 229. Some people’s theaters continued to perform for free.

36 TsGA Moskvy, f. 118, op. 1, d. 148, l. 1‑2, Spravka otdela o khode vypolneniia Postanovleniia TsK KPSS “O merakh po dal´neishemu razvitiiu samo. khudo. tvor.” uchrezhdeniiami kul´tury gagarinskogo raiona 1979 g. [Information of the department about the progress of fulfilling the Resolution of the TsK KPSS “On measures for the furthest development of amateur artistic creativity,” by cultural institutions of the Gagarin district 1979] ; d. 189, l. 11 ; f. 150, Mosgorispolkom, op. 1, d. 5541, l. 146, Protokol zasedaniia prezidiuma ispolkoma Mossoveta ot 28.VI.83g. [Minutes of the meeting of the presidium of the executive committee of Mossovet from 28.VI.83] ; f. 746, Gagarinskii raiispolkom, op. 1, d. 1480, l. 141, 149, 183, Otchet o rabote otdela kul´tury ispolkoma Gagarinskogo raisoveta [Report of the work of the cultural department of the executive committee of the Gagarin district soviet].

37 B. Bagariatskii, “My – teatr [We are a theater],” Kikhs (Klub i khudozhestvennaia samodeiatel´nost´), no. 16 (1975), 37.

38 TsGA Moskvy, f. 746, op. 1, d. 1480, l. 163, Doklad otdela kul´tury ispolkoma raisoveta [Report of the cultural department of the executive committee of the district soviet].

39 PAIO, f. 342, Obkom VLKSM, op. 26, d. 8, l. 311, Protokol 11 ot 5.VIII.1976 [Minutes #11 from 5.VIII.76] ; TsGA Moskvy, f. 150, op. 1, d. 5588, l. 213, Spravka o rabote Gagarinskogo raisoveta po rukovodstvu uchrezhdenii kul´tury za 1983 [Information about the work of the Gagarin district soviet on guidance for cultural institutions in 1983] ; GARF, f. A‑628, op. 1, d. 563, l. 109, Spisok uchastnikov narodnogo teatra Dvortsa kul´tury neftianikov, g. Angarsk [List of participants in the people’s theater at the Palace of culture for oil workers in Angarsk] ; Kirill Dateshidze, Interview, Leningrad, 19 July 1991.

40 Studios met in a nearby school. TsGA Moskvy, f. 147, op. 1, d. 3953, l. 45, Spravka o Molodezhnom teatre‑studii na Krasnoi Presne [Information on Krasnaia Presnia youth theater‑studio] ; TsK VLKSM report, Teatr na Krasnoi Presne archive.

41 Fil´shtinskii interview ; Mikhail Shchepenko, Interview, Moscow, 6 February 1991 ; N. Maiorova, “Otsenku spektakliu daet avtor [The author evaluates the performance],” Rabochii krai, 3 July 1971 ; L. Volokhonskaia, “Ne povtoriaia nikogo [Not copying anyone],” Teatral´naia zhizn´, no. 13 (1982), 5 ; RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1540, l. 10‑27, Pasport Omskogo narodnogo teatra pri Dvortsa kul´tury neftianikov [Passport of the Omsk people’s theater at the Palace of culture of oil workers] ; PAIO, f. 342, op. 26, d. 8, l. 311.

42 V. Potemkin, “‘Subbota’ v Voskresen´e [‘Saturday’ on Sunday],” Vechernii Leningrad, 7 April 1975.

43 TsGA Moskvy, f. 746, op. 1 d. 1676, l. 21, Spravka o rabote otdela i uchrezhdenii kul´tury Gagarinskogo raisoveta [Information about the work of the department and cultural institutions of the Gagarin district soviet] ; PAIO, f. 342, op. 26, d. 8, l. 336 ; Letter, Teatr na iugo‑zapade archive ; Letter, personal archive of Iurii Smirnov‑Nesvitskii.

44 GAIO (Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Ivanovskoi oblasti), f. 464, Profsoiuz rabotnikov kul´tury [Trade union of cultural workers], op. 2, d. 339, l. 22, Otchet o rabote Ivanovskogo otdeleniia VTO za 1974 [Report on the work of the Ivanovo branch of VTO in 1974] ; RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1367, l. 17, Otchet o zaniatiiakh laboratorii rezhisserov n.t. zony Zapadnoi Sibiri 25‑27.X.1974 g. Omsk [Report on the activities of the laboratory for people’s theater directors of the Western Siberia zone 25‑27.X.1974 in Omsk] ; op. 25, d. 3689, l. 1‑2, Programma provedenii seminara‑laboratorii rezhisserov narodnykh teatrov 12‑19.VI.76 g. [Program of activities of the seminar‑laboratory for people’s theater directors 12‑19.VI.76] ; op. 26, d. 1082, l. 17, Otchet o rabote Ivanovskogo otdeleniia za 1974 g. [Report on the work of the Ivanovo branch for 1974]

45 Lev Timofeev, “Kak nachinaiutsia novye kluby ? [How do new clubs begin ?],” Molodoi kommunist, no. 6 (1976), 63.

46 Bagariatskii, “My – teatr,” 37.

47 V. Spesivtsev, “Byt´ rezhisserom detstva [To be a director of childhood],” Komsomol´skaia pravda, 11 November 1979 ; Ol´ga Blinova, Natal´ia Veselova, Semen Tresser, “Teatr‑klub : sekret dolgoletiia [Theater‑club : the secret of longevity],” Kikhs, no. 22 (1978), 12‑15 ; Mikhail Belousov, “A theater that started in the street,” Soviet Life, no. 12 (1979), 42. Belousov’s article appeared in a series “Problem teenagers and crime prevention,” introduced the Soviet Minister of Internal Affairs at the time.

48 Letter, Teatr na iugo‑zapade archive.

49 TsGA Moskvy, f. 118, op. 1, d. 238, l. 4 ; f. 754, Krasnopresenskii raiispolkom 1969‑78 [Krasnaia Presnia district soviet exec. comm. 1969-1978], op. 1, d. 1408, l. 1, Protokol 1 Postoiannoi komissii po kul´ture ot 6.VI.82 [Minutes #1 of the standing commission for culture from 6.VI.82].

50 V. Spesivtsev, “Padcheritsa [Step‑daughter],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 6 January 1970 ; Idem, “Talantliv kazhdyi [Each is talented],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 13 December 1977 ; Idem, “Vyrasti svoi sad [Grow your own garden],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 18 March 1980.

51 Fil´shtinskii interview.

52 PAIO, f. 342, op. 26, d. 8, l. 336.

53 Iurii Zaitsev, Interview, Moscow, 21 January 1991. For the opposing view, see Iurii Shushkovskii, quoted in Viktor Kalish, “Iur´evo vremia… [Iurii’s time]” in S.A. Nagnibeda, ed., Istoriia v litsakh [A history in persons] (Omsk : Komitet po kul´ture i iskussvtu administratsii Omskoi oblasti, 1995), 346.

54 Grinberg’s Ivanovo troupe (1976), Spesivtsev’s na Krasnoi Presne (1977), and “Maneken” in Cheliabinsk (1979).

55 TsGA Moskvy, f. 118, op. 1, d. 189, l. 31 ; Spesivtsev, “Talantliv” ; G. Papaeva, “Interv´iu v nomer [Interview in the issue],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 16 December 1975 ; V. Ivanov, “Vozmemsia za ruki, druz´ia ! [Let’s join hands, friends !]” Teatral´naia zhizn, no. 20 (1978), 27 ; V. Sagalova, “Poeziia – navsegda [Poetry forever],” Leninets, 2 November 1976 ; V. Beliakovich, “My stroili teatr sami… [We built the theater ourselves…]” Iunost´, no. 3 (1986), 94.

56 Bagariatskii, “My – teatr,” 37 ; N. Balashova, “Kommuna nomer raz [Commune #1],” Panorama, no. 10 (1978), 29 ; Spisok chleny khudozhestvennogo soveta, Teatr na Krasnoi Presne archive [List of members of the artistic soviet, Krasnaia presnia theater archive]. Regina Grinberg in Ivanovo also cultivated an impressive group of Moscow supporters.

57 Beliakovich interview.

58 Shchepenko interview.

59 Letter, Smirnov‑Nesvitskii archive.

60 Khronika “Subboty,” [“Saturday” chronicle] Smirnov‑Nesvitskii archive ; Timofeev, “Kak nachinaiutsia novye kluby ?” 67. According to Smirnov‑Nesvitskii, the real reason for the closure had nothing to do with the official explanation of immoral behavior, which was a rehearsal that involved kissing. Instead, the troupe became a scapegoat after a samizdat copy of a Solzhenitsyn work was found in the palace library. Iurii Smirnov‑Nesvitskii, Interview, Leningrad, 17 June 1991. His recollection is consistent with a vague description of the incident from the time : “Zapiski o molodezhnom klube [Notes on a youth club],” 26 June 1971, refers to a discovery on the part of the administrators of “ideological shortcomings in the [palace] library’s work.” Smirnov‑Nesvitskii archive.

61 Andrei Rossinskii, Interview, Moscow, 4 April 1991.

62 It is also noteworthy that only Viktiuk was dismissed because of his controversial production. Roshkovan and Spesivtsev were ousted for problematic behavior of participants.

63 Bagariatskii, “My – teatr,” 37. Palaces of culture had the luxury of multiple stages, so films and performances conflicted less often.

64 Elena Levikova, “Sinii most [Blue bridge],” Teatr, no. 5 (1982), 84 ; TsGALI (Tsentral´nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva), f. 269, Dvorets kul´tury im. Pervoi piatiletki [The First five‑year plan Palace of culture], op. 2, d. 462, l. 2, Spravka o rabote otdela khudo. samo. za 1978‑80 gg. [Information about the work of the department of amateur arts for 1978‑1980]. ; F. Lur´e, “Teatral´nye studii – eto interesno [Theater studios – they’re interesting],” Zavodskaia pravda, 2 March 1982.

65 N. Pavlova, “Professionaly, kotorye liubiteli [Professionals who are amateurs],” Kikhs, no. 22 (1979), 13 ; Beliakovich, “My stroili teatr,” 94 ; Ivanov, “Vozmemsia za ruki,” 27 ; Iu. Bortunova, “Novosel´e, prem´era, sovershennoletie [House‑warming, premiere, coming of age],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, 22 November 1980.

66 Zaitsev interview ; Beliakovich interview.

67 For a discussion of audiences of amateur productions, see Susan Costanzo, “Reclaiming the Stage : Amateur Theater‑Studio Audiences in the late Soviet Era,” Slavic Review, 57, 2 (Summer 1998) : 398‑424.

68 GARF, f. A‑628, op. 2 d. 531, l. 28‑29.

69 GARF, f. A‑501, op. 1, d. 2157, l. 292, Pis´mo A. Popova, Ministr kul´tury RSFSR [Letter of A. Popov, RSFSR Minster of culture] ; RGALI, f. 970, op. 21, d. 2954, l. 80, Stenogramma zasedaniie Komissii sodeistviia teatral´noi samodeiatel´nosti 28.II.1959g. [Transcript of the meeting of the Commission for assistance to amateur theater 28.II.1959] ; f. 2329, Ministerstvo kul´tury SSSR, op. 10, d. 507, l. 23, Stenogramma sovmestnogo soveshchaniia Mk SSSR, rukovoditelei narodnykh teatrov i domov narodnogo tvorchestva 19.III.1959 [Transcript of the joint meeting of the USSR Ministry of culture, leaders of people’s theaters and offices of people’s creativity 19.III.1959] ; d. 515, l. 19, Predlozheniia Moskovskogo doma narodnogo tvorchestva 1959 [Recommendations of the Moscow office of people’s creativity 1959] ; “Tsvesti i krepnut´ teatral´noi samdeiatel´nosti ! [Flourish and strengthen amateur theater !]” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 22 January 1959.

70 RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1343, l. 3‑17, Soveshchanie rezhisserov narodnykh teatrov i teatral´nykh kollektivov 11.X.72 [Conference of directors of people’s theaters and theatrical collectives 11.X.72] ; op. 25, d. 185, l. 19, Stenogramma zasedaniia biuro prezidiuma VTO ot 6 okt. 82 g. [Transcript of the VTO presidium meeting of 6 Oct. 82] ; GAIO, f. 149, Fabrika im. Balashova [Balashov Factory], op. 13, d. 328, l. 391, Protokol fabkoma ot 25.III.64 [Factory committee minutes from 25.III.64].

71 Unfortunately, skimpy archives of club institutions offer no clues.

72 TsGA Moskvy, f. 147, op. 6, d. 2, l. 60, Kharakteristika, Avilov, Viktor Vasil´evich.

73 M. Trachenko, “‘Maneken’ gotovitsia k vstreche [‘Mannequin’ prepares for a meeting],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, 20 November 1985.

74 RGALI, f. 970, op. 22, d. 1486, l. 33, Pasport Angarskogo n.t. Urkutskoi oblasti 1958‑69 gg. [Passport of the Angarsk people’s theater of Irkutsk province 1958‑69]. Technically, if directors led two amateur groups they did not receive two full salaries, though this regulation may have been ignored.

75 On Volodin’s work, see Tat´iana Lanina, Aleksandr Volodin (L. : “Sovetskii pisatel´,” 1989) ; Samuel G. Marinov, “The Dramaturgy of Alexander Volodin,” Ph.D., University of Kansas, 1993.

76 Georgi Tovstonogov, O professii rezhissera [About the profession of the stage‑director], 2nd ed. (M. : Vserossiiskoe teatral´noe obshchestvo, 1967), 42. His words reflects Volodin’s fate. In the 1972 edition, the director’s lengthy defense of the playwright is absent. Georgi Tovstonogov, The Profession of the Stage‑Director, trans. Bryan Bean (M. : “Progress Publishers,” 1972).

77 See Marinov, “Volodin,” 123‑131.

78 V. Komissarzhevskii, Teatr, kotoryi liubliu : stat´i, ocherki, zametki [The theater I love : articles, essays, notes] (M. : “Vserossiiskoe teatral´noe obshchestvo,” 1981), 179.

79 For further discussion of the Moscow University troupes and the festival, see Costanzo, “Amateur publics.”

80 Yuri Bobkov and Aleksandr Berezin, Interview, Cheliabinsk, 16 May 1997. They are currently Artistic Director and General Manager of “Maneken” Theater.

81 In some cases, a theater could receive permission to perform a play only locally in order to minimize its availability to a broader public.

82 Liia Vainshtein, “Stsena plius kino [Stage plus screen],” Cheliabinskii rabochii, 19 March 1977.

83 “‘Maneken’ v Chekhoslovakii [‘Mannequin’ in Czechoslovakia],” Komsomolets, 25 June 1977.

84 A. Volodin, “Vazhno skazat´ vazhnoe [It’s important to say the important],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, 11 March 1977 ; M. Stul´, “‘Dve strely’ [‘Two shots’],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, 11 March 1977 ; L. Biteeva, “‘Dve strely’,” Politekhnicheskie kadry, 23 March 1977 ; Iu. Kozulin, “Ia otkryvaiu ‘Maneken’ [I discover ‘Mannequin’],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, 29 April 1977.

85 Letter from Vlad Ferkel´ to Susan Costanzo, 29 May 1997. Anatolii Morozov had no recollection of the incident. Anatolii Morozov, Interview, St. Petersburg, 30 June 1997. Morozov’s interview overall was not illuminating. By 1997, his career had faltered, and he tended to romanticize the Soviet era. I could not find any written documentation to support Ferkel´’s claim, but the press response indirectly supports his recollection.

86 Liia Vainshtein, “Teatr iz nashego goroda [A theater from our town],” Cheliabinskii rabochii, 24 December 1977 ; L. Biteeva, “Prodolzhenie priznaniia [Continued recognition],” Vechernii Cheliabinsk, 31 December 1977. For Komissarzhevskii’s more cautious discussion, see V. Komissarzhevskii, “Udivlenie [Surprise],” Komsomol´skaia pravda, 31 January 1978. In his article, he admitted that he had seen three productions but claimed that “space limitations” prohibited a full discussion. In 1981 “Udivlenie” was republished with a brief description of Two shots, so it is clear that he originally included it. Given the national press blackout, the earlier omission suggests the likelihood of censorship, rather than “space limitations.” Komissarzhevskii, Teatr, kotoryi liubliu, 179.

87 N. Rusakova, “Aktery prishli iz zritel´nogo zala [Actors came from the audience hall],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 6 January 1978.

88 I. Sidorina, M. Korbina, “Tvorchestvo milionov [The creativity of millions],” Teatr, no. 7 (1978), 4.

89 “V Tsentral´nom Komitete KPSS [In the Communist Party Central Committee],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 4 April 1978 ; “Narodnoe tvorchestvo [People’s creativity],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 7 April 1978.

90 Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsialno‑politicheskoi istorii, f. 1‑m, Tsentral´nyi komitet VLKSM, op. 90, d. 62, l. 130‑31, Pis´mo TsK VLKSM 25 iiunia 1979g. [Letter of the Komsomol Central Committee 25 June 1979].

91 M. Mel´nikova, “Teatr ‘Maneken’,” Nedelia, 19‑25 June 1978 ; A. Silin, “Sekret dolgoletiia ‘Manekena,’ [The secret of ‘Mannequin’’s longevity]” Studencheskii meridian, no. 8 (1978), 43. See also Iu. Smelkov, “Byl festival´ v Tashkente [There was a festival in Tashkent],” Iunost´ (3, 1980), 84 ; V. Frolov, “Stanovlenie [Becoming],” Sovetskaia kul´tura, 1 April 1980 ; E. Surkov, “Obeshchanie [The promise],” Literaturnaia gazeta, 16 April 1980.

92 Levikova, “‘Sinii most’,” 89 ; L.B. Zakshever, “O etalonnom repertuare teatral´noi samodeiatel´nosti [On the standard‑bearing repertoire in amateur theater],” in Repertuar khudozhestvennoi samodeiatel´nosti : sovremennost´ traditsii [The repertoire of amateur arts : the contemporaneity of tradition] (M. : Nauchno‑issledovatel´skii institut kul´tury, 1983), 12.

93 Evgenii Shvarts, “The Dragon,” in Three Plays, ed. and trans. Avril Pyman (Oxford : Pergamon Press, 1972), 189.

94 Mark Zakharov, “Such a story,” Moscow News, 27 December 1987.

95 According to informal records kept by the Union of theater workers (formerly VTO) library, theaters in Vilnius (1968), Tbilisi (1976), Khabarovsk (1979), Perm´ (1981), and Riazan´ (1981) staged it.

96 Natal´ia Kaidalova, “Teatr nachinaetsia s repertuara [Theater begins with the repertoire],” in N. Kaidalova, ed., Stanovlenie [Becoming] (M. : “Sovetskaia Rossiia,” 1988), 34‑35 ; Irma Alekseeva, “Teatr kupit venskie stul´ia [A theater buys ballroom chairs],” in Kaidalova, ed., Stanovlenie, 56.

97 Vadim Lorber, Interview, Leningrad 2 July 1991 ; Tat´iana Zhakovskaia, Interview, Leningrad, 2 July 1991 ; Irina Iakovleva, Interview, Leningrad, 2 July 1991 ; Programka, personal archive of Tat´iana Zhakovskaia ; “Dlia tekh, kto liubit teatr [For those who love theater],” Leningradskii rabochii, 20 November 1981 ; T. Marchenko, “‘Chetyre okoshka’ v bol´shoi mir [‘Four windows’ into the great world],” Smena, 8 June 1982. I also found evidence of two other productions, another in Leningrad and one in Petrozavodsk. See V. Polushko, “Za chto my liubim ‘mel´pominu’ [Why we love Melpomene],” Vechernii Leningrad, 29 December 1981 ; RGALI, f. 970, op. 25, d. 3656, l. 18, Repertuar narodnykh teatrov v sezone 1983‑1984 gg. [Repertoire of people’s theaters in the 1983‑1984 season]

98 For a similar toleration in the Komsomol see Alexei Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2006).

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Référence électronique

Susan Costanzo, « Friends in low places », Cahiers du monde russe [En ligne], 54/3-4 | 2013, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2016, Consulté le 21 septembre 2017. URL : http://monderusse.revues.org/7970

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Auteur

Susan Costanzo

Western Washington University, USA, Department of History. susan.costanzo@wwu.edu

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Droits d'auteur

2011

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