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Theater ensemble in Voronezh asks Putin to reinstate pacifist artistic director who was fired

The Voronezh Chamber Theatre ensemble has written to Vladimir Putin about the dismissal of the establishment's founder, Mikhail Bychkov, who was suspended due to his anti-war stance. The statement is published on the theater's social media page.

Mikhail Bychkov, the founder and artistic director of the theater, learned about his dismissal just two hours before the end of his last working day. In their joint letter, the theater workers urge regional Minister of Culture, Maria Mazur, to hold a meeting and explain her decision. The letter, endorsed by 63 signatures, is addressed to Vladimir Putin, the Ministry of Culture, and the Voronezh regional government.

"We are aghast that the theater founder, its creator, has been fired. […] It is hard to find the right words to describe the morale of the troupe and the entire theater ensemble. We are unsure how to proceed with our work. This decision seems a mistake that will only bring destruction to the theater. We implore you to return him to the place he created. The loss of the chamber theater would be a significant blow to the city of Voronezh as well," says the statement.

The letter authors mentioned that the plays presented at the Chamber Theater, including those personally directed by Bychkov, have earned multiple Golden Masks. Additionally, the director established the international Platonov Arts Festival, drawing attendees from all corners of Russia.

"He created one of the best regional theaters in Russia and led it for 30 years. It stands as a source of pride for the city of Voronezh. Building a theater involves dedicating one's life and health to it. Depriving the theater of its founder overnight means dismantling it and reducing it to an ordinary establishment," the artists assert.

The regional government's press office labeled the artists' demand as "inappropriate", asserting that the Voronezh Chamber Theater is "not private property", and the ensemble must "act in the interest of their current employer."

On February 26, 2022, Mikhail Bychkov signed an appeal to end the war in Ukraine. On March 9, 2023, he announced his resignation as the artistic director of the Platonov Arts Festival. According to a Voronezh state channel, Mikhail Bychkov was dismissed because the theater did not provide military members and their families with discounted tickets, as a form of support.


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