Vladimir Urin:

Getting to know another country through art destroys bias

“At its core, Russian art is based on humanistic values that stress relationships between people,” said the General Director of the Bolshoi Theatre Vladimir URIN in an exclusive interview with Sergo Kukhianidze, Editor-in-Chief at Capital Ideas.

Mr. Urin, everybody in the world knows how special the Bolshoi Theatre is. In your opinion, why has the Bolshoi become such a well-known, positive brand abroad? When did this happen?

It’s important to point out that the Bolshoi Theatre established itself as a brand in Russia before it became famous abroad. This didn’t happen overnight - it happened over the course of the 240 years that the Bolshoi has been in existence.

There aren’t many theatres in the world that have such an extensive history. Especially since Russia has always been famous for prominent singers, musicians and dancers.

The Bolshoi Theatre goes on tour a lot and lives up to its reputation in the West by putting on great shows. I think that’s why people know about it. Today, TV and digital technology have made it possible to watch Bolshoi Theatre performances from any corner of the world in real time. Everybody has the opportunity to appreciate the scope of quality of our art.

How significant is the Bolshoi Theatre for Russian culture? Are there institutions that hold more significance?

It’s almost impossible to answer this question because it’s very subjective. Everybody has their own opinion. There are many cultural institutions in Russia: ones associated with museums, literature, history, architecture… Trying to organize them into some kind of hierarchy is pointless. How can you compare Russian cultural institutions, especially in the global sense. How would you compare Leo Tolstoy and the Hermitage Palace?

Nobody has any doubt that the Bolshoi is very important to our culture. But I don’t think it makes sense to create hierarchies.

If the Bolshoi Theatre is our “secret weapon,” what values does it communicate to the world?

Values? I suppose, first of all, that these are the values that are conveyed by Russian art generally - by Russian music, Russian literature, Russian paintings. At its core, Russian art is based on humanistic values that stress relationships between people. Of course, the best Bolshoi pieces convey these principles as well.

Do you believe that culture can bring people closer and help countries overcome political disagreements?

I think it’s the only thing that can. How do we learn about people from a different culture? From art and literature. That’s how we understand a nation’s values. After all, we often talk about how we can learn about different cultures, but there are some cultures that are easier for us to understand, while others are more of a challenge. I think that getting to know a country through its art and culture dismantles the biases that politicians work to uphold. I’m speaking from experience here, since I have toured a lot with the Stanislavsky Theatre and the Bolshoi. The attitudes people have toward us and toward Russian culture in general leaves no doubt in my mind that we don’t have any problems when it comes to understanding each other.

Yuri Vizbor once famously wrote that Russia is the world’s leader in ballet. Is this still true today?

In some respects, yes. But not in every respect, if we’re discussing the development of ballet and its contemporary form. But what I do know for certain is that today’s Bolshoi Theatre troupe is one of the best troupes in the world according to the opinions of professionals, colleagues and audience members. And in my opinion as well.

Photo: www.bolshoi.ru


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