Yury Lyubimov at the Taganka Theatre, 1964-1994

Yury Lyubimov at the Taganka Theatre, 1964-1994

Yury Lyubimov at the Taganka Theatre, 1964-1994

Yury Lyubimov at the Taganka Theatre, 1964-1994


“The most interesting thing in art is the unconscious process. Analysis starts later…”

Yury Lyubimov, 8 August 1988

The first production I saw by Yury Lyubimov was The Possessed in London in 1985. At that time I was an undergraduate, fascinated by theatre in general, obsessed with Dostoevsky, and about to become possessed by the idea of investigating the career of this director, who had been filling the newspapers for several years with entirely non-artistic headlines, when he was first stripped of his post, then of his Party membership, and finally of his Soviet citizenship.

When I started my research in Moscow, the name Lyubimov was taboo: his productions were shown, but there was no indication of a director in the programmes; his picture and name were removed from all new editions of theatre histories; the films in which he had acted were temporarily shelved (among them the Soviet classic Kuban Cossacks).

During my research, Lyubimov continued to hit the headlines: he returned to Moscow in 1988 for a visit, and was reinstated in his post and regained his Soviet citizenship in 1989. Then the Taganka theatre split and interviews with the two opponents, Gubenko and Lyubimov, filled the gossip columns of almost every newspaper in Moscow.

I have tried to characterise Yury Lyubimov through his artistic work rather than by probing the “scandals”. Many people maintain that Lyubimov needed these scandals and conflicts in order to spur his creativity. I have spent a long time in archives looking at the minutes of meetings with petty bureaucrats, and have spoken to several former officials in Moscow; as a result, I dispute this view in my survey: Lyubimov's creative potential may have been strengthened at certain points by the circumstances under which he worked, but it was never enriched. His productions are tied not to the system under which they were created, but to the society he lived in and to the audience he played to. For that reason he deserves a study of this kind: his work over thirty years reflects the development of humanist and spiritual values in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.

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