The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview

16 Glasnost' and Soviet Culture

JOSEPHINE WOLL

In the past two years, the nature of cultural politics in the Soviet Union has changed dramatically. The uncomfortable intimacy of politics and culture, bedfellows for so many decades, continues, but the relationship is not what it once was. New institutions are functioning, and unexpected material is available in print and on the air waves. Certain trends emerging two years ago have become more pronounced, while others have diminished. 1 This essay attempts to discern and analyze some of the processes and patterns of cultural politics in the last two years—a tumultuous and exciting kaleidoscope of complicated and often contradictory trends, reflecting an altered cultural universe....

... I shall concentrate on the two unions that have undergone restructuring and on the USSR Union of Writers, which has not. 2


THE CREATIVE UNIONS

What, then, has happened in the theater and cinema unions, from the start strong supporters of Gorbachev and perestroyka? After forcing the retirement of their conservative old-guard leaderships at the earliest opportunity (in April-May 1986), both unions implemented a series of roughly parallel decisions to increase decentralization and to encourage democratization of decision-making. Most of the country's film studios and a number of theaters have become essentially self‐ financing.

Theater. Eighty-three theaters all over the country are participating in an experimental agreement with the state by which they have gained much greater artistic autonomy (for instance, in the choice of repertory) as well as financial responsibility. A variety of new organizational forms were introduced to support existing theaters and to encourage the creation of new theaters. To give one example, under the sponsorship of the Moscow City Executive Committee, several "theater-studios"—that is, less well-established or more experimental groups— signed two-year collective contracts entitling them to a public space and making them fully commercial. Formerly such theater groups had to mount their productions wherever they could, on makeshift and borrowed temporary stages; publicity spread by word-of-mouth, and well-informed friends comprised the audience. Now they have a place to work; if they lose money, they will have to close.

The director of one of the most prominent of these groups, Mark Rozovskiy, has explained that he receives no state subsidy and pays 5 percent of his profits

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