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Art belongs to... the Turkmen authorities

We have already reported that the dance groups are forbidden to perform without a license. Instead, they are allowed to perform at family celebrations organized by high ranking officials. Apparently, the dance artists are likely to be turned into the royal court dancers.

All dance groups, which applied to the Ashgabat Department of Cultural Affairs to obtain the license as early as January 2008, have not been given the approval so far. Furthermore, recently they have been summoned again by the chief of the Department of Cultural Affairs, who demanded that the artists sign the statement that they will not be performing until they get the license.

"Why should we submit such a statement?" – ask the managers of the dance groups, - "After applying the documents, pursuant to the law we are entitled to appear on stage until we obtain the officially registered rejection, i.e. a written document explaining the reasons for a refusal. However, the officials will not dare to do this as we can file a complaint against the documented refusal".

At the same time, the government officials themselves have a direct interest in the services provided by the dancers.

"High ranking officials themselves invite us to perform at their weddings and other family celebrations", say the dancers of one of the groups. – "We performed dances at the wedding of the daughter of chief of Presidential Executive Office Y. Ishankuliev and later at the wedding of a friend of the President's sister. Yet, the government officials are reluctant to issue the license to allow us to appear on stage without any restrictions in front of ordinary Ashgabat residents rather than the powers that be. In fact, the aim is to turn us into royal court dancers deprived of any rights".

Another example of how dependant the artists are on the whims of the government officials is the hard fate of a young theatrical group ArtEast. We have repeatedly reported about the problems they face. The group comprised of professional actors and the director of the Russian Drama Theatre named after Pushkin has not been able to work for four months. The reason is that ArtEast fails to find the premises as all stage owners refuse to lease their facilities despite the fact that the group is accredited by the Ministry of Culture and TV and Radio Broadcasting.

Searching for the premises, the artists managed to solicit support from the director of the Officers' Club, but the latter asked to present a permission given by the Ministry of Culture. However, the Ministry refused to grant the permission on the grounds that ArtEast is allowed to show their productions only on the stage of the Pushkin theatre. The chief theatre manager ?.Rakhmanov says no to actors referring to a busy theatre schedule. Thus the private theatre is deprived of the opportunity to make theatre production for their spectators, notwithstanding that it holds the official license.

The slogan invented in the Soviet times reads "The art belongs to the people". Needless to say that only a few Soviet slogans reflected the reality. Yet, the present-day Turkmenistan does not even realize that the art must belong to the people and not to the authorities. Moreover, the authorities should serve the people, the artists and culture workers including.

Comment by the editorial board:

Our website has devoted several articles to the challenges that the theatrical group ArtEast is confronted with. We have received the feedback to one of the articles authored by the "theater's creative team" as indicated in the letter.

This is not an article but an attempt to present another point of view. Below we bring to your attention the excerpts from the letter we received. At the same time, we are ready to publish a full version which represents the viewpoint of the "theater's creative team". This might help our readers to get the unbiased and objective picture of what is really happening.

Below are the excerpts from the letter. We refrain from providing any comment.

"The theater's creative team

Reading the libelous publications about our theatre on the Internet, it is difficult to imagine that these have been written by the people who love the theatre and wish it well-being and prosperity. How one can defame "the last refuge of Russian culture" and support several slanderers who spread ideas which are alien to the Russian spirituality and destroy the theatre instead of creating it?! The materials available on the Internet do not reflect the reality, but distort the facts and simply can be treated as a libel against the Russian Theatre in Ashgabat.

<...>

Virtually, A. Rakhmanov (manager of the Pushkin theatre - Chronicles of Turkmenistan) is impeccable: a non-smoker, a non-drinker, a distinguisehd person, a member of the Democratic party, a graduate of the State Institute of Theatrical Art, a holder of the University diploma and the follower of the Russian theatre school – one cannot find a better candidate".

Source: TIHR