© RIA Novosti. Iliya Pitalev
'Censored' poets invited to meet Putin
Their poetry was too risqué for television, but Dmitry Bykov and Mikhail Yefremov, pictured above, have been invited to meet Vladimir Putin after hitting the headlines for their criticism of the ruling tandem.
Last month the TV channel Dozhd pulled Yefremov’s planned performance of Bykov’s verse from it’s “The Poet and the Citizen” show, fearing that it went beyond political satire and became a personal attack on Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.
But the controversial pair have since been invited to join the PM at a gathering with other artists and performers in Penza on Friday.
Making their excuses
Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that about 15 cultural figures would take part in the meeting, but added he does not have a full list.
Bykov and Yefremov had been invited, he told journalists following a government meeting on Thursday, but it was unlikely that they would be able to make it.
“With Bykov there was a similar story last time. You remember how much commentary there was last time,” he said, referring to an incident in summer of 2009 when Bykov’s refusal was misinterpreted by the media as a political statement.
“He’s become a Prometheus. We hope that he will come. It is always a good thing to discuss cultural issues with someone of Bykov’s stature. Although to our regret he may not be able to make it. He has declined, saying he is busy.”
Previous meetings, such as one to mark Putin’s birthday in 2009, have sparked controversy.
Some writers, Bykov included, turned down invitations on the grounds that it was an inappropriate time and place for political debate.
But others, such as RIA Novosti commentator Alexander Arkhangelsky, accepted the invitation – in the face of criticism from some members of the liberal intelligentsia – because it was a rare chance to question the leadership face to face.
Storm in a teacup
Putin has hosted similar gatherings in the past – and last year faced an unexpected barrage of criticism from rock star Yury Shevchuk.
The DDT frontman lambasted the PM over freedom of the press, social inequality and a new breed of state-sponsored patriotism, while demanding to know why protests were being suppressed.
Peskov said Shevchuk had not been invited on Friday, but only because he was a musician rather than a writer. The spokesman added that Shevchuk would be invited to future events.
Putin is not alone in mixing with the creative classes.
Medvedev has also been happy to set up events with popular musicians and writers in a bid to reinforce his common man credentials.
Medvedev invited U2 frontman Bono for a cosy chat at the presidential dacha in Sochi prior to the Irish band’s Moscow gig last year, and joined a group of Russian rockers for an unconvincingly staged jam session at a bar in the capital.
And earlier this year he met members of Deep Purple, his favourite band, and talked about DJing at school discos in his youth.