Culture in coronavirus era: vaccine as criteria of civility

The Tatarstan minister of culture summarised the results of the season, announced new festivals and reminded residents of the republic about how important it was to respect your and others’ health

Culture in coronavirus era: vaccine as criteria of civility
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Tatarstan Minister of Culture Irada Ayupova met with bloggers and journalists in the Kamal Theatre on 25 June and told them what awaited the theatre, museums and culture of the republic in general in 2021. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report about crowdfunding and grants, coronavirus restrictions and new projects, what secrets the Kamal Theatre hid behind the scenes.

Results of the tough year

Summing up the cultural season Irada Ayupova admitted that the year wasn’t simple, of course. They had to work amid restrictions, in a complicated situation. Though a lot was done:

“The year was tough. With a 70% attendance rate, we are at the level of 2019. Theatre life actively goes on. In the 2020/21 theatre season, 64 premieres, 328 away plays, 86 charity plays were performed. Festivals revive — a festival of small towns was successfully held in Naberezhnye Chelny. Now every event is considered as an exception than a rule. We opened a truly great exhibition — Five Symbols of Happiness (an exhibition of the State Hermitage in the Kazan Kremlin). I like symbolism, it is a very interesting area.”

The minister said that the Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow allocated five seats to train professional literary translators for the republic’s Ministry of Culture. The competition is already underway, and Ayupova urged school graduates who sat literature and Russian language exams to participate in the targeted selection.

The minister said that the Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow allocated five seats to train professional literary translators for the republic’s Ministry of Culture

“Patriotism shouldn’t be clumsy”

Mrs Ayupova separately mentioned financial injections in culture projects. So a decree on subsidies for non-profit organisations from the republican budget came into the light recently, on 21 June, which is designed to support crowdfunding projects in culture. The minister thinks this area is very compelling because precisely people’s projects raise money by crowdfunding. And today some of such projects can receive public subsidies too — the ratio is 40 to 60%. Of course, the development of modern culture is unimaginable without grants. Applications for the Russian presidential grant started to be received on 15 June. The Fund for Cultural Initiatives is urged to support initiatives in creative industries, and this concept is already elaborated at federal level.

“The very fact of what the country says today that the potential of the future development of the country’s economy is in art, it is a very good marker, a very good story. Applications can be submitted until 30 July. I am urging everybody to participate in this contest, moreover, the choice is very big, from sole traders to non-profit organisations, municipal cultural establishments. If you have ideas, projects, submit an application!” the minister concluded.

Ayupova, by the way, is a member of this project’s coordination committee. As she said, the committee determines key areas, what projects should be supported first of all, how to tell society about them. Most importantly, these projects should include both national culture and patriotism.

“But patriotism shouldn’t be clumsy, it isn’t an area that can lead the youth. It seems to me very important that people realise their territorial and national identity through the lens of values, not thanks to some slogans,” the minister separately voiced the importance of the task.

The Ministry of Culture works as usual, its specialists and artists of the republic are full of ideas, as Irada Ayupova claims

There will be festivals, but anti-COVID-19 rules must be followed

In the second half of the year, Kazan doesn’t expect fewer bright events than those we have already seen. So Kachalov and Tinchurin festivals are ahead. At the moment, the Ministry of Culture hopes that the traditional Muslim film festival will be offline.

From 23 to 27 July, Kazan will host a festival dedicated to traditional crafts, arts, applied arts with the support of the federal Ministry of Industry. So the Ministry of Culture works as usual, its specialists and artists of the republic are full of ideas, as Irada Ayupova claims.

Of course, society is very concerned about lockdowns: the third wave of coronavirus is nearby, won’t museums and theatres close again? In reply to this, the minister calmed bloggers and journalists down: there aren’t instructions to close culture organisations or take restrictive measures, but works on vaccination are done. She also reminded the audience of the culture of health, how important it was to respect both your health and that of others.

“A visit to theatres, museums must comply with all the norms and rules. Hopefully, we won’t be closed. Even if the wave gets to Tatarstan, theatres are anyway closing for three-month holidays. Museums are following all the necessary rules: there are antiseptics, visitors are asked to keep a distance and wear masks, there are limits on the number of people in groups if group visits are organised. We have been working in such a regime for long. We were the first in the country to open, on 18 May 2020. We are talking with establishments that it is necessary to motivate people to receive a vaccine. It seems to me a criteria of civility.”

There is already an interesting example of motivation in cultural establishments: the Kazan circus has offered a 10% discount on a ticket if a vaccination certificate is provided since 25 June.

Hopefully, we won’t be closed. Even if the wave gets to Tatarstan, theatres are anyway closing for three-month holidays

“There are no clown performances in Kazan”

One of the attendees of the meeting, clown Ruslan Rimanas told Irada Ayupova about his desire to develop this activity in Kazan and even reminded her that she had sent her a letter asking for help.

“I performed a play in Lake Kaban and want to do it more. I sent you a letter about the idea of a street play on the water in Black Lake. I want to develop this area very much. There are no clown performances in Kazan. I am the only clown in Tatarstan to professionally deal with it. I really lack support and promotion of this genre. While I want to bring happiness and joy to people. We created another project with the best directors, which was supported by the Kazan Kremlin museum-reserve, we applied in the fund for presidential grants but didn’t win. How can you help with it?”

The minister suspected in reply that they hadn’t won the grant because the application was probably submitted wrongly and said that the Fund for Cultural Initiatives had already offered training for potential grant holders in this respect and was ready to do this again:

“Applications are submitted wrongly very often. Let’s learn this culture. We are ready to help in this issue methodically. Cultural initiatives are really big opportunities, the amount of grants is 3,5 billion...”

After the minister’s speech, the guests were offered an excursion behind the scenes of the theatre

Endless corridors, a thousand and one costumes and a view from the theatre’s roof

After the minister’s speech, the guests were offered an excursion behind the scenes of the theatre. Supervisor of special projects Niyaz Iglamov showed sewing, property, costume room. He didn’t manage to answer the question about the number of costumes but joked that they always answered a thousand and one. Interestingly, when plays leave the repertory, costumes stay in the theatre forever. They are used for students’ stagings. They are stored carefully: all costumes are numbered. Some samples are 70 years old! To prevent the costumes from being damaged, covered with mould and acquiring musty odour, the costume room is provided with flow-through ventilation.

After the guests visited the backstage area along long and curvy corridors where one can easily get lost if visited for the first time, they were offered to go upstairs to the theatre’s roof — it offered an amazing view of the city.

How Kamal Theatre lives: premieres, digitalisation and expectation of renovation

The Kamal Theatre’s Director Ilfir Yakupov talked about its life a bit:

“I want to thank our spectator for being with us during these tough, psychologically terrible times,” Yakupov said. “It was the toughest season, the longest one, we started to perform on 21 August and closed on 25 June. Traditionally, we used to close in October. Some, of course, are afraid of going to the theatre because of the pandemic but come here anyway, some — who are vaccinated — aren’t afraid and come. We will keep playing, showing premieres, people need it!”

However, the director didn’t reveal what premieres there would be: to leave some intrigue. So we will learn the most interesting news after 10 August when the theatre starts operating.

According to Yakupov, the pandemic seriously changed the theatre’s life but brought something positive. For instance, Kamal artists still have Zoom briefings, it turned out to be convenient. Also, the theatre mastered online transmissions: 21 plays were performed this way during the season. They found out that foreign spectators and Tatars who live in Russia but not in Tatarstan have request for it.

As for the building’s renovation: nowadays architectures are working on its project. This building will turn 35 years next year. The task is to renovate the building but not to lose the appearance Kazan citizens got used to seeing.

Niyaz Iglamov, the Kamal Theatre’s supervisor of special projects, told Realnoe Vremya that preparing for the theatre building’s large-scale renovation, Kamal workers worked in other places too — they even created a programme of away plays. But the renovation hasn’t begun this year — the theatre is still waiting for it to start. So apparently, it will play back, and the season will start in its own building, as usual.

Iglamov lifted the veil of the future season’s premieres: for instance, Mirage play by Amirkhan Eniki’s novel is now prepared. Aydar Zabbarov will start working on it. The top cast is involved — about 25 artists. It will certainly be ready by 7 November, as the supervisor promises, by the memory day of Marsel Salimzhanov.

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Yekaterina Guzanova
Analytics Tatarstan