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Bota

Vladimir Putin 'rewards' his loyalist, this is the important position that the Russian leader receives

Vladimir Putin 'rewards' his loyalist, this is the important position

Valery Gergiev, the Russian conductor and known supporter of Vladimir Putin, has been appointed general director of Moscow's Bolshoi theatre, the latest appointment of a Kremlin loyalist to a major cultural institution.

The appointment means Gergiev, who also runs the rival Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg, will have artistic control over the two crown jewels of Russian ballet and opera.

In a statement at the Bolshoi theater on Friday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Gergiev will lead the institution for five years.

Gergiev, 67, has been close to Russian President Vladimir Putin since the early 1990s and has publicly supported him many times, including appearing in a television ad for his 2012 campaign, supporting the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and performing a patriotic concert in the Syrian city of Palmyra in 2016.

Once one of the world's busiest international leaders, he has emerged as persona non grata in the West for his refusal to distance himself from Putin since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Valery Gergiev performed with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Bucharest last year.

Shortly after Russian troops began their occupation, he was dismissed as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. Gergiev has appeared with the Mariinsky Orchestra in China, where he received a standing ovation during the ensemble's first overseas tour since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Simon Morrison, a leading specialist in Russian music at Princeton University, said it was unprecedented in modern Russia for one person to lead both Moscow's Bolshoi and its St Petersburg rival.

It is part of Putin's agenda to restore Russian imperialism.

Both Putin and Gergiev promote old rotten Russian ideas, nationalism, orthodoxy and conservatism.

Putin does it in the military and politics, while Gergiev does it in culture.

What we can expect are performances at the Bolshoi operas that affirm the Ukrainian, Polish and Georgian place in the Russian empire.

Gergiev will replace current Bolshoi director Vladimir Urin, who joined the theater in 2013 and was widely regarded as a capable administrator and artistic director.

Shortly after Russian troops entered Ukraine in February 2022, Urin was one of many cultural figures to sign an open letter calling on "everyone on whom it depends to stop all armed activities".

Morrison said: “Urin showed little conscience, he put himself in a dangerous position. One has to respect him for that and for the way he ran the Bolshoi. He did a great job."

Russian authorities have also cracked down on cultural figures who have criticized the war, with many being fired from their jobs.

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