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Moscow Concert for Political Prisoners Gets Full House

13 May 2013

Vera Vasilieva 

The concert held in support of political prisoners in Moscow’s Mir concert hall on 12 May 2013 gathered a record audience. The hall, which has 1,000 seats, was packed to overflowing. Some wishing to go to the concert were not even able to get tickets. The event organisers were the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, For Human Rights, Solidarity, the Party of 5 December, as well as the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

Photo Report by Vera Vasilieva, 

This was the 7th charitable concert in support of innocent people who have been convicted and prisoners of conscience. Those taking part included satirical writer Viktor Shenderovich, musical band Paperny TAM and the poet and Novaya gazeta columnist Dmitry Bykov. And before these performances, among the celebrities who came on to the stage to show their support for the victims of political prosecutions were the poets and singers Yuli Kim and Timur Shaov, lead singer of the group Neschastny Sluchai (Accident) Aleksei Kortnev, the actor Vadim Zhuk, and the pianist Mikhail Arkadiev. 

All the funds raised from these concerts are to be used to support today’s Russian political prisoners who are in need of money for their defence in court, for medical help, for clothes, and to support their relatives who have lost the main breadwinner.

“In today’s Russia hundreds of people are subjected to persecution for their beliefs and civic stance. In the detention centres, prisons and camps there are prisoners of conscience and people convicted on political motives,” say the organisers of the concert.

In the leaflets produced by the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and which were disseminated among the audience, a list of such people is divided into groups. Three such groups were those imprisoned in connection with the Yukos case (Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, Aleksei Pichugin), scientists sentenced for alleged espionage (Svatoslav Bobashev, Evgeny Afanasiev, Sergei Visir) and and members of the punk band Pussy Riot (Maria Aleksina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova).

However, the biggest group currently consists of people being persecuted in connection with the Bolotny case, of whom there are 28, and this list is growing, which is frightening. The back stage was dedicated to those participants in the March of Millions which took place on 6 May 2012 and are now behind bars. Their portraits were on display there.

Viktor Shenderovich, who was the master of ceremonies for the concert, performed some satirical acts from his book Raisins from a Bun. Much of what he then wrote during the pre-perestroika Soviet time is as topical today as it was then. 

The band Paperny TAM with the lead singer Aleksei Paperny was a showstopper. The loudest applause from the audience came for the song,d “You weren’t waiting for us, but we came”.

In the second part of the show Dmitry Bykov read a few extracts from his new book of prose which is to be published soon, and also some poems that are already favourites with readers. Finally he read a poem called “A Girl with a Letter”.

“This poem is frightening, because we don’t know what will happen to us”, said the poet.

There was a box in the lobby of the hall to collect money for the political prisoners, and on the wall there was a financial report of the receipts and showing how the funds collected from the previous concerts had been spent. It is estimated that from the sale of concert tickets on 12th May the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners raised 400,000 roubles. Also approximately 200,000 was collected through donations.