31 January 2024
The directors of St. Petersburg’s Academic Aleksandrinsky Theatre have stated in a letter to writer Boris Akunin (real name, Grigori Chkhartishvili) that his play is a “compilation of historical materials.” Akunin himself reported this on his website, publishing a scan of the letter from the Aleksandrinsky Theatre.
“It is essential to note that the text of One Eight Eight One consists of historical materials and dialogs created on the basis of archive documents. Authorship of the text belongs to the theatre’s creative group and the performance’s director.
“Since the performance does not use Grigori Chkhartishvili’s work, the theatre’s obligation to pay a fee for each performance is hereby discontinued,” the letter Akunin published says.
The writer reacted to the letter with sarcasm, calling the Russian state “foul.”
“Generally speaking, of course, it’s a productive idea. Give authorship of the Fandorin novels, to say nothing of The History of the Russian State, to the publishers as being based on historical materials. My screenplays to the filmmakers. My music straight to the state because it is in fact written by the people, and ‘Aron is getting fat.’ And so forth.
“Lord, how this foul state tramples people in the mud. And the main question is how people let themselves be trampled. This isn’t about nonsense like a stolen play, that’s just silly,” he said indignantly.
A few days ago, Akunin reported that the LDM Novaya Stsena Theatre in St. Petersburg had changed the performance of The Diamond Chariot, based on his detective novel by the same name, renaming the show Marco Polo: The White Lotus, and moving the action from Japan to China.
“This whole wonder could be handsomely labeled ‘reinvention.’ If I were the Russian Federation, I would grab onto this life hack. Just imagine! A parade of reinventions. All of Pugacheva’s songs reinvented by Shaman: “This Train on Fire” gets altered slightly to “This Train to the Donbass” (“and we have no one left to imprison”); The Turkish Gambit becomes The Crimean End-Game, and so on,” the writer joked.
The scandal around Akunin heated up after the pro-Kremlin prankers Vovan and Leksus called him pretending to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. During the conversation, Akunin declared his support for Ukraine, something he had done many times before in his public statements. Vovan and Leksus posted a recording of the conversation on the net.
A few days later, on Vladimir Soloviev’s show on air, State Duma Deputy Andrei Gurulev called Akunin an “enemy” and called for him to be “destroyed.”
Boris Akunin stated that he had not told the prankers anything new in the conversation. According to the writer, his books “would be published somewhere on the territory of freedom.”
On 18 December 2023, Rosfinmonitoring [Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation] added Akunin to the “list of terrorists and extremists.” Criminal charges were brought against the writer under articles of the Russian Criminal Code on “military fake news” and “public calls for terrorism.”
After this, the largest Russian marketplaces—Ozon, Wildberries, and Yandex Market—removed Akunin’s books from sale. On 12 January, the Justice Ministry added the writer to the list of “foreign agents,” and on 27 January he was declared wanted in Russia.
In mid-January it became known that the Aleksandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg had canceled the performance of 1881 based on Akunin’s play. At the time, the institution refused to comment on the decision.
Translated by Marian Schwartz