President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Medinsky, 2014 was declared Year of Culture in Russia, but aside from the humanitarian and intellectual dimension of this work, there is the purely material aspect too.
What is the situation like now in terms of material support for the culture sector?
Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky: Mr President, I want to update you on a number of facilities. This is a fairly random selection from the Culture Ministry’s extensive report on the big financial projects that will remain after the Year of Culture.
Just two months ago we opened the marvellous Shnitke Philharmonic Concert Hall in Saratov, following major reconstruction. In September, we will open the national musical theatre in Tyva, and last week, together with Mr Medvedev, we opened the new Mari State Opera and Ballet Theatre in Yoshkar-Ola, and will open the Puppet Theatre there in September. These facilities were all built or reconstructed with federal support.
In Tambov we have restored a marvellous palace in the city centre and will also open there a branch of the federal museum in Peterhof [State Museum and Park near St Petersburg].
Vladimir Putin: What is the connection between Tambov and Peterhof?
Vladimir Medinsky: Together with the Governor of Tambov Region and the director of the Peterhof museum, we agreed that the region will be responsible for the museum’s financing and upkeep and Peterhof will provide exhibits from its collections in storage, open a branch in Tambov and carry out training there. In other words, this is an example of synergy between the federal and regional levels.
As for other educational establishments, we have restored the new building of GITIS [Russian University of Theatre Arts] after a fire. In September, we will invite you to visit the long-awaited new building of VGIK [Russian State University of Cinematography], which has finally been completed and is currently being connected to the communications and utilities infrastructure.
The Tovstonogov Theatre is also ready and will hold its first premiere in September. I hope that you will find time to come to this first performance.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Have the problems there all been settled now?
Vladimir Medinsky: Yes. Moving on, a couple of weeks ago, Mr Medvedev opened the famous Derzhavin House after an excellently done reconstruction that includes the park and surrounding territory. Derzhavin was not only one of our famous poets, but was also the Russian Empire’s first Justice Minister.
Vladimir Putin: Is this on Fontanka [canal in St Petersburg]?
Vladimir Medinsky: That’s right. I think this will become a favourite place for St Petersburg residents to rest and relax.
Vladimir Putin: Is there a library there?
Vladimir Medinsky: There is a branch of the Pushkin House-Museum there.
Here [shows presentation] you see this magnificent building in central Moscow, which we plan to open in September. It used to house the Soviet Cultural Fund, and will now be home to the Russian Cultural Fund. The building really has been beautifully restored.
Vladimir Putin: It is very beautiful.
Vladimir Medinsky: Finally, on July 18, the date marking the 700th anniversary of the birth of Sergei of Radonezh, reconstruction work at the Trinity St Sergius Lavra will end.
And finally, Mr President, I wanted to show you a separate project. This is the Moscow Philharmonic. You know, the Moscow Philharmonic, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall…
Vladimir Putin: We gave them presidential grants?
Vladimir Medinsky: Yes, they got presidential grants last year, and so did the St Petersburg Philharmonic starting this year.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, they had been asking for a long time. But the St Petersburg grants were given earlier.
Vladimir Medinsky: We increased them…
This will be a concert hall of the greatest effectiveness in showing that classical music, if you manage it right, can be popular and in demand. We have found a venue among the facilities that come under the Culture Ministry’s stock. It is in the centre of New Moscow, reachable from Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station, and here you can see what this facility will look like by the end of the Year of Culture. The Moscow Philharmonic’s management say that it will be on the level of the Mariinsky Theatre’s new stage and have some of the best acoustics in the country.
Vladimir Putin: Who is doing the interior acoustics?
Vladimir Medinsky: I think it is German companies working under contract for a Russian company. The general subcontractor is a Russian company.
Vladimir Putin: This is complicated work.
Vladimir Medinsky: Yes, very complicated. The entire concrete foundation is being replaced.
I note in particular that we are keeping this work within our budget limits and have not had to ask for any additional funds from the Finance Ministry.
The Moscow Philharmonic is also opening 34 virtual halls around the country. This means that every regional philharmonic will have such a hall. So far, two are ready. They will broadcast live concerts at the Moscow Philharmonic and it will be possible to watch even the Tchaikovsky competition live, as well as listen to any recordings of course. Access will be free to all who wish to come.
Vladimir Putin: This is very good.
Vladimir Medinsky: The 34 branches will open all at once.
Vladimir Putin: This is excellent. It is a very good project, a very interesting project that will give people the chance to hear one of the best orchestras in the country practically at home.
Vladimir Medinsky: That is absolutely true.