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Culture news, 17.03.2006 13:03

Russian culture returns with an emphasis on youth

slavic_spring Some 16 years after the Iron Curtain vanished, suddenly exposing Czechs to breaths of culture beyond the Eastern bloc, Russian culture is making a comeback in the Czech Republic. This time, fortunately, it's without the dreaded aspects of mandatory participation and rehearsed applause.

Putting troubled history aside, the Czech Republic is bringing the best of Russian culture here for the first time since 1989 as a yearlong project called Russian Season 2006. Culture Minister Vítězslav Jandák and his Russian counterpart, Alexander Sokolov, opened the season with a gala evening of ballet in Brno Feb. 19

The ballet, performed by stars from Moscow and St. Petersburg, is only the beginning. From March through December, several Czech cities will welcome hundreds of artists from all corners of the Russian Federation.

Kateřina Novotná, Russian Season commissioner from state agency Czech Centres, says that the events are already resonating with the public and getting a good response from audiences, especially youth.

"The young generation is in a different position," says Novotná. "They are curious about Russian culture."

The idea started in 2003, when Russia hosted a series of cultural events in Russia called Czech Season. A boat full of Czech entertainers sailed from Moscow to St. Petersburg, performing along the way. This cultural experiment was very successful, Novotná says, with more entertainers interested in going to perform in Russia than expected.

"Some of the actors were worried that there would be nothing to eat in Russia," she says with a chuckle. "Fortunately, those days in Russia are gone. Everyone had a great time."

Because of the great success of the first Czech Season in Russia, Pavel Dostál, Czech culture minister at the time, thought it would be great to bring Russian artists to Prague. Although it took three years to make it happen, Novotná hopes that Czech Centres can help organize a Russian Season every few years.

The first series of events, titled Slovanské jaro (Slavic Spring), will add a touch of Russian flavor to the streets, concert halls and galleries of several Bohemian towns throughout the month of March. The festivities in Prague, Příbram, Rožmitál pod Třemšínem and Český Krumlov will deal with subjects as diverse as Russian cuisine, chamber music, film, dancing and applied art.

Václav Kalouš, the president of Slavic Spring NGO and chief organizer of the event, is bringing over 1,000 young and talented Russian musicians, art school students, painters and other artists together to perform in front of audiences nationwide. Czech art students will join them in many performances.

"The goal is connecting the two cultures. Culture is what connects nations," says Kalouš. "This is not about politics."

Particularly for younger Russian and Czech students, who have no pre-existing prejudices. "They are there because they want to be there," adds Kalouš. "That's why we don't want to focus on what used to be."

With President Putin's recent visit to Prague and women's magazines presenting the "Russian doll" image as the chic look to follow this spring, Russian Season 2006 is undoubtedly in the right place at the right time.

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