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Culture news
Technicality Foils Ministerial Candidate at Conservatory
11.24.2009 15:25

The St. Petersburg Conservatory The St. Petersburg State Conservatory rector election saga is dragging on as the elections that had been scheduled for Nov. 26 were canceled owing to a technicality.

The Culture Ministry session held to approve violinist and conductor Sergei Stadler for the position failed to assemble enough members to pass a decision. Stadler, who is opposed by large numbers of the conservatory’s staff, is the only candidate standing in the election.

The conservatory has not been able to elect a new rector since the summer of 2008 when composer Alexander Chaikovsky was ousted from the job after a ministerial inspection found financial irregularities and 15 million rubles ($638,000) unaccounted for.

After Chaikovsky’s dismissal, deputy Dmitry Chasovitin automatically became acting rector but the Culture Ministry decided to intervene and place Stadler in the job.

The intervention ignited a fierce confrontation between Stadler and many members of staff.

The Culture Ministry’s protege is not a very popular figure at the conservatory. When he was officially introduced to the conservatory’s academic council in June 2008, the staff held an emergency meeting within hours of the announcement and unanimously voted against the appointment. The faculty argued that the new rector, who had earlier worked at the Conservatory’s Opera Theater, is unprofessional.

During the past year, many professors at the conservatory who had been in the know about the Culture Ministry’s plan to back Stadler tried hard to convince Moscow not to put the violinist forward and to stop pushing him, considering his unpopularity among the staff. Their efforts have so far been fruitless.

Some of the professors were insulted by the Culture Ministry’s persistence over the issue.

“I think it is wrong of the Moscow officials to interfere with the conservatory to such a great extent,” said singer Irina Bogachyova, who teaches at the conservatory. “Since our abilities to teach and perform have never been questioned, we should feel free to elect whomever we find appropriate for the role of our rector. Imposing any proteges on us is unnecessary.”

At present, most of the rebels seem to have given up. Stadler is not even facing any rivals at the elections. In comparison, in October 2008, during one of the first attempts to hold an election, one of three candidates for the post, Alexei Vasiliyev, the rector of the Rimsky-Korsakov classical music college, withdrew his name in unclear circumstances. Insiders then speculated that Vasiliyev was threatened and forced to withdraw. Later, Stadler’s only competitor was pianist Pavel Yegorov who could boast neither the strong backing of the authorities (as can Stadler), nor popularity with conservatory’s staff (as could Vasiliyev) but eventually Yegorov fell out of the game as well.

Pavel Khoroshilov, deputy Culture Minister, is hopeful and enthusiastic about Stadler’s future at the conservatory. “All speakers at the Culture Ministry’s session were most positive and supportive about Stadler’s qualifications and competence,” he said. “I very much hope that the conservatory will elect its rector in the nearest future. For our part, we will make every effort to assemble another session with the eye to officially approve Stadler’s candidacy.”

The venerable musical institution has changed leaders four times during the past five years. The turbulence began when Vladislav Chernushenko, who had been the conservatory’s rector for almost twenty years, lost his job amid accusations of negligence, mismanagement and embezzlement.

News source: The St. Petersburg Times
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