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Written by , -   
, 17 2003


Dear Anna Stepanovna (Politkovskaya),

I am using the amiable proposal of Novaya Gazeta's editor in chief to express my point of view apropos your article last week: Nord-Ost: Is the song and dance over?

Allow me to begin by introducing myself. You probably do not remember me, but we have met. It happened on one of those tragic October days in the theatrical center on Dubrovka, when you brought water and juices for the hostages, and for that Iwould like to give you my enormous thanks. Do you remember the hostage who took your cargo and hurriedly whispered something to you, something very important? It was I. Unfortunately, we never succeeded in having a real conversation, because Igot a rifle-butt in the back and an order to move along from my escort.

To my even greater regret, we never had a chance to have a talk later, even though we had occasion to.

A letter fell into your hands, addressed to me, the same letter that you published portions of in your article. I never was able to read the whole letter because you still have it. Honestly speaking, this bothered me.

You are undoubtedly free to voice your opinion about Nord-Ost, without meeting its producer, but, really, as the addressee of a letter Inevertheless right the right to receive it.

The main point of your article is simple: Nord-Ost never should have been resurrected after what happened at Dubrovka, but if it were to be brought back, then was necessary to turn the musical into a sorrowful remembrance of the tragedy. In this case a little less music was desirable.

Your logic is understood, but then it should follow that after the blockade of Leningrad the Hermitage should have been closed to visitors, since many more people died inside this building and in its immediate proximity than died as a result of the tragedy at Dubrovka. Whydo you not demand that the Mariinsk theater cease songs and dance for the same reason? Each evening, allow the famous Petersburg music theater to invite spectators, but no operas or ballets. Excuse me for reducing your logic to the absurd in order to show that life has a logic that is completely different.

Believe me, it was very difficult for us to return to the theatrical center on Dubrovka and revive the play. Ninety members of the cast were among the hostages, and 17of our loved ones, 17of our friends and relatives, died there. We returned, however. Wereturned to fulfill our duty.

Is this illogical in your opinion? Doyou seek reasons for this illogical behavior? Doyou accuse the producer of self-interest, the authors of having author's ambitions, the actors of vanity, the fitters and illuminators of stupidity? Well, then realize that you would also have to accuse hundreds of people who spent their hard-earned money to revive Nord-Ost, and thousands who gave us moral support, and tens of thousands of spectators who still come to Nord-Ost after its revival. According to data from a sociologic study conducted by the independent group 'Komkon', more than 80% of Muscovites believe that Nord-Ost should live. Are these people really unfeeling, or foolish, or stupefied by propaganda? I doubt it. Many of them avoid grandiloquent words, and could hardly explain to you frankly why a living Nord-Ost was important for them. They just feel that way.

Yes, the phenomenon of the musicals vitality is difficult to put into words for someone who did not see the play. Youdid not see it. No, you ran into Nord-Ost in order to collect material for an article, and after you completed your collection of materials, you left after the first act. It's a pity! Youhad time to count the tickets in the box-office, to note the buses with suburban Moscow plates by the entrance, to overhear some adolescents talk about Chechens, but you missed the elephant.

If in Nord-Ost's place it been some kind of vaudeville or variety show, then it certainly would not be worth restoring, but the whole point is that Nord-Ost is something bigger. Ifyou did not succeed in seeing Nord-Ost to the end, then at least you will recall Kaverin's novel Two Captains. Youwill recall this story about a quiet orphan boy who overcame his ailment and found the life within him, and knew how to achieve his cherished dream. Youwill recall this staggering tale about a truth, which is stronger than the treachery, and about a love, which conquers death. For us to refuse to revive 'Nord-Ost' would be the equivalent of trampling on our own belief and the beliefs of hundreds of thousands of our spectators in the celebration of good.

At this is specifically because we realize the human mission of Nord-Ost. You vigilantly noticed the theater buses on the square with suburban Moscow plates. Thisis our charity. Weare bringing children from orphanages, homeless shelters, and even reform schools, to Nord-Ost. You cannot even imagine how much Nord-Ost means to these children. Icould show you to dozens of touching thank you notes, but it would be better if you simply waited for the end of play and observed the Moscow adolescent, as you so disdainfully called him in your article. Ifyou saw the shining face of this young fellow with your own eyes, then your judgments about Nord-Ost would considerably soften, or even they might even radically change.

Perhaps Icould end my argument with you at this point had it not been for an event, which has completely upended our lives.

Nord-Ost is closing.

Alas, the blow it received from the terrorists proved to be too strong. Evenduring December of last year, when the restoration of was going on at play full speed, we received results of the opinion poll, to which Ihave already referred. According to this data, after the terrorist attack more than half our potential spectators did not intend to go to Nord-Ost. At first glance this is a paradox. Thisresult was obtained despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of those polled actively supported restoration of the play. However, there is nothing surprising in this. Attendance at all Moscow theaters after the tragedy on Dubrovka has fallen more than 30%. That Nord-Ost would suffer more than the rest was possible to surmise even without the polling.

Nevertheless, realizing the risk, we continued to work. Wedid everything that we could, hoping that we could succeed in dispelling the fears of the spectators. Wehoped for a miracle, but a miracle did not occur.

After the restoration of the play sales of tickets at the box-office windows, compared with autumn, was sharply reduced. For a while it helped to hold back-to-back plays and seasonal revivals. Unfortunately, the autumn-winter season is ending. Theseason we had counted on for Nord-Ost was not to be. We are not an academic theater, so we cannot depend on government funding.

On May 10th our famous airplane will land on stage for the last time. This will be the 410th play. Before the terrorist attack, Nord-Ost was shown more than 300times, and spectators saw it almost another 100times after its revival. All this in a year and a half. A short, but a bright life, or more accurately, two lives.

In mid-May we will leave on a month and a half concert tour, then all the actors and other colleagues, more than 300here at Nord-Ost, will be discharged. After all we have been through, it will be a very sad farewell. I already talked with one of the producers of the musical 12 chairs, Dmitriy Bogachev, about job placement for our associates. Unfortunately, not all the actors and specialists can find a place there, but Iam confident that our people will not remain without the work long. Theyare worth their weight in gold.

What the bearing plant that owns the theatrical center on Dubrovka will do with it, no one knows. One thing is clear: there will not be a Nord-Ost in Moscow anymore.

Dear Anna Stepanovna! Ican predict your pleasure at this. It is if it all turned out your way. I can imagine the indescribable happiness of terrorists and their comrades: they got theirs.

This news will gladden some, and sadden others. Ithink that hundreds of thousands of spectators, who had time to learn about and fall in love with Nord-Ost, will sigh in melancholy after hearing about this, but someone will very quietly be sorry that they never got around to seeing that historical musical with their own eyes.

Georgiy Vasilyev

Producer of the musical Nord-Ost



That very letter, fragments of which were published in an article by our reviewer Anna Politkovskaya (Novaya Gazeta # 24), was specifically written as an open letter. It was addressed to all to us, and more so to those who lived through the tragic events at Dubrovka, not inside, but outside the walls of the theatrical center.

We understand the feelings of the letter's author and the journalist. Both were direct participants in the tragedy. We understand the sincere reaction of one of the creators of the musical, and he is without a doubt talented, enduring, and therefore a unique phenomenon of our culture. His emotional reply is understandable as well.

Neither the letter, nor the article, described the play itself (as a work of artistic, theatrical, musical, or any other skill). Theyspoke about the message, which each receives in their own way.

For some, a revived Nord-Ost is a remembrance of those who were killed, and more than anything, their memory. Forothers, it is a reply to a challenge from the terrorists, the negation of fear, despondency, and uncertainty, i.e.: everything that their crime was trying to achieve.

Well, how should this 'gladden' us, Georgiy Leonardovich? Itall turned out neither 'our way' nor 'your way', and the terrorists' purpose had nothing to do with the musical Nord-Ost.

Your comparison with Leningrad, excuse me, as you wrote, it really is absurd. Firstly, the time, and secondly, there is the Piskarevskoye cemetery in Leningrad, where there is no dancing and singing, and it is not the same crowd there as at the Hermitage. Of course, it is not the entire city, but it is still a lot.

Does it not seem to you that the authors of the first article simply wanted a place found on Dubrovka for their own little Piskarevskoye?

In other respects, however, you are right: life goes on. It must have a place for memory, however, and one does not deny another.

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