COVID cancel culture Whose concerts and which protests are getting shut down under Moscow’s blanket ban on large public events
On March 10, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin issued an order cancelling all large public events in the Russian capital due to the escalating coronavirus outbreak. The order dictates that, at least until April 10, all “athletic, spectator, public, and other mass events” involving more than 5,000 people will not take place. For example, the Crimean Spring Festival celebrating Russia’s annexation of the peninsula has been shut down. In the period between now and April 10, Egor Kreed and Till Lindemann (among others) were set to perform in Moscow, protesters were preparing to march against Vladimir Putin’s proposed constitutional changes, and a number of major sports events were scheduled to take place. Meduza surveyed all the coronavirus FOMO Muscovites will be forced to feel in the coming month.
Moscow’s public event ban includes a rally supporting radical constitutional changes proposed by Vladimir Putin and his supporters. Yevgeny Fyodorov, a State Duma deputy who also coordinates the National Liberation Movement, told Interfax that the rally will not take place on Tverskaya Street on March 15 as planned. “Yesterday, due to the coronavirus, the mayor of Moscow made the decision to issue a ban on mass events involving more than 5,000 people, and we were planning to have something like 300,000 or 400,000 people. And we must be guided by [the mayor’s decision-making]. Therefore, we had to cancel the rally.”
The “Civil Society” movement, which had planned to lead a protest against the proposal to “zero out” Vladimir Putin’s and Dmitry Medvedev’s presidential term counts, has applied to Moscow City Hall to change the conditions of that protest. Organizers hope to limit the number of participants to 4,500 people, libertarian politician Mikhail Svetov wrote on Twitter. Civil Society initially planned to hold two protests: one that would “demonstrate the objections of Russia’s citizens to the passage of new changes to the Russian Constitution” (including the presidential term count nullification) and another that would voice concerns about two criminal cases against young people accused of radicalism (the Network case and the New Greatness case). Those protests were planned for March 21 and 22 on Sakharov Prospect, and each was initially designed to include about 25,000 people.
Other protest permit requests were submitted by Tatiana Usmanova of Open Russia, Maria Kuznetsova from the Party of Change, and Yevgeny Ovcharov, the head of an organization called Team Egor Zhukov. Those requests described a potential protest on March 21 involving 50,000 people, and organizers have not yet announced how their plans for that event have changed.
A number of Moscow venues with a capacity above 5,000 people had scheduled major concerts for the month between March 10 and April 10. The Megasport stadium, which can house an audience of 14,000, was set to host rapper Egor Kreed on March 21. That performance has been cancelled: Yevgeny Finkelshtein, who directs the Planeta Plyus promotion company responsible for the event, notified the business radio outlet BFM.RU about the cancellation. The Megasport show would have been Kreed’s first major concert in Russia following the musician’s exit from fellow rapper Timati’s Black Star label. Despite the cancellation, tickets for the concert are still available for purchase online.
Another show by the Rammstein-PAIN crossover band Lindemann is also under threat. The performance, scheduled for March 15 in the BTV Arena, would be the fourth in the group’s Russian tour. Lindemann’s managers decided to find a way out of their coronavirus bind by scheduling two back-to-back concerts for 5,000 people each within a single day. The concert organizers noted that anyone attending the first of the two concerts, which is scheduled for 3:00 PM, will receive a free seat category upgrade. On March 20, the rock band Chaif is scheduled to celebrate its 35th anniversary in the same venue. The band’s press attaché, Marina Zalogina, told the radio station Govorit Moskva (Moscow Speaks) that Chaif’s team is discussing a potential cancellation but has not yet made a final decision: “We don’t know yet ourselves,” she said.
Smaller events are also under pressure due to the mayor’s order. These include a performance by the French singer Garou at the State Kremlin Palace (6,000 seats), a March 27 concert by the rapper Allj at Adrenaline Stadium (7,000 seats), and a March 28 concert by Nothing but Thieves at the same venue. On April 4, Adrenaline was also meant to host the Foucault’s Pendulum festival featuring GONE.Fludd, Obladaet, Morgenstern, and other popular rappers. Some promoters have gotten around the event ban by limiting ticket sales to 5,000 per event, as will be the case on March 14 when the band Scooter performs at Adrenaline, according to Interfax.
Crocus City Hall, a 7,300-seat venue, will evidently be hosting concerts by Leonid Agutin and Uriah Heep as planned. The arena is technically located in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow’s borders.
Sobyanin’s order does not provide instructions for organizers handling events with fewer than 5,000 attendees (though the risk of infection at such events does seem to be significantly lower) or in other often-crowded public areas such as malls, galleries, and public transport hubs. Moscow City Hall did not respond to Meduza’s request for clarification on this issue by press time.
Five Russian Premier League soccer matches were set to take place in Moscow before April 10: CSKA – Ufa (March 14), Lokomotiv – Orenburg (March 21), CSKA – Zenit (March 22), Dynamo – CSKA (April 5), and Spartak – Ufa (April 5). It is not yet clear how the Russian Football Union (RFS) will respond to Sobyanin’s event ban. After a set of March 11 negotiations with individual clubs, the RFS only announced that it had asked the Moscow government for additional clarification.
Following those talks, one source told the news agency R-Sport that the clubs themselves will be charged with controlling how the matches are organized and who is permitted to attend them. Among the soccer clubs themselves, only Lokomotiv commented immediately on the situation: Its representatives floated the idea that the team’s match against Orenburg could be transferred out of Moscow to the nearby city of Khimki. TASS reported that some matches could be played either in Khimki or in Ramensky, where the Saturn soccer club has its home stadium. However, later in the day on March 11, the Russian Premier League announced that all matches would in fact take place as planned at their respective teams’ home venues. The audience for each match will be limited to 5,000 people.
The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is currently in the midst of its annual playoffs, which include the Moscow teams Dynamo, Spartak, and CSKA. The league held an emergency meeting with representatives from each club but did not reach a final decision about whether to postpone its matches or hold them without spectators. A match between Spartak and Dynamo is scheduled for March 12, and the league has asked Moscow City Hall for official clarification on whether or not Sobyanin’s limitations will apply to the playoff. CSKA, meanwhile, has temporarily suspended ticket sales for its home matches.
The CSKA basketball team, which has six home games scheduled in the EuroLeague and Russia’s BTV League during the next month, chose to limit its audience to 5,000 spectators using restricted ticket sales. The team plays in Megasport, where some sections of the stands will simply be blocked off.
Translation by Hilah Kohen