Russian Promoter Speaks Against Boycotts

St. Petersburg promoter Ilya Bortnyuk has spoken out against artists boycotting Russia in protest of the country’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of southeastern Ukraine.

Photo: Mitchell Parsons /
PNE Amphitheatre, Vancouver, B.C.

Bortnyuk, head of Light Music, which has promoted Sonic Youth, Morrissey, and Sparks and runs the St. Petersburg’s Stereoleto Festival, says boycotts actually help Russian President Vladimir Putin to further isolate Russia from the rest of the world.

“Of course, it’s not right,” Bortnyuk told the St. Petersburg Times. “If they want to make a statement against the politics of Vladimir Putin or our state, they should do something that could really influence the situation or at least bring their message to those they are protesting against.

“At least three artists have refused to come to Russia, one of which is quite well-known,” he said, pointing out the refusals have come since Russia’s Federation Council voted to send troops to Ukraine March 1. “I also know a few other cases where artists have refused to come when approached by different promoters. So far, I don’t know of any more cases of artists canceling already scheduled concerts, except for The National.”

Last month The National pulled out of concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev, citing the political climate. The band said in a statement that it hoped to play Russia in the future, hoping the “instability is resolved in a positive, democratic and peaceful way.”

“I think these artists and their management don’t understand that by refusing to come to Russia, they don’t deliver their message to those they are protesting against,” Bortnyuk said.

He had more sympathy for Blondie, which turned down a request to play the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The act posted an image of the request on Twitter alongside a message that said: “Pass. Human Rights.”

“The thing is that the Olympics were an event held directly by the state using the money of the state, the money of Putin’s, it was his project,” Bortnyuk explained. “It’s all logical here, absolutely. But when I, or other promoters or some small club, who do not have anything remotely to do with the state’s money and state agencies, have artists refusing to come, it just makes no sense.”

Unlike The National and Blondie, U.S. band Thirty Seconds To Mars performed in both Russia and Ukraine in March, while showing clear support for the anti-Russian protesters in Kiev.