Eugenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriichuk

Two Russian theatre makers accused for supporting terrorism

Russian theatre director Eugenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk are accused in a criminal case of justification and support of terrorism for the play Finist the Brave Falcon. Of course, the play is not a call to terrorism but precisely the opposite, says The Support group of Eugenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriichuk.

A press release, May, 2023
On May 4, 2023, Russian theatre director Eugenia (Zhenya) Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk were detained in Moscow as witnesses and then as suspects in a criminal case on justification and support of terrorism. On May 5 a pretrial detention court put the artists in custody for two months, till July 4, 2023. They were now charged under Article 205.2, paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation "Public calls to terrorist activity, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism", with the suggested punishment of imprisonment for up to 7 years.
The reason for this criminal case is the production Finist the Brave Falcon, which was written in 2019 and staged by Berkovich’s independent company Soso Daughters in 2020. A recipient of the state national theatre award "Golden Mask" for "The Best Work of a Costume Designer" and "The Best Work of a Playwright", the play tells a story of Russian women, who are lured by terrorists through social media and leave their homes in search of love and marriage. When they join their internet princes, they find only abuse and betrayal, and so they decide to return home. Upon their arrival in Russia, however, they find them-selves detained, put on trial, and send to jail. 
Interviews and court proceedings make the dialogue of this documentary play, whereas the plot of a traditional Russian fairy tale Finist the Brave Falcon serves as its framing device, which translates this play and the production into the language of metaphor and makes the theatre project Finist the Brave Falcon a strong anti-terrorist work.The Russian fairy tale Finist the Brave Falcon features a resourceful village girl Maryushka, who rushes on a long journey to search for her prince. She outsmarts the evil queen and breaks the spells, with the happy ending to follow. In the production, Finist the Brave Falcon, each young woman tells her own version of Maryushka’s story, realizing at the same time that there is no happy end-ing in her own story. The action jumps from one horrific episode to the other, and so it forces a question: why in the country that declared family as an object of protection, women seek love, understanding and respect elsewhere and so fall victims of more abuse and violence? It portrays these women as dreamers about love and marriage, which makes them easy prey for terrorists. 
Berkovich and Petriichuk’s arrest is the first criminal case in Russia against artists, when the artistic work is put on trial, i.e. when it serves as a pretext and as a cause for political repressions and criminal accusations. This case signifies the newly minted, punitive charac-ter of Russian censorship today. Yet, it is also no coincidence that a play about women’s abuse is targeted here. For the Russian authorities, preservation of patriarchy and its values is one of the most important strategies in manipulation of Russian people, as ensured by the Presidential Decree N 809 "On Approval of the Fundamentals of State Policy to Preserve and Strengthen Traditional Russian Spiritual and Moral Values", from November 9, 2022. It is also clear that the artists are tried for their feminist position, although there is no single fact to support this charge in their case, except for the so called "destructological expertise," in which feminism is equated with terrorism. This expertise is not only anti-scientific, but is also procedurally inadmissible, because it was performed by an organization that does not have the right to conduct expert activities for criminal courts in Russia. Yet, despite the lawyers' protests, it was included in the case file.
Faced with this new act of intimidation of the artistic community in Russia, committed in violation of the constitutional principles of freedom of speech, we ask the international community to support Zhenya and Svetlana.

Artists’ profiles

Eugenia (Zhenya) Berkovich, born in 1985 in Leningrad, is a Russian theatre director, playwright and poet. She graduated from St. Petersburg Academy of Theater Arts and the Moscow Art Theater School (class of 2013 under the direction of Kirill Serebrennikov). In particular, she worked with the «Platform» project, the Gogol Center, the Bolshoi Theater, the Moscow Theater of Young Spectators, the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Berkovitch took part in many charitable projects, including «I’m not alone» festival for kids from the orphanages. In 2018, she founded an independent theater company «SOSO daugh-ters». In January 2023 she, always active in the field of inclusive theater, started working with deaf and hearing impaired people in drama project of the GES-2 House of Culture, opened by V–A–C Foundation in 2021.
Svetlana Petriichuk, born in 1980 in Bishkek, is a Russian playwright and screenwriter. She graduated from the Konstantin Raikin Higher School of Performing Arts (Kama Ginkas workshop). In 2018, and participated in Mikhail Ugarov drama laboratory at Teatr.doc. Lau-reate and finalist of various dramaturgical competitions and festivals, in particular Lu-bimovka, The First Reading, Remark, Culmination. In her creative work, she constantly ad-dresses gender, civic and social themes. Performances based on her plays are performed in many theaters in Russia. Besides the Berkovitch performance, readings and shows of the play «Finist the Bright Falcon» were held in various theaters and institutions, including the women’s correctional colony.
In May, 2023
The support group of Eugenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriichuk
The photo credits:

1. Eugenia Berkovich,  Zamoskvoretsky District Court of Moscow, May 5, 2023. Photo: Alexandra Astakhova / Mediazona
2. Svetlana Petriichuk,  Zamoskvoretsky District Court of Moscow, May 5, 2023. Photo: Alexandra Astakhova / Mediazona

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