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Peter Marks On Putin Savagery

Peter Marks On Putin: “Russia is a nation of passionate theater and music and dance lovers. The Moscow Art Theatre is a world-class institution — I saw a brilliant ‘Uncle Vanya’ there three decades ago — that long forged collaborations with American theater companies and drama schools. The Bolshoi Ballet was nonpareil in ballet technique. It’s the nation, for God’s sake, that gave birth to Gogol and Tchaikovsky, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Turgenev and Baryshnikov and Stravinsky and Makarova. And Anton Chekhov. What, I find myself wondering, would Chekhov make of the savagery perpetrated in Russia’s name? Chekhov, who, when he wasn’t writing ‘Three Sisters’ or ‘The Cherry Orchard’ or other foundational works of global theater, was by training a doctor. The physicians he put in his plays could be world-weary cynics—or visionaries, like Dr. Astrov of ‘Uncle Vanya,’ a character who warned against the destruction of the environment more than a century before climate change entered the popular lexicon.  ‘Cut wood when you need to, but why destroy whole forests?’ Astrov declares in the 1899 play, as translated by playwright Richard Nelson. ‘Russian forests are groaning under the ax, billions of trees are perishing, the homes of beasts and birds are devastated, the rivers grow shallow and dry up, wonderful landscapes disappear beyond recall.’ Am I being overly dramatic to imagine the news reaching Chekhov of the bombing of a theater by his country, and the playwright weeping?”

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