Thursday, July 05, 2007

Raid on Russian Cat Theater

Just a quick blurb and story link that I found interesting.

Remember the Russian Cat Theater of Yuri Kuklachev?

It seems his theater in Moscow was raided/searched by authorities.

From the Baltimore Sun story, by Erika Niedowski:
The recent raid - which, according to the family, was carried out by men who identified themselves as officers of the city's Department for Combating Economic Crimes - is not the only sign someone wants to cause trouble for Kuklachev and his cats.

People who live above the theater recently began lodging complaints about the "smells," which never seemed to exist before or bother anyone if they did.

"They thought they would find something" incriminating, Kuklachev's son, Dmitry, 31, said in a recent interview, not long before donning his clown costume and pancake makeup for another performance, this one featuring a cat named Boris. "Unfortunately for them, they didn't find anything."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Combating Economic Crimes, Irina Volk, denied that the agency, which tackles smuggling, fraud and counterfeiting, had anything to do with the raid. But Valentina Titova, spokeswoman at the city prosecutor's office, where Kuklachev has since filed a complaint, contradicted that account; she declined to comment further, saying the matter was under review.

The pressure on the cats theater is hardly new, if the tactics are. Businessmen and others have long visited the theater, asking Kuklachev to sell or rent his space, even though the building and the cats theater has been acquired by the state (with the blessing of the family). Some have offered the theater a new home, albeit one far from the city center in a neighborhood less desirable than Kutuzovsky Prospekt.

The family suspects the raid was the work of a commercial interest hoping to take over the coveted first-floor space - and that more pressure, in one form or another, will follow. Since the building is owned by the city government, the theater theoretically could be kicked out at any time if the right person gave the order.

Nothing unusual in the tactics, as "businesses" in Russia can often resort to strong-armed tactics, involving either police or thuggery. Prime real estate in Moscow is big money, and the market has shown no recent signs of abating.
According to Dmitry Kuklachev's account, officers from the economic crimes department tried to shut down the 4 p.m. performance, which was already under way. But a shaken Kuklachev persuaded them to let the show go on. The rear offices were sealed, and two men sat backstage, apparently to make sure no one fled.

"It was funny and not so funny at the same time," said Kuklachev's son.

The officers implied that Kuklachev had stolen state funds. Their so-called evidence was the discrepancy between the modest amount of cash in the register and a 300-seat theater packed with families and children. Where, they wanted to know, was the rest of the money?

Kuklachev said only a few dozen tickets had been sold - and that the majority of spectators were children from orphanages who were admitted free, as they are regularly invited to do when there are empty seats.

Last week, the senior Kuklachev held a news conference at the theater, appealing to the public.

"I decided to ask you for help," he told the assembled press corps, wearing a tie adorned with cats. He doesn't go to parties, he said, and doesn't have big connections. "My whole job is cats."

If the theater is ultimately forced out of its present quarters, the family will likely be forced to take the show abroad for good. "He doesn't want it to happen," said Dmitry Kuklachev. "Neither do I. We love the country."

4 comments:

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Wally,

I am but amazed that the theatre is still in business. It really bears witness of the tenacity of its owners. It's hard to imagine that many would be so stubborn for the sake of such a peculiar thing as a cat theatre.

Yours,

Vilhelm

Irishman said...

Wally,

I've been to the theatre, its hilarious - the show is brilliant fun, the cats seem to enjoy it even and the kids of course love it. Would be a shame if it closes.

Its biggest problem is where it is - in the middle of Kutuzovskii Prospekt, just down from Victory Park -its a serious piece of real estate.

Irishman said...

Actually, I've seen the cat called Boris named in the piece. He's a black and white one, really cute, and his party piece is jumping huge distances - its right at the end of the show. It'd be a shame if thetheatre had to close.

W. Shedd said...

Yes, it was my understanding that the theater was located in a prime location.

Of course, here in the relatively civilized west, we would have squeezed him out of that spot long ago, by taxing the theater to oblivion.