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Blasphemy at the opera in Siberia

NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia — Boris Mezdrich sits before a large desk in the spacious director’s office of the Opera and Ballet Theater. An unrelenting flow of calls to the two cellphones he rotates between his fingers interrupts the lawyers and journalists who have been visiting all day. Outside the office window, hundreds of people who spent the afternoon chanting for his resignation begin to disperse.

“You can derive your own conclusions,” Mezdrich says. “I have an inspection from the Culture Ministry arriving in a few minutes, this is not the time to discuss the politics of the decision.”

On Mezdrich’s desk lie printed copies of articles from the Russian press about the theater’s plight. Brushing them aside, he lifts up an official document in a light blue folder delivered moments prior from Moscow. Bearing the stamp of Russia’s Culture Ministry, the letter declares Mezdrich’s immediate dismissal from his post as the theater’s director. No reason is given.

“We are a federal theater. It’s written into my contract that the Culture Ministry can dismiss me without a motive,” he tells Al Jazeera, a clear tone of resignation in his voice.

By 11 p.m. the next evening, Mezdrich has cleared out all his documents and possessions and vacated the director’s office. The following day a new man sits in his chair, appointed by Russia’s Culture Minister to assume management of the state-owned institution.

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