Bolshoi Conductor Resigns Over Free Speech Controversy as the Crackdown Continues for Artists and Athletes

We recently discussed controversies involving Russian artists and athletes being told that they will be cancelled or blacklisted if they do not expressly denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin. Now that assault on free speech has reached the highest levels of ballet after Tugan Sokhiev, the chief conductor at Bolshoi Theatre and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, resigned rather than be coerced into such public statements. The Munich Philharmonic also dismissed chief conductor Valery Gergiev after he failed to condemn the invasion.

Sokhiev is one of the most celebrated and respected conductors in the world. He also happens to be Russian. For many, his musical contributions became secondary when he failed to publicly condemn Putin. They demanded that he speak or resign. He resigned.

Sokhiev wrote on Facebook “during last few days I witnessed something I thought I would never see in my life. In Europe, today I am forced to make a choice and choose one of my musical family over the other.”

As we previously discussed, it is during wartime and periods of social discord that the greatest abuses can occur for those with dissenting or unpopular views. Despite my strong support for Ukraine and condemnation of Putin, it is important for advocates of civil liberties and free speech to stand against such blacklisting and compelled speech.

For many, this is hardly a new movement. For years, powerful politiciansacademics, and even some in the media have demanded more censorship. This move against Russian performers and athletes may draw the unwitting into this anti-free speech movement. The response to those of us who are raising concerns is the same and predictable. You are called an apologist for Putin or a traitor to the cause. It is an effort to create a glacial chilling effect on dissenting voices.

Once again, it is important to address the rationalization on the left for attacks on free speech in recent years: the First Amendment only protects speech from government crackdowns. The First Amendment is not the full or exclusive embodiment of free speech. It addresses just one of the dangers to free speech posed by government regulation. Many of us view free speech as a human right. Corporate censorship of social media clearly impacts free speech, and replacing Big Brother with a cadre of Little Brothers actually allows for far greater control of free expression.  As I have noted earlier, while liberal writers and artists were blacklisted and investigated in the 1950s, liberal activists have succeeded in censoring opposing views to an unprecedented degree in recent years. Rather than burn books, they have simply gotten stores to ban them or blacklist the authors, athletes, and artists.

Figures like the great singer Paul Robeson (right) found themselves barred from performances due to their refusal to condemn others or Russia.

Some, however, are not intimidated but rather incensed by the attack on free speech. In the meantime, at least one opera lover is boycotting the Met after it cancelled another great Russian artist for not publicly reciting the official line against Putin. I recently received the attached letter from a donor at the Met who stated that he was changing his will over the controversy involving soprano Anna Netrebko. He would no longer leave his estate to the Met and pledged to stop his regular contributions to the institution.

As for Sokhiev, he noted that in both cities he regularly invited Ukrainian singers and conductors because “we never even thought about our nationalities. We were enjoying making music together.”

The response from the mayor of Toulouse, Jean-Luc Moudenc, was particularly telling. While denying that they demanded that Sokhiev “make a choice between his native country and his beloved city of Toulouse,” the mayor added: “However, it was unthinkable to imagine that he would remain silent in the face of the war situation, both vis-à-vis the musicians and the public and the community.”

It is not “unthinkable.” He may support the invasion or fear for himself or his family in opposing this tyrant. It does not matter his reasons. He should have a right to hold opposing views or to remain silent. What is unthinkable is that artists are being blacklisted for refusing to recite political statements like some reeducation camp in the Cultural Revolution. It is a curious way to fight tyranny by denying free speech.

The Met donor allowed me to post the following version of his letter:

Peter Gelb letter_1

45 thoughts on “Bolshoi Conductor Resigns Over Free Speech Controversy as the Crackdown Continues for Artists and Athletes”

  1. They wouldn’t drop bombs on us because they don’t want to have bombs dropped on themselves.
    America will win whatever game of chicken gets played out.

  2. The Biden Administration is still refusing to allow Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic to play in the United States because he refuses to go along with the Globalist BS Vaxx Mandate. By holding the Globalist BS Vaxx Mandate against Novak Djokovic, the US Government has effectively made Russian Daniil Medvedev the #1 tennis player in the world! This is wholly consistent with theory that the Biden Administration leaders are really Puppets for Putin!

    1. All Djokovic needs to do is fly to Mexico and walk across the border.

  3. Putting aside the free speech aspect, if Putin is the monster the West makes him out to be, these institutions are essentially insisting these Russians put a huge target on their own backs. Sounds like the old Soviet Union didn’t die, it just went West.

  4. This odious business of compelled speech invites muscular complaint against the more things change the more they remain the same. If you are for compelled speech History remembers you as Henry VIII. If you stand with the right to remain silent, History remembers you as Sir Thomas More, the Man for All Seasons. How do want to be remembered?

  5. According to US intelligence officials, Russia is just as afraid of a war with America as America is of a war with Russia.
    But America should be the least afraid because of her numbers and equipment.
    Whoever is the least afraid has the advantage and will win.
    Putin has shown that he is afraid.
    If a no-fly zone is established, I bet that Russia won’t do anything.
    Ukrainians aren’t afraid of Russia.
    Turkey isn’t afraid of Russia, brave enough to shoot down a Russian jet fighter with no consequences.
    So why should the greatest nation in the world be afraid of Russia?

  6. Who knew that the “Great Reset” meant the nuclear annihilation of all humanity?

    1. It’s a d— good thing that “Crazy Abe” Lincoln didn’t have many multiple thermonuclear devices at his disposal.

  7. The people calling for the canceling of Russian artists are the same people who voted for Biden. And if you voted for Biden, you voted for Russia’s war with Ukraine. So, Biden voters are not only stupid and/or corrupt, but incredibly hypocritical. Voters for Trump wanted peace, but the Biden voters wanted war by enriching America’s enemies, including Russia and Iran. The Biden Administration effectively has financed and continues to finance the Russia-Ukraine war, via higher energy prices, which directly benefit Russia and Iran. Of course, the Biden Administration justifies enriching Russia and Iran under the phony pretext of “climate change,” but that is obviously a lie because the oil produced outside the US is far dirtier than that from the American producers, which follow environmental protocols.

    So, the question, Biden voters, are you happy with the crime, the corruption, the inflation, and destruction and the bloodshed that you voted for?


    Just like “Crazy Abe” Lincoln’s.

    “How to Win Friends and Influence People”: Nullify and violate fundamental law, declare martial law, seize power and rule as a brutal despot, dictator and tyrant…

    through the liberal application of savage butchery.

    Everything Lincoln (i.e. Putin) and his successors did was illegal and unconstitutional and remains illegal and unconstitutional to this day.

    “[Laws], to god-damned hell with [laws]! We have no [laws]. In fact, we don’t need [laws]. I don’t have to [obey] any stinking [laws], you god-damned cabrón and chinga tu madre!”

    – Gold Hat, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1927

    1. “Crazy Abe” Lincoln thought the war was over and that he had won; he was wrong.

      Putin may pay the same price.

      A Ukrainian version of John Wilkes Booth may emerge, if the International Criminal Court doesn’t nab “Crazy Vladimir” first.

  9. There are no shortage of Putin apologists who have no problem taking Putin’s side in this war. They populate web places like, and many others They, of course, blame the USA as the devil incarnate. Carlin was correct when he opined that 50% of the population were dumber than average. I think the total is closer to 80% based on the illogical posts I read across the web.

    1. “There are no shortage of Putin apologists who have no problem taking Putin’s side in this war.”
      I love the way the liberal mind works or more accurately doesn’t work. Under the banner of “Putin apologists” or “Putin’s side” goes everyone who doubts our lying press, is skeptical of our lying government or who doesn’t want a nuclear exchange with a nuclear power like Russia. Here is a typical hysterical Dim chickenhawk who thinks the world revolves around their world view. Never any need to think that the other side’s points ought to be considered or that they themselves are likely being manipulated by a cynical coporate press. That would require too much candle power in Dim Land. Bottom line is one doesn’t have to be on either side — the corrupt, own-citizen-shelling Ukrainians or the totalitarian Russians to make an argument. It just takes a rational mind – something an screaming ideologue will never muster.

    2. Jojo says:

      “There are no shortage of Putin apologists who have no problem taking Putin’s side in this war.”

      Chief among them is Tucker Carlson. Even his Fox colleague, Mark Levin, denounces on his radio program all those who blame America first for Putin’s invasion though Levin dares not mention Tucker by name for fear a causing a rift among his colleagues.

  10. Assuming for the sake of argument that it was known that Sokhiev supported Putin despite his invasion (either he said as much or refused to condemn him when asked), would Turley denounce those musicians who refused to perform under his baton? Are the musicians expected to pour their heart into making music with someone who turns their stomach? Think of the cakemaker refusing to make a cake celebrating single sex marriage.

  11. I want to see WOPR launch ICBMs and kill lots of Russians. That would be rad, dude.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks