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Criminal culture. Multi-million budgets and scandalous lawsuits


Every year the State allocates around 100 billion rubles on Culture. That includes St. Petersburg. And embezzlement of these funds is not sharply different across different regions of Russia. The schemes are similar, and in some cases are identical.


2014. The Bolshoi Dramatic Theatre opened with a fanfare. The capital renovation cost 6 billion rubles. Four years have passed. Lights often go out at rehearsals – and quite often during shows too. The equipment breaks down because of flooded basements, cracks have appeared on the building’s walls and they have been attacked by mold. Here’s how the drama art has been corrupted by embezzling entrepreneurs.

300 million rubles. This is how much “Baltstroi” took out from the restoration work’s budget. Today this subcontractor has been the target of dozens of embezzlement lawsuits – worth many millions of rubles. And not only in St. Petersburg, but in Moscow, Kaliningrad, Pskov, Kaluga as well. And the company implemented the same scheme everywhere. Artificially raised a project’s cost, deliberately cheapened construction and pocketed hundreds of millions through fake documentation.

It got as scandalous at the Malyi Drama Theatre. The first show hit it stage while the building was still under construction. The FSB conducted typical searches and detentions.

Natalya Voskresenskaya, official representative of regional FSB directorate in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region: “According to the information we have received, these persons stole and pocketed over 45 million rubles allocated from the federal budget”.

And here is another embezzlement scheme. Several companies were involved in blueprinting the Theatre of Europe. With a chain of subcontractors too. There was always something happening with the non-existing shipments of materials and more money was needed. In three years, the new theatre has not been built above the foundation level.

The guilt of the former deputy at the Legislative Council – Svetlana Nesterova – has already been proven. She pocketed almost 5 million rubles from the city’s budget. For more than a year, she had taken chunks of budgets for municipal holidays. The Russia Day, Victory Day, New Year’s Night.

Alexey Golovin, lawyer: “Ask for 50 on paper – you get 25, I get 25. Yeah, we give 10 officially, while the remaining 40 gets split in the agreed proportions. So the actual work cost only 10 thousand to them”.

Over the years, Nesterova has developed multiple embezzlement schemes. Forging signatures and documents, endless chains of subcontractors and using low-quality materials.

One of the most scandalous embezzlement cases – that of “Gogol-Center” director Kirill Serebryannikov. But operatives are also checking theatres in St. Petersburg. Economic police checked balance sheets at the Theatre of Musical Comedy – spent on the “Monte-Christo” play. 17 million rubles went missing. According to the documents, decorations for the show were supplied to the theatre’s director by his father-in-law, being the subcontractor. In reality, those were made at the theatre’s own workshops. Director of the “Baltiyskiy Dom” Theatre says that the scale of investigative checks may not correlate with the realities.

Sergey Maslyakov, technical director at “Baltiyskiy Dom” Theatre: “When I’m told – this clip cost 60, I open a website and show them that it cost 48. Everything can be double-checked. It is made of carton, when it could’ve been made of steel. Do you see the dufference?”

Ticket re-sellers have also evolved. These days they profit off the love of art not by the doors of theatres, but online. These cloned websites not only charge more than theatres, but are also the first to pop up in any search engine. Let’s look for tickets to Mariinsky Theatre. The fake page is at the top. Let’s see how much tickets to “The Nutcracker” would go for. First row. 13700 rubles. Let’s now check at the official ticket office.

  • Hello! How much would tickets to the Nutcracker cost? December 9th, first row?

  • 10 thousand rubles

On the phone, the scammers won’t even deny that they are consciously ripping people off.

  • The original price is 8 thousand, we sell it for 15. We are not fooling anyone, we are making money.

All these stories are criminal cases – against people of art, restoration workers, project managers, directors and event organizers. And their offices are the first to be searched. The places which should be the birthplaces of art become birthplaces for nefarious schemes of stealing money from the State and the spectators.