Polina Osetinskaya, a critic of the invasion who has stayed in Moscow even as the government cracks down on dissent, will play a Baroque program in New York.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the pianist Polina Osetinskaya, who lives in Moscow, was distraught. She took to social media to describe a sense of “horror, shame and disgust,” and expressed solidarity with Ukraine, where she had often performed.
But unlike many artists, activists and intellectuals, Osetinskaya, 47, decided to remain in Russia, where she lives with her three children, even as the Kremlin cracked down on free expression and made clear
that any contradiction of the government’s statements on the invasion could be treated as a crime. She has faced consequences for her views — some concerts at state-run halls have been canceled, while others have been interrupted by the authorities.
Osetinskaya, who was born in Moscow, says her international career has also suffered because of her Russian identity. She lost some overseas engagements after the invasion, she says, because presenters were nervous about featuring Russian citizens. As a result, she says that she often feels caught in the middle: seen suspiciously both inside and outside her country.
Osetinskaya will perform a program of Bach, Handel, Purcell and Rameau at the 92nd Street Y
in New York on Saturday, part of a five-city tour organized by the Cherry Orchard Festival
, which promotes global cultural exchange. The program explores Baroque masterpieces featured in movies like “The Godfather” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
In between concerts and rehearsals this week, she discussed her opposition to the war, the role of music in healing and her decision to remain in Moscow. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.You’ve made the difficult decision to stay in Russia even as you criticize the war. Why have you continued to speak out?
This is a huge tragedy that is happening in my soul every day. Some of my friends tell me, “Take this war out of your heart, it’s not your problem.” I think it’s our problem. A lot of us, in the beginning, didn’t think it would turn out this way. Being Russian now is kind of like being crucified in the eyes of a lot of people. But I know that there are Russians who are truly against the war and against what is happening.
I want people to know that there are a lot of people like this in Russia. And they’ve been put in prison for their views, or for their likes on Facebook. And they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their freedom just for openly expressing their opinions. I want people to know that there are a lot of good Russians, if I may say so.