Gergiev to the Dutch: ‘I feel your pain’

Gergiev to the Dutch: ‘I feel your pain’


norman lebrecht

July 31, 2014

A statement by Valery Gergiev on the downing of MH17 over the Ukraine is being received with some scepticism in the Netherlands. The statement makes all the right human noises. But it fails to register the conductor’s uncritical support for Vladimir Putin and his adventures in the Ukraine. Here’s the statement in full:


gergiev worry


Ter informatie sturen wij u een persoonlijke verklaring van Valery Gergiev
Saint-Petersburg, 29 July 2014
At this time, my heart, my condolences and my thoughts are with all those who have suffered loss amongst their families and friends. Through more than 25 years of conducting in Rotterdam, I feel very close to the Dutch people and share with them the immense pain of this tragedy.
I categorically condemn this outrageous act of terrorism – and call upon all those, both in the political arena and elsewhere, to do all in their power to put in place measures and safeguards that such a tragedy will never occur again.
I grew up in the aftermath of tragedy and war – and it taught me to believe passionately in peace. For the last 17 years I have been the conductor of the World Orchestra for Peace, inheriting the position from its founder, the late Sir Georg Solti, himself a committed advocate for peace. Together with that orchestra we have given 20 concerts in 14 countries of the world to demonstrate, through music, for peace.
I am convinced that we musicians can only – through our music – try to make statement after statement and show the world that it is possible to bridge barriers of language and culture in the interests of a more peaceful future for our children.
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival in September is about the First World War, commemorating through music the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. We could never have imagined that a tragic event of this magnitude would occur, making the content so actual and real. The victims and their families and friends will be in our thoughts and minds as we perform and I dedicate the festival’s content and its music as a tribute to them, together with a cry from the heart of all of us performing against atrocities of war and terrorism.
Valery Gergiev



  • Jan de Jong says:

    What a cheek. Does he hope to save the Festival in this way?
    Let he stay in Russia with his friend Vladimir.
    It is time to boycot the Gergiev Festival.

    • sorin h says:

      This mass murder was done by those who have no consciousness or their consciousness is fed from an early age with superiority lies or with “end justifies the means” b..shit.

      If you are smart and educated you will know who are these people, if not, you don`t count anyway…

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Easy: the powerful neighbour, an ex-and-wannabe-again colonial empire with a huge chip on its shoulder.

        Just watch how finely they play the “humanitarian convoy” plot…

  • Guus Mostart says:

    Shouldn’t this message have been addressed to President Putin rather than to the Dutch nation?

  • OhGlorioso says:

    Why can’t Gergiev just learn to keep his trap shut? I’m beginning to think he wants Putin’s job.

  • wendela says:

    What a farce. This is the usual way of communication by the Rotterdam Phil. Gergiev has never ever written anything himself while being chief conductor of the RphO. It has always been the board (or the PR department) who wrote the so called statements on his behalf. Same thing in the UK & his new German Orchestra.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Yet the Dutch Telegraff is wondering where are Kiev’s promises… Notwithstanding the ATC tapes… Being thoroughly doctored to match the “independent” UK “decoded” black boxes?
    As for boycott calls, given the long, long, long list of artists who have condemned indiscriminate bombing in the Middle East, the boycott callers may want to be careful for what they wish for.
    Who said that classical music is not hot? Just wait…

  • sdReader says:

    Was it an “act of terrorism”? I thought it was a mistaken use of a complex rocket system by rookie separatists trying to counter the Ukraine air force.

    • Neil McGowan says:

      I see we are not interested in factual explanation here :((

      • sdReader says:

        Yes, we are. Terrorism is “violent acts intended to instill terror,” right? As far as I know of this story, MH17 was downed by mistake, leaving the separatists or Russia with much explaining to do. If you have a “factual explanation” pointing to terrorism, or a different definition of terrorism, such as “any act of war by a non-nation,” please share it. I can’t believe that killing Dutch and Malay civilians is in the program of these separatists, whereas downing a Ukraine military plane would be.

        Separately, please don’t be cute and snide. Norman deleted the “Junior” exchange of comments the other day, in case you didn’t notice.

  • anonymus says:

    Meanwhile no artist is hustled for his or her uncritical support of President Obama and his administration’s adventures in destabilizing Ukraine, Georgia, and other states close to the Russian sphere of interest. Hypocrisy much?

  • Nick says:

    Whatever on thinks of Gergiev’s political affiliations, bringing Obama into the discussion is senseless because he had precious little to do with the present situation. For that, the blame falls squarely on Bush Senior and Junior, Clinton, Blair and other NATO states for reneging on their promises.

    From Der Spiegel November 26 2009 –

    “What the US secretary of state said on Feb. 9, 1990 in the magnificent St. Catherine’s Hall at the Kremlin is beyond dispute. There would be, in Baker’s words, ‘no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east,’ provided the Soviets agreed to the NATO membership of a unified Germany. Moscow would think about it, Gorbachev said, but added: ‘any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable’ . . .

    “A diplomat with the German Foreign Ministry says that there was, of course, a consensus between the two sides. Indeed, the Soviets would hardly have agreed to take part in the two-plus-four talks if they had known that NATO would later accept Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries as members . . .

    “Now, 20 years later, Gorbachev is still outraged when he is asked about this episode. ‘One cannot depend on American politicians,’ he told SPIEGEL. Baker, for his part, now offers a different interpretation of what he said in 1990, arguing that he was merely referring to East Germany, which was to be given a special status in the alliance — nothing more.”

    Does anyone actually trust any politicians to keep their word?

    • anon2 says:

      In the context of Gergiev’s advocacy for peace, it is highly pertinent to cite the Obama régime: drone attacks in Afghanistan/Pakistan have considerably increased since 2009; Guantanamo Bay is still open; the CIA is giving covert assistance to some of the thugs fighting in Syria (without Putin’s intervention, the USA may well have sent in its planes/troops directly). Obama did nothing to stop the PRISM programme’s systematic and extensive wire-tapping, much of which was motivated by industrial espionage of ‘allies’. Yet there are no protests against American musicians.

      We still do not know who actually shot down the plane, and, depending on what circumstantial evidence you decide to use, either the Kiev régime or some ‘pro-Russian’ rebels (who are not actually under Putin’s control, any more than ISIS rebels in Syria are under Obama’s control) could be incriminated.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Dear Nick,

      The argument is specious, to say the least, and that’s why:

      1. The promise has been made in 1990 to a country that ceased to exist 13 months later. Unless you consider Russia as the sole legitimate heir to Soviet Unions affairs and interests, which would be an interesting statement with a lot of interesting consequences, the promise became then null and void.

      And if you don’t like this argument, let me remind you that Putin has been making a similar one (if completely ludicrous…) concerning his blatant violation of the 1994 memorandum (let alone the UN chart and the CSCE treaty) guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

      2. Even if you consider that the 1990 promise hasn’t been made to USSR, but to “Moscow”, the Western signing parties had no right to make it – in the name of other sovereign countries, existing and future. Unless, of course, you deny them their sovereignty and consider that even after the fall of USSR – Moscow keeps the right to decide which military alliance they can join, and which they can not.

      Otherwise, you’re absolutely right : politicians seldom keep their promises. Do you want the list of solemn agreements and treaties Moscow signed and violated even before the ink dried up? Beginning with Helsinki?

      • Anonymus says:

        Your personal little pocket foreign policy is irrelevant here.
        Russia is in fact the legal successor to the Soviet Union in most legal aspects in the international arena.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          It’s much funnier to follow the legal line of this quote given by wikipedia: “Russia is now a party to any Treaties to which the former Soviet Union was a party, and enjoys the same rights and obligations as the former Soviet Union, except insofar as adjustments are necessarily required, e.g. to take account of the change in territorial extent. […] The Russian federation continues the legal personality of the former Soviet Union and is thus not a successor State in the sense just mentioned. The other former Soviet Republics are successor States” (United Kingdom Materials on International Law 1993, BYIL 1993, pp. 579 (636).

          This could mean, of course, that since Ukraine is also a “successor state”, it can join any military alliance it damn pleases…

          But this is beside the point, and that’s why you stick to it, avoiding the essentials:

          1. If promises made to the Soviet Union in 1990 are still valid, even if the state changed its name, it’s territory and the whole political system in a process which can easily be qualified as a revolution, promises made in 1994 by Russia to Ukraine are even more valid, since the Ukraine of 1994 is still the same Ukraine in 2014, in spite of the “revolution” Mr Putin likes to evoke to justify his ongoing violation of the Budapest memorandum.

          As is customary with Soviet politicians, Mr Putin considers that if others are beholden to him, he’s beholden to no one.

          2. Sovereign states do what they want, unless they’re not sovereign. Tell us if you consider Poland, the Czech Republic or Ukraine – sovereign, or not?

  • Stuart Johnson says:

    The Ukraine is also called “Little Russia”, as in Tchaikovsky’s symphony No.2. You didn’t know?
    The job of a critic is to explain a musical composition and its performance to the audience.
    This “journalist” is intent on creating violence, because its a characteristic of his race.
    That’s why he won’t publish this comment.

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      Please Stuart, we have enough with this kind of stuff… Hromadske TV is financed directly by US and Dutch embassies and it recently interviewed the Ukrainian journalist Bogdan Boutkevitch:

      Bogdan Boutkevitch: “Donbas is not just a depressed region. There’s a crazy amount of superfluous people there. I know perfectly well what I’m saying. In the Donetsk Oblast, there are about 4 million inhabitants. And no fewer than 1.5 million of them are excess. We don’t need to understand Donbas. We need to understand what is Ukraine’s national interest. And we should use Donbas, simply as a resource. As far as Donbas goes, I don’t have any prescription for how to get it done quickly. However, what’s most important – there are people who simply must be killed”

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Do you mean that, since Ukraine has been called by some “Little Russia”, it belongs to an “Even Bigger Russia”?

  • suzanne says:

    “a characteristic of his race”????? This sort of comment has no place on this site.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Indeed. We left it on as a mild example of the tidal wave of smut that we exclude from this site.

    • anonymus says:

      Agreed. That comment was absolutely disgusting in its racial hatred and it was also idiotic, since there is no such thing as a Jewish race in our times anyway.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    Gergiev’s combination of hypocrisy and stupidity is one of a kind.