Breaking: Russians seize violin from Tchaikovsky contestant

Breaking: Russians seize violin from Tchaikovsky contestant


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2019

Customs officials at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport have seized a valuable 18th century violin from the violinist Nikolai Managazze, who has applied to compete in the Tchaikovsky competition.

The instrument is on loan from a Swiss foundation. The Russians have demanded proof that it is not part of their national heritage.

Managazze, who was born in Moscow and is based in Dubai, was held for several hours and, his wife says, was not allowed to call an expert to testify on his beahlf.

Valery Gergiev and others will give a press conference tomorrow for the launch of the Tchaikovsky Competition. If you are there, please ask them what assurances contestants have that their istruments will not be seized by the Russian state.



  • MacroV says:

    I trust the Swiss foundation has the documentation – and the lawyers – to satisfy the Russian Customs service.

    Recall that something similar occurred to Josef Spacek a couple years ago.

  • Paul Silverthorne says:

    It is required when entering Russia with a valuable instrument to register it. This is quite straightforward, I’ve done this many times and it ensures a trouble free departure.

    • Bill says:

      Except the problem was not that he didn’t register it, it was apparently that he failed to file some paperwork when he left with it on a previous visit.

  • Brettermeier says:

    Let’s see, what’s more likely:

    1. Russia admitting a mistake.
    2. Russia keeping stuff that doesn’t belong to them.
    3. Russia “generously” not taking what’s not rightful theirs.

    That’s a tough one! 😀

    I think it’ll be 3. while trying 2.

    • Dan says:

      Sorry, but your arguments are just BS. When you are travelling with a valuable violin, you know that you need all the papers to proof who it belongs to, what it is made of and its value.

      There is no clue in this article if he has went through the proper process to declare the violin as he entered Russia.

      Russia is very keen on knowing what is LEAVING its grounds. They don’t want an exodus of good instruments. So all contestans should be made aware of the costums process when ENTERING Russia.

      I made preparations for an orchestra touring Russia and there is lots to do but if you prepare well, you don’t have any problems. If you declare your instruments properly there is no taking away of instruments.

      If you don’t prepare properly and are not able to prove that you brought a string instrument into the country it is their right to investigate if you are not taking out an expensive instrument.

      Just stick to the regulations and you do not have any problems.

  • fflambeau says:

    Russia is really horrible. About a decade ago, I flew there from Japan on Aeroflot. Because I had no visa (which then required a blood-test for AIDS amongst other intrusive things), I was in transit, I was taken from the airport in a prison-like vehicle with metal grates on the windows to a hotel near the airport. A policeman accompanied us all the way. The hotel had a guard on the floor and it was necessary to sign in and out. You could only go to the hotel’s restaurant/bar, no where else. The next day I flew on to Cyrus. The people in the airport were also horrible and the food atrocious, even by airport standards. I’ll never go back.

  • Zach Zacharoff says:

    Dubai as location of origin may also have been problematic. For decades it has been a focal point for all types of shady transactions, gold smuggling from Africa being one example that has recently obained new publicity. For that and other reasons it has entered into steep economic decline.

    • Bill says:

      None of that sort of thing ever happens in Russia, so I can understand their caution! And dollars to donuts I’ll bet that violin wasn’t made in Russia, either, so claiming it as part of their national heritage is a bit suspect!

  • Tony F says:

    Nikolai Managazze has not been and was in fact not selected to participate – they announced the participants the day after this story was released (
    So I don’t understand the reason he was going to Russia in the first place. There is something fishy about this whole story.