40 years after defecting, a soloist still rages at Russia

40 years after defecting, a soloist still rages at Russia


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2023

One of the last undercover Cold War escapes from Russia was made in 1983 by the violinist, Viktoria Mullova. She was in Finland, where she had won the Sibelius Competition, and with the help of a couple of journalists was bundled into a car and driven to diplomatic asylum.

Today, back in Finland, she tells YLE:
‘Of course, I will not return to Russia under these conditions. I hate what the Russians are doing to the Ukrainians. Somehow Putin has managed to do the same as Stalin. People think he is a god who will save Russia. Unbelievable that so many people support him.’

Three of Mullova’s four grandparents are Ukrainian and one is Russian. During the war, she has not been in contact with relatives in Russia.

‘I have not wanted to be in contact with them. I’m angry,’ she says.

photo: YLE


  • mel says:

    That escape is worth checking out, as are her recordings. Absolutely beautiful version of Tchaikovsky’s concerto (with Ozawa).

    • geoff says:

      So too is her Sibelius

      • David K. Nelson says:

        Not the least interesting thing about this fine artist is how she was willing to turn her back on the great legacies and glories of that “Russian” training when it came to performing Baroque and Classical violin music. I reviewed her early Phillips CD of unaccompanied Bach and it was everything one would expect at that time, beautifully played of course, and certainly worth listening to, but very different from her period instrument approach and not just in the obvious specifics relating to what the instrument and bow can and cannot do.

  • Roland says:

    So too is her Bach, no matter if on Philips or Onyx, no matter if Concertos or Works for Solo Violin. Listening to her music is always amazing, both live on concert and on CD. Music which comes from the heart.

  • Hayne says:

    She’s angry at Russian relatives and won’t talk with them. Sad…

    • Tom Phillips says:

      The treatment MOST Russians deserve!

    • Mikeber says:

      Indeed so. Most weird things are happening to music and musicians during this war. I’m not young and can’t remember such boycotts ever in the past. Even not at the height of the Cold War, when Russian musicians were welcome in the west and western musicians played in Moscow and Leningrad.

  • k says:

    Ask her about Maestro Vahktang Jordania in her story????? I believe he was part of her escape……

  • Not Rootin' for Putin says:

    And she very well should be angry, good for her!

  • alexis piantedoux says:

    Putin annexed Crimea in 2014…from 2014 until February 24th 2022 the list of artists who played in Russia, and willingly received their fees is simply endless. Shameless hypocrites.

  • Diarmuid Ó Sé says:

    It really is a civil war in view of the way in which Ukrainian (esp. eastern) and Russian populations are intertwined. Her comments about not being in contact with relatives bring it home to me. It was also thus during our (small-scale) civil war in Ireland – small-scale because our population was small but the resulting bitterness made up for that. The sooner a peace settlement is negotiated the better.

    • Alexey Ulko says:

      This is NOT a civil war. Ukraine has been a founding member of the UN since 1945 and an independent country since 1991 – as has been Russia which had breached 7 bilateral treaties with Ukraine back in 2014. It has been and is a colonial war waged by Russia with rockets, tanks, artillery and concentration camps.

    • Nicholas says:

      A peace settlement of sorts was negotiated early on with the former Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, acting as mediator; and he was able to extract a promise from Putin to drop his goal of demilitarizing Ukraine and from Zelensky not to join NATO, but the two Russophobic governments of the US and UK did not want peace to materialize. Remember BOJO running around? They actually thought the combination of sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine would destroy Russia which is their preferred outcome. So, it is unlikely Russia will agree to a peace settlement in the future unless it involves new security arrangements with the US and NATO, but that would mean a mea culpa from the collective West which is highly unlikely. That ship has sailed. You are astute, Diarmuid, in recognizing a real civil war in Ukraine (fomented by the US and UK, by the way) and thank you for sharing your direct experience of the historical civil strife in Ireland. The bitterness that ensues from wars affects me, too, with relatives and friends in Russia and Ukraine.