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Musicians fleeing Russia find a new audience in Georgia

Musicians fleeing Russia find a new audience in Georgia

Until September, Aleksei Antropov played double bass for the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra in Moscow.

But when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War II to revive his faltering invasion of Ukraine, the 29-year-old fled to neighboring Georgia where he now works as a receptionist. ‘hotel.

The classical musician is one of hundreds of thousands of Russians, many of them young men, who have left the country to avoid the risk of being called upon to fight a war that some do not agree with.

Georgia’s capital Tbilisi was a popular destination, as it is accessible by land, has relatively lax entry and exit rules, and maintains close cultural ties with Russia.

Antropov embarks on a new life abroad, first living in a cheap hostel on the outskirts of Tbilisi before moving into an apartment with friends and working a modest job.

He also maintains his passion and has assembled a small group of classical musicians who, like him, are Russian, with a view to performing in Tbilisi and possibly in Yerevan, the capital of neighboring Armenia.

“I don’t have an orchestra now,” Antropov told Reuters. “So I’m building my own.”

For the first rehearsal in late December, held in the rented basement of a building in central Tbilisi, he bought a stack of cheap plastic stools for the players to sit on.

Antropov has no plans to return to Russia in the foreseeable future, even if the political leadership changes.

“The next Russian Putin could be even scarier than the current one,” he said, sitting in a Georgian cafe serving local cuisine.

Recalling his trip to Georgia, he said it took three days to cross the border at Verkhny Lars because the queues for people evacuating from Russia were so long.

“We were driven to the border on country roads, bribing police officers, then walked over 10km up a mountain,” he said with a wry smile.

He hopes to one day buy a property in Tbilisi.

“I need a home, a place where I can come back. And I hope Tbilisi will become such a home for me. It’s a beautiful city.”

Grigory Dobrynin is the drummer of the Russian band SBPCh (the Russian initials of “The Largest Prime Number”).

After Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, he, too, left for Georgia, taking only a suitcase full of personal belongings and two hats he wore to concerts.

While SBPCh continues to perform in a slimmed down version, Dobrynin now spends much of his time at Practica, a rehearsal space in Tbilisi that organizers have designed as a meeting place for Georgian and foreign musicians.

Jam sessions take place every two weeks, while Dobrynin also teaches drums.

“I don’t see teaching as a backward step for me. Teaching and playing in a band are just different things, they can’t be compared,” he said.

“(But) to be honest, I really miss gigs and gigs. It’s a big loss for me. »

Russian singer and guitarist Anastasia Ivanova, better known by her stage name Grechka (“Buckwheat”), may continue to tour but has not been able to perform in Russia since leaving last spring, saying she was on a “blacklisted” for his opposition to the war.

The 22-year-old, who has also been based in Tbilisi, told Reuters she performed in Ukraine after Moscow’s illegal annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

“I was very warmly received by the Ukrainian public,” Ivanova said.

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