The Prosecutor’s Office of Perm Region has launched an investigation into the budget of the festival White Nights in Perm 2013, RIA Novosti reports.
The festival, which began on 1 June, is reported by Izvestia to have cost 250m roubles (about £5m). The newspaper’s sources were quoted as saying that this was “a very large sum for such a festival”. Nearly half the funding (111m roubles) was provided by the regional authorities, with a further 78m roubles coming from the city budget, and 60m from Lukoil Perm.
This year, the White Nights festival, which has been running since 2011 marks the 290th anniversary of Perm, has invited Russian participants from the world’s leading cultural capitals. The month-long celebration includes concerts, theatre, master-classes, exhibitions and dance performances combining art groups in the region, Russia and other countries.
The prosecutors are said to be checking that the monthly salaries of the festival's managers are within legal boundaries for heads of regional cultural institutions. The head of the Museum of Modern Art PERMM Marat Gelman and festival art director Vladimir Gurfinkel are both presently being investigated.
The level of spending on the festival has been defended by the former culture minister of Perm, Veronika Vaisman, and the Duma deputy for Perm region, Valery Trapeznikov. “Everyone in Perm likes the event,” said Trapeznikov. “I think that the expenditure makes sense for the content there is.”
The festival had already made headlines after several politicians criticised Vasily Slonov’s exhibition Welcome to Sochi 2014, which features cartoons satirizing and criticizing the forthcoming Olympics in Russia. Duma deputy Grigory Kuranov expressed his unhappiness at what he called “a destructive attitude to the success of our country”. On his LiveJournal page, curator Marat Guelman said: “I didn’t really think that this event [the criticism] was worth the attention that it has received.”