Valery Gergiev has made what seems to be a campaign ad for Vladimir Putin, who aims to regain his hold on the Russian presidency in Sunday's election. In the video above, Gergiev does not mention Putin by name, but the import is clear. A Russian-speaking friend gives the following translation: "When I'd present my passport, in 1999, on, say, the American border, I felt that people might not ... reckon with me. 'Oh, Russia...?' And tossed to the side. Since then, that hasn't happened. One needs to be able to hold oneself ... presidentially ... so that people reckon with the country. I don't know if it's fear? Respect? Reckoning." Putin's first term as president began in 2000. [Update: Anastasia Tsioulcas notes that the video is captioned "Why I'm voting for Putin."]
Gergiev's name appears on a list of 499 celebrity supporters of Putin. According to a Moscow Times piece, the list also includes Anna Netrebko, Denis Matsuev, and Yuri Bashmet. (In this video, Bashmet looks ahead to Putin's "golden period." Netrebko has praised the leader's "strong, male energy.") Other reports place Yuri Temirkanov and Pavel Kogan in the pro-Putin faction. [Second update: Jens Laurson would add Vladimir Spivakov.] The conductor Mikhail Arkadyev, who lost his contract with Vladivostok's Pacific Symphony in the wake of anti-Putin remarks, is the only classical musician I've seen listed on the other side, although one assumes there are others. [Third update: see this Brian Wise story about the New Russian Quartet.] It should be noted that not all in the Putin camp may be willing and eager participants. Stories in Die Welt and the Daily Telegraph have mentioned possible pressures brought to bear on the actress Chulpan Khamatova. One gets the feeling, though, that Gergiev is saying what is on his mind.
Arthur Lubow discussed Gergiev's long-standing friendship with Putin in a 2009 article for the New York Times Magazine. David Remnick wrote about the resistance to Putin in The New Yorker last December.