See also

Please do comment on my Twitter or Facebook page




© Ismene Brown 1992-2022


26 MAY 16

Someone in Russian culture is even richer than Valery Gergiev this year. Figures of salaries for leading figures in the Russian culture world released by the Ministry of Culture show that Mariinsky chief Gergiev received £1.4million last year for his work in his native country, but was tipped out of his previous top spot by the Pushkin Museum's director of capital construction, the well-connected businessman Igor Pogrebinsky, with an income declared for 2015 of £2.4million.

The annual release of the figures offers many surprises for Western viewers over and above the volume of detail disclosed, which include cars, flats and Russian business interests. It appears not to include foreign earnings.

Some of the sums paid to culture chiefs in Russia are enormous, though some editorial commentatorsa assert that Russian arts leaders earn far less than their Western equivalents, which in the case of several of these extremely high-earning theatre directors and conductors would not be true of the UK. (An unrealistic comparison is drawn in the piece below between the earnings of Bono and Sir Paul McCartney and those of Russian musicians.)

Interesting for British eyes is LPO principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski's appearance at number 8 on the list with over £300,000 last year paid to him as conductor of the Svetlanov Orchestra, which is in addition to his LPO salary and other orchestral contracts.

Gergiev appears to have earned £300,000 less from his state positions last year than in 2014 (164 million rubles), when he was Russia's highest-paid cultural leader. His holdings declared to the state also reportedly include six apartments and a substantial stake in a turkey meat producer. The workaholic Mariinsky chief may give three concerts in a single day, it's noted.

Comparing Russians like-for-like also yields surreal results. The Bolshoi Theatre's general director Vladimir Urin, listed on 7.5 million rubles/c£78,000, earned considerably less than the dismissed Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze now does as Rector of the Vaganova Ballet Academy - 10 million rubles/c£130,000 -  and a goodly amount less than the 11 million rubles paid to his counterpart in Novosibirsk, Vladimir Kekhman, who is chief of both the Siberian opera house and the Mikhailovsky Theatre, St Petersburg. In a further twist, Kekhman, who made billions with his fruit import business, is officially bankrupt and being pursued by state banks with claims to repay alleged debts of billions of rubles.

Tsiskaridze's 10 million ruble/£130,000 Ballet Academy salary has leapt more than 300 percent from his 2014 reported 3.4 million when he was still Acting Rector, and is now notably higher than both the Bolshoi chief executive and the 7 million paid to the Rector of the Moscow music conservatoire. So it might be that the St Petersburg chiefs are far better negotiators of their state salaries than the Moscow ones.  

A remarkably well paid Sergei V Filin is listed as deputy director of the Rossiya state folk dance ensemble with an income of over 30 million rubles (£300,000) but this is evidently not the same as Sergei Yurievich Filin, the acid-struck former Bolshoi ballet director, who is not listed on the declaration of top executives.

The Culture Ministry's chart also shows that Yuri Bashmet, the star viola-player and conductor of the New Russia Symphony Orchestra, earned only a relatively paltry 9.3million rubles/£96,000 from his state position. By contrast Vladimir Spivakov, star violinist and conductor of the Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra, was paid nearly seven times more money, a whopping 65 million rubles/over £675,000.

Some of the wide earnings disparities are accounted for by the fact that several - such as the richest, Pogrebinsky - have many other business interests, which they are obliged to declare if employed by the state.

Another surprise to Western eyes may be the sheer volume of artistic organisations - 205 orchestras, theatres, museums, galleries, film studios, arts training establishments, and so on - supported by the Russian state across the country, demonstrating the serious priority given to classical arts in that country.

Izvestia reports that arts chiefs on 11 million ruble salaries are earning the same as the top physicians heading Moscow and St Petersburg's leading hospitals.

UK comparisons

To make some Russia-UK comparisons in the flagship public arts organisations, here are some figures for 2013-4 as reported by the Telegraph:  Royal Opera House CEO Alex Beard earned £250,000, and Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare £175,000, both considerably better rewarded than Vladimir Urin, Bolshoi chief, on £78,000. Rufus Norris, National Theatre artistic director, on £185,000, looks like a pauper next to his Russian counterpart, Oleg Tabakov of the Moscow Chekhov Theatre, on over £710,000.

And while ROH conductor Antonio Pappano earned well over £500,000, which makes him phenomenally well rewarded by British standards, that would put him at only sixth in the Russian rich list. Of course living costs and conditions vary too much for absolute comparisons, but there is evidently more consistent pay-bracketing of arts executives in the UK than in Russia.

The rubles to be earned in culture

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 25 May 2016, by Andrei Vasyanin

The Ministry of Culture has published data about the incomes of leading figures in Russian arts. Newsletters have brimmed over with figures, comparing incomes of top-listed Russian culture figures, directors and musicians, for this year and last, and accounting for their apartments and holdings in property developments.

The name of Valery Gergiev appears in many headlines, although with earnings of 130million rubles [c £1.4million] he takes second place among the leaders of state arts organisations under the aegis of the Culture Ministry. Last year the Mariinsky Theatre chief earned 210 million rubles [c £2.2million] less than in 2014.

Gergiev has been picked out in the headlines, because of his famous name. But in fairness the top name on the list should rather be highlighted, Igor Pogrebinski, deputy director of the Pushkin Museum, who declared income of 230 million rubles [c £2.4 million], including substantial holdings in the companies ‘Creative Workshops’, ‘Falcondale’ and ‘Fitness Style’.

In third place according to the information published on the Ministry’s website is another Petersburger and musician, Yuri Temirkanov, the chief conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, who earned over 74 million rubles [c £771,000].

Fourth in last year’s list was the Chekhov Theatre’s artistic director Oleg Tabakov with 70 million rubles [c £729,000].

In the list of 205 institutions can be found many celebrated names - the violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov, the directors of the Arkhangelsk museum estate, Maly drama theatre, Hermitage museum and Mosfilm, and the head of the Vaganova Ballet Academy Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

It is no secret that various culture figures have earnings besides their main employment income. For instance, Gergiev owns 15 percent of the Evrodon company, a major producer of turkey meat.

But the vast majority of the people on the list, as can be seen from the figures, are living on the income of their main business, hence some obvious differences in amounts. For example, Andrei Moguchy, artistic director of the Bolshoi Drama Theatre, receives 4.2 million rubles a year, Vladimir Urin, general director of the Bolshoi Theatre, earned 7.5 million [£78,000], Igor Zolotovitsky, rector of the Moscow Art Theatre school, 7.8 million, and so on.

Furthermore it is no secret that Valery Gergiev has a terrifying capacity for work, sometimes simply frightening - where does his stamina come from?  In a year he does several hundred concerts. During the major festivals, the Easter and the White Nights, he gives two or even three performances a day.

Almost half his performances are abroad where he leads the Munich Symphony Orchestra.

Yes, indeed it is difficult, all but impossible to compare the incomes of these famous names with culture figures in the provinces, but also impossible to truly compare their workloads and the extent of their responsibilities. In the attention being paid to the incomes of culture workers, such ratings are not an excuse for badmouthing. On the one hand, of course, these lists satisfy people’s curiosity. On the other, they can stimulate thought.

For one thing. For all these very impressive sums for our musicians and directors with world names, they remain far behind their Western colleagues. In regards to income, that goes without saying. Here are several examples. Bono, leader of U2, said to be the richest musician of our times, is estimated to be worth $1.5billion: over six years with his ownership of a state in Facebook he has earned $1.4billion, which is many times higher than his income for his whole career in music. Sir Paul McCartney, worth $1.1billion, is one of the main shareholders in Apple Corp.

Should we be envious?

From the horse's mouth

Evgeny Mironov, artistic director of the Theatre of Nations:

People earn what's right for their work. In the world, and in our country, there are people who have made it on a long, hard, selfmade route to success. And I and my colleagues have nothing to hide - we work honestly and hard. And this is hard work, believe me.

I am absolutely clear in my employments, and I mean  not only the Theatre of Nations but also cinema, where  recently I’ve been busy in production, a complex job with its own rules. They told me that last year I was in the upper part of the ministry list [RG: fifth in the list of arts figures with 43.4million rubles [c£450,000]]. I don’t follow these things and I was very surprised. Personally I make my living only as an arts professional, I don’t have any other businesses: when you work with real love for your creative profession, there isn’t enough time to do anything else seriously.

Dmitry Bertman, artistic director of Helikon Opera:

Around the world top opera singers, conductors and directors are very highly paid. After all a human voice lasts only a short time and a singer, definitely, deserves their high fee.

There shouldn’t be this feeling among people that culture is getting enormous amounts of money.  Alas, it actually gets not very much money at all. Our artists and musicians, for instance, have quite modest salaries from the theatres, less than in the West.

Moreover, everything else depends on our culture - from oil output to the prevention of a morality crisis in society (which is far more worrying than any financial crisis). It needs to be absolutely clearly understood that this is not a matter of words alone: culture is our most significant bridge to the rest of the world and an insurance for society as a whole. Even more when you consider that the incomes of our highest-paid musicians, as a rule, are in step with culture. Every conductor, director, or pianist pours into their work something even more precious than the money they earn: all their strength, health and talent.

2015's top 10 highest paid arts figures  

[exchange at 96rubles/£1]

1. Igor Pogrebinski, deputy director of the Pushkin Museum - 229,804,330 rubles [£2.4m]

2. Valeri Gergiev, artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre - 130,216,902 rubles [£1.35m]

3. Yuri Temirkanov, artistic director of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra - 74,491,119 rubles [£750,000]

4. Oleg Tabakov, artistic director of the Moscow Art Theatre (the Chekhov) - 70,114,277 rubles.

5. Vladimir Spivakov, violinist and president of the House of Music - 65,367,548 rubles.

6. Vadim Zadorozhni, director of the Arkhangelsk Museum-Estate - 37,677,906 rubles.

7. Sergei V Filin, deputy director of the Rossiya state folk ensemble  - 30,407,530 rubles

8. Vladimir Jurowski, artistic director of the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra - 29,116,182 rubles [£301,000]

9. Svetlana Melnikova, general director of the Suzdal museum - 26,178,674 rubles.

10. Lev Dodin, artistic director of the Maly Drama Theatre - 26,499,621 rubles.

Russian reactions to Bolshoi Babylon film

Filin 'to head choreography scheme'

Vaziev appointed Bolshoi ballet head

' Every conductor, director or pianist pours into their work something even more precious than  money: all their strength, health and talent'

Gergiev no 2 on Russian culture rich list

Slice of the pie: image Arkady Kolibalov/Rossiskaya Gazeta