Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

Politics as Theater

On watching Gogol in Simferopol, and more.

A musician wearing a Soviet militia uniform stands before the entrance of the Ilkhom Theatre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on March 13.
A musician wearing a Soviet militia uniform stands before the entrance of the Ilkhom Theatre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on March 13.
A musician wearing a Soviet militia uniform stands before the entrance of the Ilkhom Theatre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on March 13. Matilde Gattoni for Foreign Policy

On Friday, four regions in occupied Ukraine began voting in Moscow-orchestrated referendums on whether to join Russia. The vote, denounced as a sham by Western and Ukrainian officials, recalls the disputed Crimean referendum in 2014, which Moscow used to justify its annexation of the peninsula.

On the eve of the 2014 vote, journalist Dimiter Kenarov attended a satirical play by Nikolai Gogol in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital. The parallels between the production, which dealt with political corruption, and what he witnessed in the region were not lost on Kenarov. The referendum, he wrote, was “nothing more than theater-of-the-absurd: a group of people pretending to make a choice and others pretending to scrutinize the fairness of that choice, while in fact there was no choice at all.”

Theater, repression, and political freedom are intertwined not just in Crimea, but around the world. This collection of reporting and essays from the FP archives explores these connections, as well as efforts to keep theater in all its forms alive.—Chloe Hadavas

On Friday, four regions in occupied Ukraine began voting in Moscow-orchestrated referendums on whether to join Russia. The vote, denounced as a sham by Western and Ukrainian officials, recalls the disputed Crimean referendum in 2014, which Moscow used to justify its annexation of the peninsula.

On the eve of the 2014 vote, journalist Dimiter Kenarov attended a satirical play by Nikolai Gogol in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital. The parallels between the production, which dealt with political corruption, and what he witnessed in the region were not lost on Kenarov. The referendum, he wrote, was “nothing more than theater-of-the-absurd: a group of people pretending to make a choice and others pretending to scrutinize the fairness of that choice, while in fact there was no choice at all.”

Theater, repression, and political freedom are intertwined not just in Crimea, but around the world. This collection of reporting and essays from the FP archives explores these connections, as well as efforts to keep theater in all its forms alive.—Chloe Hadavas


Boryana Katsarova

Watching Gogol in Simferopol

Life imitates art in Crimea, where nothing seems real anymore except the tears and the vodka, Dimiter Kenarov writes.


People arrive to watch the actress Zsofia Szamosi perform in the play Pali at the Jozsef Katona Theater in Budapest on Jan. 18, 2019.
People arrive to watch the actress Zsofia Szamosi perform in the play Pali at the Jozsef Katona Theater in Budapest on Jan. 18, 2019.

People arrive to watch the actress Zsofia Szamosi perform in the play Pali at the Jozsef Katona Theater in Budapest on Jan. 18, 2019.Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Orban’s Macbeth

The tragic figure behind the Hungarian populist leader’s efforts to remake his country’s theater, according to Dariusz Kalan.


Alice Su

The Refugee Puppeteer

Inside Zaatari Camp, one volunteer is on a mission to help war-weary children overcome their disabilities and fears with theater, Alice Su writes.


NIB Studios

The Elephant in the Comedy Club

A troupe of popular young comics avoids mixing humor and politics in Rwanda, Kavitha Surana writes.


An actress prepares to go on stage at the Ilkhom Theatre on March 1. Ilkhom—meaning “inspiration” in Uzbek—was created in 1976 as the only independent theater in the Soviet Union and has remained the only non-state theater since the independence of Uzbekistan.
An actress prepares to go on stage at the Ilkhom Theatre on March 1. Ilkhom—meaning “inspiration” in Uzbek—was created in 1976 as the only independent theater in the Soviet Union and has remained the only non-state theater since the independence of Uzbekistan.

An actress prepares to go on stage at the Ilkhom Theatre on March 1, 2019. Matilde Gattoni for Foreign Policy

Tashkent Underground

The Ilkhom Theatre Company has kept freedom alive in Uzbekistan since before the fall of the Soviet Union, Matteo Fagotto writes.

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