Film screenings of a K-pop concert, an anime festival, and a concert by Russian rapper Kreed — all cultural events cancelled in recent months after pressure from those claiming to be defenders of Daghestani culture and religion. But for those wishing to attend such events, the backlash has little to do with traditions and more a ‘desire to feel significant’.
On 25 November, a mob of around 100–150 angry young men gathered outside a theatre in Makhachkala, the Daghestani capital. The men were upset that the AniDag Festival, a celebration of Japanese animation — anime — was about to start inside the theatre.
The men promised to ‘bury’, ‘shoot’, and ‘kill’ the participants of the festival, accusing them of ‘corrupting’ the youth of Daghestan.
The organisers and participants of the festival, held up inside the theatre, were publicly threatened with reprisals and accused of debauchery.
According to AniDag organiser Saida Tuchalova, police officers who were called to ensure public order remained inside the theatre. She says that not only did they not intervene in the confrontation, but two of them also began insulting the festival participants ‘repeatedly and loudly’, saying that ‘this is an LGBT gathering’.
Tuchalova was herself detained by police, and held until the evening before being released.
Tuchalova tells OC Media that trouble began after a video appeared online of participants in costume as anime characters rehearsing just before the event was due to begin.
She says the theatre’s press secretary secretly shot the video on her phone, despite a request from the organisers not to do so. Tuchalova says the press secretary then published the video in a closed group on Instagram.
The reaction was almost instantaneous, with posts appearing on social media calling for the festival’s participants to go home.
According to Tuchalova, despite receiving payment from the organisers in advance, the director of the theatre, Magomedrasul Magomedrasulov, refused to follow through with the contract and allow the festival to go ahead. She said he accused the organisers of ‘deceiving him’, and ‘walked around the hall insulting the girls, telling them they looked like prostitutes’.
‘He said that “here you have a striptease and debauchery”, and called us drug addicts’, Tuchalova says.