Russia's Ministry of Culture recently called leading artists and intellectuals to suggest that they endorse a petition hailing President Vladimir V. Putin's annexation of Crimea, sparking impassioned accusations from the literati that the Kremlin was resurrecting repugnant Soviet methods.
Boldface names immediately signed: Valery Gergiev, the director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra; the pianist Denis Matsuev; and Vladimir Urin, the director general of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
But even as Russia's leaders employed a tactic that harked back to Stalin, pressuring its cultural elite to kowtow, the effort was not without problems. At least one artist whose name appeared was dead. Several more protested that their signatures had been added without their knowledge. And opponents of the Crimea venture responded with a mixture of derision and outrage, issuing their own diatribe against the Kremlin's Ukraine policy titled "Don't Bend, Don't Yield to Lies.