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    MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) - Communist ideology was strangling the Russian theatre in the Soviet years. Now, it's money that has gripped it by the throat, Mikhail Ulyanov said to the magazine, "Russian Economy: 21st Century".

    One of Russia's foremost stage and movie performers, Mr. Ulyanov is artistic director of the Evgeni Vakhtangov Theatre, renowned Moscow-based drama company.

    The Soviet regime was offering ample reasons for criticism-yet it had some strong points. In particular, it was putting the images of good people into the foreground of the arts, while present-day liberty is undermining basic morals, warned the actor.

    The stage world is ill suited to contemporary life, when everyone has to pay his own way. Allocations make a mere 30 per cent, or even less, of money necessary to keep a company afloat.

    The theatre is in a trap-it is free to choose any play it likes, but can't afford to produce it.

    An unwelcome trend has taken firm root on the Russian stage, in the movies and the television. They don't treat life seriously any longer. The matter is even worse as the public encourages it-an overwhelming majority is after sheer entertainment. Audiences come to the theatre to forget for some time about tragedies obsessing the whole world.

    However, the Russian theatre is more intellectual than the Western, and it does not deserve to degenerate into entertainment, insists Mikhail Ulyanov.

    The stage, music, creative writing and the cinema ought to create an atmosphere in which the public will regain faith, even though such an atmosphere cannot bring back stability on its own. "What we need are stories that purify the heart and mind. Let audiences weep and improve themselves through the tears they shed. That's better than a disinterested observer's stance."

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