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Olivia Stock
24 July 2023, 14:17

Russia’s Outline Festival returns to controversy as military recruitment tent spotted near entrance

Cars marked with the letter “Z” were also reportedly seen driving around the festival, which took place earlier this month

Photo of a tent with military recruitment posters at Outline Festival, Moscow

Russia’s Outline Festival, which returned earlier this month for the first time since being cancelled in 2016, has sparked controversy after a military recruitment tent was photographed at the entrance to the festival’s parking lot on the first day.

As Resident Advisor reports, the tent displayed multiple military recruiting posters, featuring a message in Russian that read, “Contracted military service. 600 rubles.” A Moscow resident, who helped with the festival’s production and asked to remain anonymous, confirmed the photo was real to RA via videos and geo-tagging of their location.

Images of the tent were circulated via Twitter during the festival, which ran from 6th to 9th July just  outside the Russian capital, and criticism was directed at the organisers and artists by some members of the global dance music community. Among those was Russian techno producer Pavel Milyakov (AKA Buttechno), who wrote: “To all the local and intl artists who perform there: you are officially used to attract people to go to war. After they finish dancing to ur music they will go and kill Ukrainian civilians. This blood is on your hands.”

Speaking directly to RA, Milyakov accused artists who performed at Outline as “normalising life under this regime”, suggesting that they’re “letting themselves be used for accumulating tax income that goes to the military budget, which wages Russian invasion in Ukraine.” He continued, “I see total lack of awareness, empathy and responsibility. It doesn't go along with the values that true underground music communities should stand for. I see neither community nor values there. Only greed, blind ignorance and irresponsibility.”

The person who took the photo told RA: “I don't know why the tent caused so much discussion. We've been under surveillance by the police and the government since the beginning of the war. It’s become very dangerous to live here. In general, there are a lot of these tents in Moscow now, so no one even paid attention to it. I pay attention to these tents and billboards with conscripts. It’s scary. People live in constant fear about the war.”

Maya Baklanova, a Ukrainian activist and journalist, also supports a boycott of Russian cultural events during the invasion of Ukraine. She said to RA: “I understand [Russian residents] want to forget about everything for one night. But for me, electronic music parties and festivals can't just be about hedonism or escapism when your country started a cruel war in the middle of Europe and you know people your age are dying while fighting your government. I'm not – and nor is anyone else in Ukraine – against people dancing. We just urge people to not just dance, but to make some changes.” "All artists who perform there are normalising life under this regime," she added.

Furthermore, RA reports that during the festival at least two cars were seen driving around the site branded with the letter “Z” – a symbol understood as Putin's symbol of “victory” against Ukraine. Whether or not Outline’s organisers knew about the military tent or the vehicles is unknown, and organisers did not respond to RA's request for comment. 

The return of the house, techno, and experimental event was organised by the team behind Moscow club Mutabor, and featured a line-up of international artists such as Atom™ (Live), Le Syndicat Electronique, San Proper and Margaret Dygas, as well as local acts like Locked Club, Sofia Rodina, and Denis Kaznacheev.

This is not the first time the Moscow festival has been shrouded in controversy. The previous edition, which was scheduled to take place in 2016, was cancelled by Russian authorities who claimed that the festival lacked the required permits. Members of the military were also reportedly sent to the MoZAL plant venue to maintain peace. 

Read Arielle Lana LeJarde’s full report for RA here.