Art historian Zelfira Tregulova, who led the state Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow since 2015, has been forced out of her job. Tregulova told Russia’s National State News that the Russian Ministry of Culture blindsided her early this month with a demand that she respond by February 6 to a complaint brought to the ministry by a museum visitor named Sergei Shadrin. Shadrin accused the Tretyakov Gallery of failing to hew to the “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values” espoused in a decree set forth by Putin this past November. Mentioned among the values are “human rights,” “patriotism,” “service to the Fatherland,” “family,” “justice,” and “historical memory.” Shadrin cited “signs of a destructive ideology” as present in the gallery’s display, and further said that he left the museum with a sense of emptiness and hopelessness.
Tregulova has publicly expressed negative views regarding Russian officials’ rhetoric surrounding the country’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February 2022. It is not known whether she responded to the demand before the ministry made the decision not to renew her contract. Tregulova told the National State News that she learned of her ousting via the media. Stepping into her freshly vacated role is Elena Pronicheva, the daughter of Federal Security Service General Vladimir Pronichev, a high-ranking military official in the Putin administration. Tregulova is known as one of the world’s most knowledgeable museum professionals; Pronicheva has little experience in the field of art, having since 2020 served as director of Moscow’s Polytechnic Museum, and before that, as executive director of the city’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.
Founded in 1856, the Tretyakov Gallery is considered one of Russia’s most important museums. The Ninth Moscow Art Biennale, which had been to open there this past November, was canceled by government officials days before its launch, stoking censorship fears. Following Tregulova’s removal, an unnamed Tretyakov staffer told the Moscow Times, “We are dealing with a typical Soviet way of dealing with objectionable art, allegedly by a letter from the people, which is given as an official motive.”