Russian poet and Kremlin critic Lev Rubinstein dies aged 76 | Russia

Russian poet and Kremlin critic Lev Rubinstein dies aged 76 | Russia

The Russian poet Lev Rubinstein, a leading figure in the Soviet underground literary scene who later protested against Vladimir Putin, has died days after being hit by a car, his daughter has said.

Rubinstein is considered as one of the founders of the Russian conceptualism, an avant-garde literary movement that mocked the official doctrine of socialist realism in the 1970s-80s.

“My dad, Lev Rubinstein, died today,” his daughter, Maria, wrote on a LiveJournal blog picked up by Russian media.

The poet had created his own genre, between poetry and theatre, by writing short sentences on perforated cards and reading the “note-card poems” on stage.

His daily work as a librarian amid the bureaucracy of the Soviet era inspired his performances, which combined absurdist comedy and improvisation.

“Shakily poetic, astute and ironic, he was himself a way of perceiving the world,” the human rights organisation Memorial said in an homage to the writer.

After the USSR collapsed, Rubinstein shot to prominence and his work was widely published.

He was openly hostile to Putin’s government and regularly protested against the Kremlin’s intensifying repression and human rights violations. When Putin launched his full-scale assault on Ukraine, Rubinstein signed with other renowned writers an open letter denouncing a “criminal war” and the “lies” from the Kremlin.

Rubinstein had not been arrested or prosecuted during the conflict in Ukraine, Memorial said, even as the Kremlin’s repression reached new heights. “But his tragic death in January 2024, just on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the catastrophe seems bitterly symbolic,” Memorial said.

“Our tense desperation and hope, the powerlessness and fear of the past days, the coma and muteness of Lev Rubinstein – this is us today.”

The 76-year-old was hit by a car in Moscow on 8 January and taken to hospital in a critical condition.

The transport department of Moscow said “the driver did not slow down” as Rubinstein was crossing the street. According to preliminary information, the driver had been involved in 19 traffic violations in 12 months, the department said. Authorities have launched an investigation into the accident, it added.

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