The role of the festivals in the history of the Russian theatre of the two past decades is unique. The festivals broke the wall between Russian and other European theatre. They founded the basis of their cooperation. They acquainted Russian audiences with contemporary theatre trends.
Established in 1992, the Chekhov International Theatre Festival was the first to contribute to this process. Its motto was: "the Festival is not a useless undertaking. It testifies our intent to exist in an open and boundless cultural space". Its program started with the stagings of great directors who formed the European theatre of the 70s and 80s: Peter Brook, Giorgio Strehler, Peter Stein, Otoмar Krejca. The response to their work was in general very enthusiastic.
Soon the program of the Festival focused on another generation of European directors, who were in the very heart of the contemporary theatre process: Ariane Mnoushkine, Robert Wilson, Christoph Marthaler, Krystian Lupa, Tadashi Suzuki, and others. This time the reaction was quite different, and a considerable part of the audience left performances before the end, sometimes severely criticizing. There could be different reasons for this fact, but in general most critics agreed that the public wasn't ready for the contemporary theatre esthetics. But this discord didn't hurt the directors, and for some of them it was the beginning of fruitful cooperation with Russian theatre,namely, Robert Wilson. Very little attention was paid in 1998 to "Persephone", which he staged with Change Performing ART, Milano, Italy. Nevertheless, three years later, when another of his productions - August Strindberg's"A Dream Play" – was staged in Moscow, it became extremely popular. A similar thing happened with Krystian Lupa, who staged Chekhov's "The Seagull" with the Alexandrinsky Theater in 2007. It opened the Second international theatre festival "Alexandrinsky" and the 252nd season of the theatre. One year later, another Lupa work appeared in the Third Chekhov's festival. In 2010 President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev awarded Lupa the Order of Friendship and one more production by him was shown in Saint-Petersburg, at the XXth "Baltic House" International Theatre Festival.
At the same time the European audience discovered the modern Russian theatre. The most significant was the triumph of the Russian season at the Festival d'Avignon in 1997. It reflected the real state of our theatre and was highly representative.
Nowadays, the relationship between the Russian and European theatre is well established. Currently there is a special program of the "The Golden Mask" National Theatre Award called "the Polish theatre in Moscow". It presents performances of such directors as Krzysztof Warlikowski, and Krystian Lupa, Maya Klechevska and others, from the earlier generation. Along with shows, the program includes meetings with directors, educational events, exhibitions, discussions, etc. The interest in Polish theatre among Russian intellectuals has been consistent since the 70-s. During the last years Poland is supposed to be the most interesting theatre centre in Europe, something which Russia could become but failed to.
In addition, the events dedicated to XIV Europe Theatre Prize and XII Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities will take place in Russia, in St. Petersburg from 13th to 17th April 2011. This year, the XIV edition Prize was awarded to Peter Stein, icon of contemporary European theatre. The XII Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities was awarded Viliam Dočolomanský, (Slovakia/Czech Republic), Katie Mitchell (United Kingdom), Andrey Moguchiy (Russia), Kristian Smeds (Finland), Teatro Meridional (Portugal) and Vesturport Theatre (Iceland). Finally, the Jury awarded a Special Prize "to the legendary Russian director Jurij Petrovic Ljubimov for his undisputed artistic stature and decisive role, along with the Taganka Theatre, in the delicate phase of perestroika, which marked the transition of the Soviet Union to the Russia of today".