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Expanding horizons through cultural exchange

7 November 2018
Expanding horizons through cultural exchange

The Polyus: Golden Season theatre competition and the TERRITORY theatre festival

Sustainable Development includes overcoming regional inequality and providing people in remote areas with access to modern art, culture and education through cooperation between business, governments and civil society organizations. This is why Polyus is focused on supporting theatre troupes in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Polyus operates in several remote regions in Eastern Russia: the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Irkutsk Region, Magadan Region and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Magadan, the most remote of these, lies more than 11 thousand kilometres — or eight time zones — away from Moscow. There is no railway or asphalt road between the city of Magadan and the rest of the country. Magadan has a theatre, but not many people can travel from Magadan to Moscow or other major cities to see the work of leading Russian actors and directors. It is also a challenge for local theatre groups to find additional training and link up with their peers in other Russian regions, or to reach a wider audience and present their art at a national level.

By providing opportunities and support, Polyus is working to help elevate the theatre industry in Magadan, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and the Republic of Sakha to a level comparable with Moscow, St. Petersburg and the rest of Russia. For Polyus, this is an opportunity to contribute to the cultural development of these regions by supporting the best local theatre projects and by creating a platform for the sharing of ideas and skills between actors, theatre directors, and theatre producers who live in places thousands of kilometres away from each other.

The process

Polyus has been holding its annual Polyus: Golden Season theatre competition since 2016. The project’s goal is to support theatres, theatrical unions and amateur troupes in the regions where Polyus operates.

The contest lasts around 6 months: it is launched in March and the final ceremonies take place in September or October. Theatres and theatre troupes from the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Irkutsk Region, Magadan Region and the Republic of Sakha are encouraged to present their productions to an independent panel of Russia’s top theatre critics. Each application must include a description of the social mission of the project.

The winners of the contest receive grants from Polyus, in a total value of $100,000, and are invited to participate in the major national theatre festival, TERRITORY.

TERRITORY is organised and sponsored by Polyus in partnership with the Moscow Territory festival and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. The festival includes master classes, workshops and lectures for creative professionals and those working in regional cultural development. The events are led by celebrated actors, directors, choreographers, producers, critics and art managers.

TERRITORY has been running for thirteen years; Polyus has been a partner of the festival for the last three years. The partnership has enabled the festival to expand its reach and to become one of the main cultural events held in Siberia and the Far East. Today, TERRITORY attracts participants from all over Russia, promoting educational and cultural exchange between regions and giving regional groups the opportunity to showcase their work on a federal scale in front of a broad audience. The event is more than a performance festival, it is a celebration of the importance of theatre to local culture and economy.

Up to three of the best theatre groups selected during Polyus: Golden Season perform at TERRITORY alongside the best theatre groups from across all of Russia, while the other winners participate in the festival’s educational seminars and workshops.

The TERRITORY festival is supported by the governments of the regions where it is held and is often attended by regional governors.

Polyus also partners with local universities and colleges during the festival. Their students participate in the competition as volunteers and take part in the educational events.

In recent years, the TERRITORY festival has been held in different cities in the regions where Polyus operates. In 2017, it was held in the city of Magadan and in 2018, in Krasnoyarsk. The 2019 festival is expected to be held in Irkutsk.

In 2018, the TERRITORY festival in Krasnoyarsk lasted seven days and included eleven theatrical events. A unique exhibition of contemporary art was organized alongside the festival. The exhibition included family tours in sign language for the benefit of the deaf and hard of hearing. Leading Moscow theatres and theatre associations presented their productions. Theatre groups from Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Lesosibirsk performed alongside the groups.


Polyus’ theatre initiative has grown considerably since it was first launched in 2016. In 2018, thirty-two theatre groups from Siberia and the Far East participated in the Polyus: Golden Season contest, compared with twenty-three in 2017.

Polyus’ theatre project provides significant support to local cultural infrastructure. In 2017, Polyus donated $34,200 to finance the renovation of the Magadan State Music and Drama Theatre and the local museum in preparation for the TERRITORY festival held there in that year.

Participating in TERRITORY equips Polyus: Golden Season winners to better contribute to the social development of their regions, armed with the experience and learnings gained through successful inter-regional educational and cultural exchange.