Russian TV Station Proclaims 'No To War,' Plays 'Swan Lake' Before Going Dark

TV Rain, an independent news outlet, aired the famous ballet in a bold nod to Russian history.

One of Russia’s last independent news outlets took a stance for peace and made a powerful historical allusion in its last moments.

TV Rain, described by The New York Times as a “youthful independent television station,” announced Thursday that it would stop operating indefinitely under intense pressure from the Kremlin.

Russia’s telecommunications regulator had already blocked TV Rain earlier in the week, and some of the station’s employees have fled the country out of fear for their own safety, the Times reported. On Thursday, the outlet delivered its final show, which aired on YouTube.

“No to war,” Natalia Sindeyeva, one of TV Rain’s founders, said as the station’s employees walked out of the studio.

The station then began playing Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” ― a reference that many well-versed in Russian history recognized.

As NPR noted in a piece earlier this year about the significance of “Swan Lake” in Russian political history, Soviet state TV aired the ballet on a loop after the death of Premier Leonid Brezhnev while a new party leader was being selected. It did the same following the deaths of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko.

Then, in 1991, Soviet TV aired the ballet during the attempt to overthrow President Mikhail Gorbachev ― a failed coup that helped precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There are well-founded fears that reporting any news diverging from the official government line in Russia could result in prison time or worse.

Just before TV Rain cut to “Swan Lake” on Thursday, a disclaimer flashed on screen stating the show was the work of a foreign agent. That became a requirement for the station back in August, when Russia’s justice ministry declared TV Rain a foreign agent — a designation editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko vehemently denied — in the lead-up to a parliamentary election.

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