I only saw this thread now, because it is highlighted on the main page of this month's magazine. Or I'd have contributed sooner. I don't tend to read the Dance Issues thread very often which is prolly why I missed it.
In any case.
Allow me to share with you what I know.
The last I discussed this officially was with Vasiev in 2004, so please take it with a grain of salt, but the main principles here remain the same -- things in Russia change very slowly.
The theatres, ALL state academic theaters, are no longer entirely supported by the state. In 2004, the amount that the Mariinsky received from the government was minimal and not enough to cover operating expenses much less produce new works. With the fall of the USSR, that state funding siphon went bye-bye -- for the most part -- for all theaters. That is to say there is still a small federal budget for arts institutions in each city and that is divided among the major theatres. So in St. Petersburg yes the MT gets some, but so does Eifman, the Maly-Mussorgsky-Mikhailovsky (MMM), the Hermitage Theatre, in addition to the non-balletic theatres (drama -- the Jazz Music Hall, the Musical Comedy Hall, the Dramatic Theater -- there is a long long list). And the Bolshoi and Perm and Ufa -- all the theaters in the country get something.
But at this point it is not enough to survive on that amount alone.
As Vasiev explained it to me, it wasn't city specific, it was country-based, and based on size. So the larger theaters get a larger cut, but because it is divided so many ways, they dont end up with much.
Bottom line: since the shift to a market economy the theaters have been dependent on outside investment and philanthropy. HEAVILY dependent.
Whether the country has oil revenue or not is similar I suppose to the US, whether it has... I dont know, what does the US produce and sell massively? Cars? Whatever. If it has such revenue it doesnt necessarily follow that it would go to "state" arts institutions. It might, if someone decides to delegate it to that area. But it's not a given that it will be. It's an issue of budget, and what is allocated where. Unfortunately to date (and I cannot speak for 2008 but until now for sure), there hasn't been any huge increase in revenues for the ballet theatres in Russia.
I can open any of my 500+ playbill covers and here is what I see:
OAO Bank BTB, General Partner of the Mariinsky Theater. OAO Gazprom, sponsor of the 225th ANniversary Season of the MT, Sverbank Russia, Total (Oil), Main sponsor of the MT, Base Element COmpany, BP, JT International, MDM Bank, AFK Systems.
ANd on the back cover: Philanthropic and social organizations providing help to the Mairinsky theatre: Fund of Valery Gergiev (Moscow), Fund of the White NIghts of America (NYC USA), ANO Musical Festival Stars of the White Nights (St P), Association of the Friends of the MT (Paris), Fund of the MT (London, UK);
and partners of the MT are listed as PepsiCo, Imperial Collection and Hennessy. During the WHite NIghts festival, MontBlanc, Bombardier and other firms are added to those lists.
With that said, I recently saw the ads for Eifman's troupe and was shocked to learn that their starting salary is what I am earning as an underpaid trilingual expat with two degrees and 13 years work experience (post Bachelor's). For an 18 year old, they are earning what the equivalent is of probably double or triple what I made just out of university in the USA. My point: they are far from starving. Additionally, they earn extremely high rates when on tour -- their base (high) salary plus a performance fee for each day on tour in addition to per diem. Oh -- and guaranteed life employment and pension. It's really an unbeatable setup.
As for private donations, yes the MT is constantly seeking those. One of the reasons they have the balls at the Astoria or at Tsarskoe Selo is to get the donor money as I understand it... Those tickets are not cheap.