Russian Art or Religious Hatred?

By Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Russian Art or Religious Hatred?


Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


On orders from Russia's parliament, Moscow prosecutors are probing a question that could create new limits on free speech: When does artistic expression cross the line into criminality?

A group of artists are being charged with "inciting religious hatred" for lampooning religious ideology in a controversial exhibit. For the defendants, who face up to five years in prison if convicted, official reaction to the "Caution: Religion" show, held at Moscow's Andrei Sakharov Museum last year, suggests the return of Soviet-style control - where dissent is quashed and policemen stand in for art critics. In place of the former Communist Party, they say, the Russian Orthodox Church is fast becoming the Kremlin's chief guardian of ideological purity.

The church, backed by conservative politicians, says the case is about protecting the sensibilities of religious believers from deliberate mockery in the public arena. "Any provocation that insults the feelings of the faithful and stirs up religious discord must be classified as a crime," said Metropolitan Kirill, chair of the church's department of external relations, said in an official statement.

"I had no idea what I was starting when I authorized that exhibition," says Yuri Samodurov, the museum's director and lead defendant in the case. "But I'm grateful, in a way, because it's made me aware of what's really developing in this society. And it is scaring me."

The trial of Mr. Samodurov and two artists, Lyudmilla Vasilovskaya and Anna Mikhalchuk, opened in last month. The official charge sheet declared that the defendants entered "into a conspiracy with the intent to inflict humiliation and offense upon the Christian faith as a whole and the Russian Orthodox Church in particular."

Almost immediately, the judge halted proceedings and ordered prosecutors to "tighten up" the charges. In Russian courts, experts say, this tactic is often a sign that jurists are uncomfortable with the case but unwilling to anger authorities by throwing the charges out.

The art display at the center of this storm, held in February 2003, featured works by 42 artists. Controversial exhibits included an oversized icon with a vacant space where the viewer could insert his/her own face in place of the usual holy figure. A sculpture of an Orthodox church made entirely of vodka bottles may have been a dig at the Church's own profitable tax-free alcohol trade in the 1990s. A photo triptych depicted three men being crucified, on a cross, a red star, and a swastika, seemingly equating the belief systems of each symbol.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Russian Art or Religious Hatred?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.