Church and state in Russia
Art under arrest
A blasphemy trial shows the limit of Russia’s cultural freedom
Jul 1st 2010
Avant-garde Samodurov under guard
A CONTEMPORARY work of art can provoke outrage disproportionate to its artistic merit. In Russia it can also herald a change in the course of history. In 1962 the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously denounced and banned an exhibition of avant-garde artists in Moscow, saying his grandson could paint better. This marked the end of the short post-Stalinist thaw and ushered in the period of “stagnation”. Khrushchev himself was deposed two years later.
Nearly 50 years on, Russian prosecutors are demanding a three-year jail sentence for the organisers of a contemporary-art exhibition in Moscow. The verdict, expected on July 12th, could have an impact far greater than the exhibition itself and determine the balance of power between ultranationalist religious radicals and secular pragmatists in Russia.