Artsfreedom gives you INSIGHT: Sweden and Russia

13 May 2015



Several Swedish artists live under constant threat from Neo-Nazi and extreme rightwing groups. In Russia the ultra-conservative agenda of patriotism, orthodoxy and authoritarianism that Putin brought with him on his return to the presidency in May 2012 has drastically shifted state cultural policy and oppositional and experimental artists are increasingly being attacked or harassed.

As Europe marks the 70 years since Nazi defeat we are reminded that threats against artistic freedom of expressions in Europe do not only stem from jihadists, but even from ultranationalists and Nazis. We are reminded that in spite of the horrors experienced by European populations Nazism, ultranationalism and religious fanatism never disappeared from the continent.

We are reminded that arguments used by Nazis, Christian Right Wing Groups and nationalists against certain artistic expressions remain on the European continent; and are frequently echoed by right wing politicians in several European parliaments.

In this edition of  INSIGHT  we present two articles analysing attacks on artists in Sweden and Russia.

Lena Jonson, Head of the Russia Programme at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm, author of ‘Art and Protest in Putin’s Russia’, published in March 2015, describes that although censorship was forbidden by the Russian Constitution of 1993, since 2012 an informal ideological censorship has become more and more visible in the form of both self-censorship and administrative censorship. She analyses the new cultural policy since May 2012 and its consequences for cultural life and freedom of expression.

“Offending the feelings of religious believers” and “violating traditional Russian values”, interpreted as patriotism, orthodoxy, anti-liberalism, traditional family values and strong support for Putin as leader. These buzzwords have been used in all the conflicts and scandals in recent years.

Sanna Samuelsson, a Swedish freelance journalist in another article gives us   INSIGHT  about Nazi attacks on Swedish artists. Originally written to the Swedish magazine Konstnären published by two of Sweden’s largest and most influential artists’ and crafts’ organisations she portrays how in Sweden neo Nazis and right wing parties are repeating hate speech arguments from the 1930s and 1940s – arguments that were used to discriminate and attack Jewish and Roma artists, homosexuals and blacks.

One of the artists is Makode Linde. Late one July evening in 2013 when he was putting the finishing touches on his Taboo Fetish exhibition, due to open in a few days at a venue in Strömstad, an aggressive man walked in, carrying a Swedish flag. When asked to leave, he attacked Linde, screaming “fag bastards” and that he himself was “a taxpayer” and threatening to return with 30 others. It took 45 minutes for the police to arrive.

Swedish Police has been strongly criticised for not taking the attacks serious. “The police have never labelled any of the attacks on me hate crimes. Even if the attackers call me “bloody queer” and “nigger bastard” and I’ve been careful to include that in my complaint,” says Linde.

» Read the articles:
Sweden: Art under threat
Russia: Cultural freedom under threat

» Further reading on Russia

» Watch videos:
Organising for freedom: Cultural workers in Russia
Freemuse meets Pussy Riot

 INSIGHT  is published by Freemuse. The series is edited by Marie Korpe.
Photo credits: Top: Demonstration in Novosibirsk on 5 April 2015 in support of cultural freedom, the Tannhauser opera and against censorship. Source: Igor Bolotin, | Second photo: Nathalia Edenmont: Excerpt of ‘Devotion’ – 2009 © Nathalia Edenmont/BUS, courtesy Wetterling Gallery

Home / News / Artsfreedom gives you INSIGHT: Sweden and Russia