As the G20 nations prepare to meet in St Petersburg, Russia in early September 2013, Index on Censorship is exploring the nations’ records on free expression. Their article about Russia, headlined ‘Russia: Rolling back free expression’ and published on 20 August 2013, contains the following paragraph about the artistic freedom of expression in the country:
As the authorities of the country try to increase its electoral support among more conservative layers of society, they rely more on support of the Russian Orthodox Church. Increasingly close political relationships between the state and the church account for much of the persecution of artists and censorship of arts on grounds of “protecting of traditional values”. One of the recent draft laws, adopted by the parliament in the first reading, provides for five years in prison for “insulting believers’ feelings”. Reports talk about increasing self-censorship among artists; several cases of prosecution were noted as well.
In August 2012 Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich, members of punk group Pussy Riot, were each sentenced to two years imprisonment for organising a “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Despite the group claiming their performance was an artistic act of political protest against President Putin’s regime, they were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” In October 2012, Samutsevich was released on probation, but sentences against the other two members of the band were upheld.
Anti-extremist laws and articles of the Criminal Code relating to incitement to religious hatred have long been used for censorship of art in Russia. In July 2010 art curators Andrei Erofeev and Yuri Samodurov were fined for organising the Forbidden Art 2006 exhibition in Moscow, after several of the works were claimed by prosecutors to “incite hatred” and “denigrate human dignity.” In December 2012, prosecutors in St Petersburg launched an investigation into an exhibition by British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman after visitors complained it was “blasphemous” and “extremist” for featuring images of a crucified Ronald McDonald and Nazi symbolism.
» This article was published on 20 August 2013 at indexoncensorship.org