Russian police have shutdown an art gallery in the latest attack on free speech under President Vladimir Putin. The police declared a painting to be illegal and pornographic because it depicted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear and another of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church covered in tattoos. The paintings were seized from the Museum of Power. Last year, we saw how a protester was arrested for spitting on the image of Putin during a demonstration. It appears that after years of cultivating a cult of personality with action-hero photo ops and staged acts, Putin is not about to let a bunch of artists mock his well constructed image.
Museum of Power’s Alexander Donskoy told the press that the paintings were seized and no explanation given. The Russians appear to have a pretty low definition of pornography. The painting shows Putin in a slip dress combing the hair of Medvedev who is wearing a bra. One would have to have a pretty bizarre fetish to find these paintings as appealing to prurient interests. It appears that bare-chested images of Putin released from the wild by his propagandists are just good ole hero worship but a parody of him is strictly pornographic.
Of course, in the United States, pornography was defined in Miller v. California as not only depicting a patently offensive scene of sexual conduct or excretory functions but also lacking “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The painting of Putin is actually quite good and contains both artistic and political value. Indeed, the response of Putin’s police shows the political content is not only self-evident but powerfully displayed.