While the world has followed the appalling destruction of art by ISIS and Muslim extremists, it is easy to forget that such religious extremism is not limited to Islam. We saw such an example recently in Israel. Another such case has emerged in Russia where Russian Orthodox activists destroyed Soviet avant-garde art deemed insulting to their religion. The attack led the head of the Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky to denounce the attack as further evidence of a “sick” Russian society and the rise of “marginal forces against cultural rights” in the country.
The exhibit is called “Sculptures that We Don’t See” and the vandals targeted works by Soviet sculptor Vadim Sidur, whose nonconformist works were censored by Soviet authorities.
The attack is attributed to the group God’s Will, led by radical Russian Orthodox activist Dmitry Tsorionov known as “Enteo.” He has declared that Putin is a gift from God and that Russians are “unworthy” of him. Tsorionov denounced the exhibit as containing an “indecent” depiction of Jesus Christ and a “dirty, harsh mockery of Jesus Christ and the saints.”
Many of us could not escape the irony of watching Putin at the Olympics in Moscow honor past Russian writers, some of which were banned and abused by the Russian government. As a KGB colonel, Putin worked for the agency that abused artists and writers during the Soviet period.
A video posted on YouTube shows a female activist together with Tsorionov tearing Sidur’s linoleum engraving of a naked Jesus Christ from its platform and stomping on it. He also smashed a plate holding one of the cloth heads that comprises a work by Megasoma Mars called “Beheading of St. John the Baptist #2.”
The violence has rekindled criticism of Putin who has risen to power in a coalition with conservative religious elements in the Orthodox Church.