An art expert and a museum director were convicted by a Moscow court on Monday for inciting hatred, after they organized a provocative exhibition in the capital in 2007, offending the Russian Orthodox Church.
The organizers of the show said it was a protest against cultural censorship
Two men who organized a controversial art exhibition in Moscow were found guilty of inciting hatred by a Russian court on Monday, but the judge let them go free after ordering them to pay fines. The trial was fiercely criticized by human rights activists.
Art expert Andrei Yerofeyev and former museum director Yury Samodurov had set up the Forbidden Art Exhibition at the Andrei Sakharov Museum of Moscow in 2007, a museum devoted to the former Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner who died in 1989.
Museum of Moscow in 2007. The show included a depiction of Jesus Christ with a Mickey Mouse head and a spoof Coca-Cola ad carrying the slogan, "This is my Blood."
The exhibition was condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church. An ultra-nationalist Orthodox group filed a complaint, and prosecutors opened an investigation into the show. The two men were subsequently charged with inciting religious hatred.
Yerofeyev protested that the show was not deliberately anti-Christian, but that it was simply a protest about cultural censorship.
"I thought that this would cause controversy with the Ministry of Culture and other institutions," he told news agency AFP ahead of the ruling. "But not within the church or with fascists.
"Society is sick. It still has problems with its reflection in the mirror, art," he added.
The judge found the men guilty, saying they had "committed actions aimed at inciting hatred." Yerofeyev and Samodurov could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison, but were instead ordered to pay fines of up to 200,000 rubles ($6,500).Former museum director Yury Samodurov said the guilty verdict was a return to Soviet or Tsarist times:
"From now on any exhibition that shows religious symbols in a non-religious context, expressing a non-relgious meaning, is forbidden. It means the use of religious symbols in art is being seen as a crime against faith", Samodurov told Deutsche Welle.
Last week 13 Russian artists published an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to end the trial. They said a guilty verdict would be a "sentence for the whole of Russian contemporary art" and "another step towards the introduction of cultural censorship."
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold