Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | April 19, 2012

Cultural choice and the Russian Orthodox Church

MYPLACE team member Nastya Min’kova at Centre for Youth Research, Higher School of Economics (St Petersburg).

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church are settling into the role of newsmakers. Twice in the course of the last week, they have made media interventions calling for limiting the access of Russian citizens to cultural events, specifically to an exhibition of the work of Pablo Picasso and a concert by Madonna.

First of all the media reported that, on 4th April during a meeting with the mayor, Novosibirsk and Berdsk metropolitan Tikhon had declared his dissatisfaction with the ‘Temptation’ exhibition of erotic lithographs by Picasso. According to the spiritual leader, children are being allowed to view the works and seeing ‘all kinds of perversions’. Metropolitan Tikhon considers the exhibition on the 1812 war in the regional museum to be far more appropriate since 2012 has been declared the ‘Year of history’ in Russia. The priest added a further argument; the exhibition, he claimed, had been banned everywhere – even in Moscow – but somehow had been allowed in Novosibirsk.

His statement caused some discussion. It turned out that the exhibition had been running since 15 February and before this had been shown in Krasnoiarsk, without causing public concern.  Online blogs record the delight of visitors at seeing the artist’s work: (http://lesoteka.livejournal.com/9108.html ).  Incidentally from the photographs it is clear that Picasso often made clergymen the heroes of his work, although representing them in a satirical light.

Representatives of the company organising the exhibition declared that this cycle of etchings had not been ‘prohibited’.  The exposition will make it to Moscow, but not immediately; it had been decided to begin with showings in a string of Siberian cities and the exhibition timetable runs until 2014.  On the question of suitability for children, the organisers advise that the exhibition is not recommended for those under 16 years of age.  However, those under this age are not denied entrance if their parents feel that they are mature enough for the viewing (http://tayga.info/news/2012/04/05/~107556 ).

On the same day, 4 April, the famous missionary, Deacon Andrei Kuraev, during a meeting with orthodox youth joked about the recent prohibition of the promotion of homosexuality. In response to Deputy Milonov’s question concerning Madonna’s promise to make a public statement of support for the gay community during her forthcoming concert in St Petersburg, the Orthodox Church representative suggested that her speech might be cut short by phoning the FSB with a bomb threat.

The deacon later had to clarify that his advice had been intended as a joke. But there is no love lost on Kuraev’s side; he has suggested that Madonna’s declaration of intent to contravene St Petersburg law at her August concert constitutes valid grounds to refuse her entry to Russia.

Madonna did really make this declaration – in response to the call by the well-known journalist Masha Gessen to boycott St Petersburg because of the city’s prohibition on the promotion of homosexuality ((http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/protest-st-petersburgs-homosexual-propaganda-law-by-boycotting-the-city/).   But, at the same time, Madonna also apparently has no intention of withdrawing from the St Petersburg concert (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150755120089402&set=a.130838589401.130921.10584534401&type=1). This has irritated activists of the LGBT movement who, believing Madonna’s statement to be speculation, are planning to picket the concert anyway.


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