Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Free Speech in Russia: The new dissidents

July 12, 2010

It could have been worse. After a two-year long trial, the organisers of the “Forbidden Art” exhibition in Moscow which infuriated the Orthodox Church could have gone to jail if the prosecutors had it all their way. Instead, Andrei Yerofeev, an art historian and curator of the exhibition and Yuri Samodurov, the director of the Sakharov museum where it was held, were fined 150,000 Roubles and 200,000 Roubles respectively for “inciting religious hatred”. The Economist wrote about this case and the exhibition in print and online.

The face-saving compromise was partly the result of public protest stirred by Russian human rights activists, artists, writers, historians and anyone aware of the dangerous precedent set by this case. Foreign diplomats who talked to the Kremlin behind the scene also played their part. The Russian Minister of Culture intervened saying this was no matter for criminal justice and a spokesman for Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church said that a jail sentence would be wrong.