The organizers of the "Russia 2" exhibition at the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art face fines for "inciting religious hatred." The prosecutors at the trial against the organizers of the 2003 "Careful Religion!" show are demanding the accused serve time in a penal colony. Protests are being staged against a new opera "Rosenthal's Children" at the Bolshoi, and warnings are being sent out to the Minister of Culture, Michail Shvydkoy. Conservative forces in Russia are clamping down.
The case of "Russia 2" is fatefully similar to the ongoing trial against the Sakharov Museum in Moscow, where an exhibition called "Careful – Religion!" was on show a year and a half ago. In it, Russian and international artists focused in a partially provocative way on the role of religion in today's society. Several days after the opening, the exhibition was ransacked by a group of militant Christians. Yet it was the exhibition organisers, not the vandals, who landed in the dock, on the instigation of the Orthodox Church. At the beginning of March, public prosecutor Kira Gudim demanded three years in a penal colony for museum director Yury Samodurov, and two years each for his co-worker Ljudmila Veselovskaya and artist Anna Michaltshuk. All three defendants will be prohibited from practising their profession in future. In addition, Gudim is demanding the "destruction of the evidence", meaning the confiscated artworks. To justify this thinly disguised attempt at censorship, Gudim accused the defendants of not bearing in mind the "special situation of Russia" when they conceived the exhibition. She quoted the lines of poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko: "In Russia the poet is more than a poet".