This past Friday, a group calling themselves “Orthodox” activists led by Dmitrii “Enteo” Tsorionov raided an exhibit of modern art at the Manezh, one of Moscow’s most prominent exhibition centers, adjacent to the Kremlin. Among the works damaged by Enteo and his gang were sculptures by Maxim Sidur, one of Russia’s leading 20th-Century sculptors.
That, unfortunately, is not surprising. Russia is becoming accustomed to this sort of thing. Nor was it surprising that Vsevolod Chaplin, spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, spoke out in Enteo’s defense and with a critique of the art itself worthy of Khrushchev’s attack on the contemporary art of his day.
What is surprising — at least, what surprised me — is the reaction of Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and president of the Russian Union of Museums. The original of his letter is here, but for those of you who don’t read Russian, and because it’s important, I’ve translated it below:
The Russian Union of Museums considers the attack on the Moscow Manezh to be yet another strike by marginal forces against the rights of culture.
We see in this attack a new provocation against the Russian Orthodox Church, an attempt to portray the Church as primitive and aggressive and to impede the work that the Church and museums have undertaken in search of harmony.
The Russian Union of Museums finds the actions of these strange activists with their hallucinogenic nicknames to be the true manifestation of sacrilege, blasphemy and offense against faith.
We propose that Russia’s museums urgently conduct trainings on how to secure their exhibitions with their own resources, taking into account the fact that the police will cease the physical protection of museums from November.
The Russian Union of Museums is undertaking legal consultations to draft legislation that would provide cultural institutions with serious protection against attack, as well as a more adequate legal approach of these crimes.
We are surprised by the style of the public reaction to these events — the inaccuracy of information, the immaturity of smirks, the insecurity and nervousness of tone.
Our society is ill.
President, Russian Union of Museums