Russian Art Destroyed Highlighting Increased Religious Intolerance Under President Vladimir Putin

So you think the IS destruction of art and architecture is isolated? On Sunday over a thousand Russians protested in Saint Petersburg after a one hundred year old relief sculpture of a mythical demon was destroyed by a group calling themselves ‘The Cossacks of Saint Petersburg’ highlighting the increased religious intolerance under President Vladimir Putin.

The figure of Mephistopheles, a bat-winged creature on Lakhtinskaya Street dated from 1910. It was said to depict the Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, famed for his role of Mephistopheles. The sculpture was torn off the facade of an Art Nouveau period building in Saint Petersburg, in a religiously-motivated act of cultural vandalism. Police have now launched an investigation.

More than a thousand people including architecture conservationists gathered in front of the building in the city centre to express their shock over what this “brazen act of vandalism.” “Hands off art,” read one placard, while another one said in English: “Save our Saint Petersburg.” “What happened is awful,” said Anna Astakhova, 35. “If it’s true that the bas relief was destroyed for religious reasons, then we are descending into the Middle Ages. This is inadmissible.” Another protester, Galina Vanina, added: “I am an Orthodox Christian myself but I do not support this absurdity.” “Art cannot offend anyone,” added the 60-year-old woman, calling those who destroyed the figure “vandals.” “Mephistopheles embodies evil in this world and this person decided to act, most likely, to kill Evil,” spokesman Roman Bagdasarov told pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia. The Cossacks of Saint Petersburg group said in a letter, ‘ The figure encouraged “open worship of Satan” and was unacceptable because it was opposite a church’.

It was also reported last month that Orthodox fundamentalist damaged several exhibits at a show of sculptures in Moscow, saying they offended believers. The attackers attempted to destroy linocuts by the Soviet artist Vadim Sidur which will now cost more than 1 million rubles ($15,000) to repair.



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