These Aren’t Artists, They’re From a Religious Hate Club, So That Silly Russian Anti-Extremism Law Applies

03.23.12 Marina Galperina

There’re lots of artists being persecuted under Russia’s odd laws against “offending religion” and “anti-extremism.”These guys aren’t any of them, so there’s a big problem with the Art Newspaper’s headline “Artists Orthodoxy or Death’ t-shirt is extremist, says Russian court.” We agree that the laws are silly, but let’s not venerate them. They’re not Pussy Riot or Voina. They’re not artists. The biker types who wear these shirts are fromthe Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers of extreme Christian monarchist picketers. Here’s some photos of them hanging out in the forest conducting mock executions by shooting bows and arrows at pictures of gay dudes. Classy.

Now that the activist hardcore band Pussy Riot is on trial for “offending religion” by crashing a Moscow cathedral and in light of the nearly gulag’ed Russian curators, Oleg Mavromati’s ongoing trial under Article 282 for an “illegal” crucifixion re-enactment and a Mickey Mouse as Jesus painting being banned nationwide — we’re all cheering for freedom of expression and booing Russian laws. So, yes, boo Russian laws! But let’s just get this straight first.

Yes, former artist/fashion designer and member of the Orthodox Banner Bearers Igor Miroshnichenko designed the crossbones and knives “Orthodoxy or Death” t-shirts. They’re illegal for “extremism” in some courts and not others. It’s a legal mess. They should be able to wear their silly t-shirts, of course, and the anti-extremism law is ridiculous, but let’s not confuse it with a mere “fashion statement.”

The Banner Bearers show up at every single artist support rally — they just protested Pussy Riot and they were there during the trial of Russian curators Erofeev and Samodurov for their religiously themed “Forbidden Art.” They gather in groups, blast bad rock ‘n’ roll, penetrate giant banners of Madonna with sticks, burn monkey puppets because Darwin was Satan, march with icons of Ivan the Terrible and call for the canonization of Spetsnaz special forces who go on rampage in Chechnya. They also show up at every LGBT rights march to intimidate people, as if getting regularly beat up by cops while your country is criminalising mentioning homosexuality wasn’t bad enough.

Members of Pussy Riot (unmasked since their arrest) have been previously seen at many LGBT rallies and call for LGBT rights in their protest songs. So, maybe when the Art Newspaper article quotes the representative of this aggressively homophobic, religiously zealous organization about how Pussy Riot should be sent to prison as “a corrective measure that makes them think about the shameful thing they have done and about what shame is” — maybe it needs a little bit of postscript.