Two Russian performance artists were arrested for symbolically exorcising the demons of Russian history at Lenin’s mausoleum in Red Square on Monday. The men, Oleg Basov and Yevgeny Avilov, carried large bottles of water with black crosses painted on them and proceeded to splash the tomb with “holy water” and shouted “Rise up and leave!” They were immediately arrested and sentenced to jail for ten days on charges of petty hooliganism, a minor version of the charge famously brought against Pussy Riot.
The performance was titled Exorcising the Devil, Desecrating the Mausoleum . A member of the artist’s collective, Blue Rider, told the Guardian it “was intended to ‘confront two myths’: that Lenin ‘lives’ and the Christian promise of resurrection.” Monday was a Christian holiday in Russia known as Epiphany. Christians mark the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by immersing themselves in icy rivers and lakes.
Irina Dumitskaya, a colleague of the jailed artists, expressed outrage at the absurdity of the punishment, saying, “Ten days for basically just pouring water, when it rains, it pours on the mausoleum too.”
Basov has been confronting authorities frequently in the past few months. In November he staged a public performance in which he ate Rubles, Russia’s rapidly declining currency, and hilariously declared that the money is now just a cheap snack.