Criminalization of Art in Russia

The Economist: “What happens when you display “Forbidden art

From Prof. Andrei Zorin of Oxford University (and a contributor to and speaker at events):

There can be no doubt that a guilty verdict will dramatically change the political climate in Russia and deal a powerful, if not a mortal, blow to the much-hyped modernisation plans of President Dmitry Medvedev. Whether economic and technological modernisation can succeed without political reforms is the subject of intense discussions in Russia. But no one can hope to modernise society without freedom of conscience and the freedom of thought.

Russia’s image abroad, which had just started to improve, will be ruined for at least another decade. The damage to the country’s reputation may prove even longer-lasting than in the Khodorkovsky case. Businessmen are pragmatic people and can sometimes be prepared to trade one of their own to save their investments. Artists and intellectuals are less forgiving.

The story of an art curator and human-rights activist jailed for arranging an exhibition will haunt Russia and all its projects of cultural integration with the West. In such an environment who needs grandiose events like the current “Russian year” in France?

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