Five years ago, the Russian government prevented about 20 of 240 works destined for a major art exhibition at a Paris museum from leaving the country. The culture minister at the time, Alexander Sokolov, declared them a “disgrace” to his nation. More recently, two Moscow museum curators were found guilty by a Russian court of “inciting national and religious hatred” and fined about $11,000 for displaying some of the same works at the Sakharov Museum, named after Soviet dissident and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov. The works in question included a painting of Jesus with a Mickey Mouse head, a photo of two uniformed policemen kissing and an image of a Russian general raping a soldier with the caption “Glory to Russia.”
In 2010, two members of a Russian anarchist art collective were jailed and reportedly beaten after a public performance in which they overturned police cars in protest of abusive authority. Three female punk rockers who mocked Mr. Putin during a surprise protest inside Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral remain jailed after their March arrest and face up to seven years of imprisonment on charges of hooliganism — leading Amnesty International to dub them “prisoners of conscience.”
Alexey Semyonov, president of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Union, said the crackdown on artistic expression is part of a larger pattern of the Russian government placing restrictions on political speech.
Mr. Krause concurred. He cited the 2006 killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the 2003 arrest and ongoing imprisonment of former Russian oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, both of whom have been outspoken critics of Mr. Putin.
The past, he said, echoes the present.
“It’s not like Stalin’s times, where they sent everybody to Siberia,” Mr. Krause said. “They don’t have to kill or arrest everybody. They just pinpoint key figures, making the message clear to everyone else — toe the line, or you’re going to be done away with, one way or the other.”
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Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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