It seems that nobody expected to see a crucified effigy of Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in infamous KGB Headquarters in Latvia's capitol, Riga, as a part of Riga's Museum Night. Latvian urban artist, who remained anonymous for now, invited visitors to hammer nails into the puppet of, what is consider to be, Vladimir Putin. While some visitors were very keen on driving nails into Putin's feet, the others were trying to pull them out. This artwork raised quite a commotion in the media and strained relations between Russia and forcibly incorporated ex-Soviet republic of Latvia.
Immediately after media reports, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the Russian president was discontent with this display and have marked it as a bad move and not very high display of culture. Unfortunately for Russia, Latvia is no longer in range of Russian censorship. On the other hand, there is still some influence left in this Baltic country. Riga's mayor, a pro-russian politician, Nils Ušakovs' excuse for this occurrence was the fact that KGB Headquarters courtyard is in the Ministry of Culture's jurisdiction and that is still possible to buy street drugs somewhere in this city. Russian demagogy spoken through Latvian politicians scared Latvian Ministry of Culture which came with a statement that the puppet did not resemble Putin, while the artist itself (who wanted to remain anonymous) stated that the puppet was not intended to resemble Europe's least famous free speech advocate.
We have seen in many cases not that long ago how Russian Government and her president is suffocating every glimpse of free speech through visual and all other forms of art. It seems that the best prevention to stay out of Mr. Presidents sight is to use auto-censorship tool. Russian artists have to face a choice: to censor themselves, or else Pussy Riot scenario is coming their way. Luckily, in case of Latvia, we are able to see the true face of aggressive cultural policy led in Russia. We are hoping to see more of these urban actions and interventions, only then will be possible to examine the mechanisms of censorship and true freedom of artistic expression.
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All images are for illustrative purposes only.