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Vladimir Putin Puppet Crucified by an Urban Artist in Riga

  • puppet kgb headquarters riga latvia vladimir putin 2015 crucifixtion urban intervention controversy censorship
May 21, 2015

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.

kgb headquarters riga latvia vladimir putin puppet 2015 crucifixtion urban intervention controversy censorship
Former KGB Headquarters in Riga, Latvia, also known as The Corner House. During the period of the Soviet dictator, Stalin, and especially during the years occupation in 1940-41 people were tortured and interrogated on the sixth floor and executed in the basement (the shower room) or the yard. Thousands of people were sent to GULAG hard labour camps for decades, after being interrogated in The Corner House. Sometimes people were invited here for a friendly conversation and asked to cooperate, but no one saw them ever since.

Commotion Over Vladimir Putin’s Crucifixion

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.

kgb headquarters riga latvia vladimir putin 2015 crucifixtion urban intervention controversy censorship puppet
Vladimir Putin’s Crucifixion, KGB Headquarters in Riga, Latvia. It is known that Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer from 1975-1991, making this installation of the crucifixion on the red cross a perfect fit for KGB Headquarter courtyard. Can it be said that he was crucified to redeem sins of KGB during the Cold War Era, or he was just brought to light as a persona non grata, considering his foreign policy and fight against the freedom of speech.

In Riga, An Unknown Artist ”Crucified” Vladimir Putin

Censorship And Fear

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.