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Performance Art Group Tries To Exorcise Spirit Of Soviet Founder

  • Tom Balmforth

Two St. Petersburg performance artists staged a mock exorcism at Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square.

Two St. Petersburg performance artists staged a mock exorcism at Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square.

MOSCOW -- Performance art is back on Red Square.

Two men were detained this week after they doused Lenin’s Mausoleum with blessed holy water, exhorting the embalmed corpse of the Soviet founder to "rise up and go away."

The stunt by the Blue Rider performance art group was carried out on January 19, the Orthodox Christian holiday of the Epiphany.

The satirical attempt to exorcise Russia of its Soviet past -- dubbed Exorcism: Desecration of the Mausoleum -- was cut short by police officers after about 15 seconds.

The pair behind stunt were identified as Oleg Basov and Yevgeny Avilov of St. Petersburg. They jumped a fence to the mausoleum and splashed five-liter bottles of what they said was holy water over its marble walls before being detained and led off to police cars.

The two spent the night in custody, according to media reports. They were charged with "minor hooliganism” and reportedly sentenced to 10 days in custody.

Red Square has become something of a magnet for performance art in recent years.

In January 2012, the feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot performed a song called "Uprising in Russia" near St. Basil’s Cathedral, where they famously sang that President Vladimir Putin "wet his pants."

Performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky in Red Square in November 2013

Performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky in Red Square in November 2013

And in November 2013, Pyotr Pavlensky, a performance artist from St. Petersburg, nailed his scrotum to the cobbled square in a protest against apathy and political indifference in modern Russia.

The St. Petersburg-based Blue Rider performance art movement was founded in September 2013.

On its page on the popular VKontakte social network, the group describes their oeuvre as “light-bourgeois sots-art,” or socialist art or Soviet pop art.

In May, in an action related to the conflict in Ukraine, one of their activists dressed in military fatigues, knelt down on a Ukrainian flag near the St. Petersburg branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), and washed himself with blood in front of pedestrians.

Last July, in St. Petersburg, an activist from the group entered the Hermitage Museum, where he undressed down to his underwear and began washing himself with soap inside an exhibit. He was quickly detained.

In November, as the ruble crisis began, one of their activists sat down on the pavement outside the Central Bank and ate 100 ruble notes, washing them down with Pepsi in a stunt they dubbed "Gobbling the ruble."

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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