MOSCOW -- A man reportedly faces a fine for putting a sack over the head of a controversial statue to Ivan the Terrible, in what appears to be the latest in a string of protest actions against the recently unveiled monument to the ruthless Russian tsar.
A photograph of the altered statue in the Russian city of Oryol went viral on social networks early on October 31, although local news reports said the sack and an accompanying sign hanging from Ivan's steed reading "how airless, what darkness" were swiftly removed.
Police later detained a man, who was not identified, but was said to have traveled from Yaroslavl to carry out the stunt. Govorit Moskva radio, citing the Oryol police, reported that the man had been charged with petty hooliganism, which carries a maximum fine of 1,000 rubles ($16).
The statue was unveiled earlier this month by officials in Oryol, located about 360 kilometers southwest of Moscow, despite protests.
The statue in Oryol is believed to be the first to the infamous tsar, who founded the city as a fortress during his 16th-century rule. Now that precedent has been set, however, several other efforts to honor the monarch appear to be in the works.
On the occasion of Unity Day on November 4, the city of Aleksandrov in the region of Vladimir is due to unveil a monument to Ivan the Terrible.
There have also been recent proposals to rename a street in St. Petersburg after the Russian tsar and to build a chapel in his honor in Grozny, the capital of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya.
Soviet Film Reference
The exact meaning and objective of the stunt in Oryol were not entirely clear. The sack over Ivan the Terrible's head appeared to be a nod to the "oprichnina" -- a policy of brutal repressions carried out by the monarch's fearsome secret police.
The Orelgrad news portal said the choice of words on the sign were inspired by a three-word expression attributed to Ivan the Terrible in the 1973 Soviet film Ivan Vasiliyevich Changes Profession.
The expression used in the film roughly translates as: "How lovely, what beauty…" and rhymes with the note written on the sign.
Ivan the Terrible's 21st-century comeback has prompted protest and dismay in some parts of Russia.
In the Siberian town of Kansk, an artist erected an "alternative monument" to the tsar that consisted simply of a stake dripping with blood-red paint, evoking the memories of victims of Ivan the Terrible's rule.
The stake, however, did not last long and was reported on October 29 to have been chopped down.