Russian Performance Artists Arrested for Exorcizing Lenin

Two Russian artists have been arrested in Moscow and detained for 10 days, the Guardian reports. The pair had performed an exorcism on Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum on the Red Square.

The performance artists, who are members of the Blue Rider art collective, were detained shortly after the incident on charges of petty hooliganism. The stunt was carried out on Monday, which is the Orthodox holiday of Epiphany, marking the baptism of Jesus.

In a YouTube video the men carry two plastic bottles of holy water marked with a black cross. They are shown exiting a church and walking across the square towards the former communist leader’s burial site, where they proceed to empty the contents of the bottles onto the stairs and door whilst repeatedly shouting “rise up and leave.”

The pair was later identified as Oleg Basov, a dance instructor, and Yevgeny Avilov, a computer programmer. Fellow group member Irina Dumitskaya condemned their incarceration. She told the Guardian: “Ten days for basically just pouring water. When it rains, it pours on the mausoleum too.” She explained that the performance was intended to “confront two myths”: that Lenin “lives” and the Christian promise of resurrection.

The Red Square has been the site of frequent performances and protests. In 2012, the activists-cum-punk-rock-band Pussy Riot performed a song in lambasting Vladimir Putin on the square. The year after, performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the ground to protest against the police. He struck again in 2014, when he cut off his own earlobe to protest against political indifference in Russian society (see “Russian Performance Artist Cuts Off Earlobe in Political Protest“).

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