Artist Accused of Insulting Religious Feelings

June 5, 2013
Artyom Loskutov

[Enhanced laws punishing individuals for offenses to religious feeling are being employed against artist Artyom Loskutov, who has been brought up on similar charges several times before for the content of his art. Kommersant reports on his latest offense.–Ed.]

Artyom Loskutov, an artist from Novosibirsk known for organizing “Monstration” street art shows, is involved in a new case. It all started with t-shirts that appeared on eBay, which were previously recognized by the court as insulting the religious feelings of believers. The prosecutors believe that it was Mr. Loskutov himself who offered the t-shirts for sale, and now he has to pay a fine.

As Loskutov, a street artist and organizer of annual “Monstration” shows, told us, the Novosibirsk Prosecutor’s Office brought administrative action against him under Article 5.26, Part 2 of the Administrative Code (Insulting Religious Feelings of Citizens or Desecration of Articles, Marks and Emblems Relating to the Symbols Thereof). The fine, provided under this article of the Code, is 500 – 1,000 roubles [$15-30—Ed.].

Mr. Loskutov was previously involved in several cases (including a criminal case), in which charges were brought against him in connection with insulting religious feelings of citizens, as well as the government officials. In November 2010, Artyom Loskutov was charged with two counts under the Article 319 of the Criminal Code (insulting a public official). According to the investigators, on September 26, the artist allegedly insulted four policemen who asked him not to sit on the pedestal of the Lenin monument in the center of Novosibirsk.

Also in November 2010, he allegedly posted a story on the internet under the title “How I Spent a Night in a Jail,” in which he made insulting remarks about the central district Deputy Police Chief Alexander Muzalev. The text was accompanied by images depicting Mr. Muzalev as the Joker from the Batman movies, wearing the villain’s makeup and outfit. However, in March 2013, the case was closed because of the statute of limitations.

Another controversial episode  involved the distribution of t-shirts with an icon, stylized as a cartoon. That happened in the center of Novosibirsk on September 25, 2012. The same icon appeared on advertising posters, and the artist was fined 1,000 roubles [$30—Ed.]. Police officers confiscated two of the t-shirts and initiated a criminal case under the Article on “insulting religious feelings;” however, the case was closed because of the statute of limitations, and the t‑shirts were returned to the artist, who offered them on eBay for $100.

As a result, the Prosecutor’s Office initiated a new criminal case under the Article 5.25 of the Administrative Code. This time, the lawsuit was filed by a resident of Novosibirsk and an activist of the public organization “People’s Council” who wasn’t happy with the fact that the t‑shirts were offered for sale. “This is the sixth case of the same kind. Under two of them I paid fines, three were closed (one because of the statute of limitations, the other two because of the absence of the event of a crime).” Mr. Loskutov stated.