ConceptEuropeBigCASE by Viola Andrushchuk

There is a so-called “anti-extremist legislation” in Russia, which includes a number of laws and regulations. Blurred wording of articles allow authorities to use it to suppresses the freedom of speech and to pressure on the mass media and critically-minded citizens.

There is a so-called “anti-extremist legislation” in Russia, which includes a number of laws and regulations. Blurred wording of articles allow authorities to use it to suppresses the freedom of speech and to pressure on the mass media and critically-minded citizens.

It creates a situation when the state acts as a censor not only in the literal sense, but also in the figurative – when the laws and judicial practice essentially prohibit certain themes and images (“disrespecting the days of military glory”, disagreement with official state policy, criticism of anti-Ukrainian propaganda, military campaigns or religion, etc.).

«big CASE» is a documentary (Post-Documentary) photo-project based on real administrative and criminal cases under “anti-extremist” articles with wrongful court decisions. The project uses the method of reenactment by description or image – the basis of the photo is the real case, based on which the staged picture is recreated.

While telling about these real cases, it is difficult not to break one of the repressive extremist articles, one had have to resort to self-censorship so that the project has the opportunity to appear before a wide audience.

The project conducted in partnership with Russian NGOs “The SOVA Center for Information and Analysis” and “Mass Media Defence Centre”. The SOVA Center has been researching application and misuse of anti-extremism legislation in Russia. The concept and usage of the term “anti-extremist legislation”, as well as the assessment of the wrongfulness of trial decisions, are taken from the reports of The SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.

Soviet and German toy soldiers times of World War II. In early April of 2015, against the Central Children’s Store on Lubyanka was opened a case under Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement of hatred and humiliation of dignity of the Great Patriotic War veterans) for selling busts and figurines of soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht. On the same day, interrogations and searches were conducted in homes and offices of the company staff. As it turned out, the figurines and busts, which became the basis for the criminal case, were collectibles and not intended as children’s toys. From the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis point of view, the criminal case under Article 282 was initiated inappropriately, since sale of models has no qualifying attributes of a crime covered by this article.

About Viola Andrushchuk

Viola Andrushchuk was born in 1988, in Navoi city (Uzbekistan). In 1994 the family moved to Voronezh city, Russia. Here she graduated a Secondary School, the Voronezh Institute of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation with a specialty “radiotrician” and for 3 years studied at the Faculty of History of Voronezh State University. In 2014 moved to Saint Petersburg, Russia, where studied for 2 years at “DokDokDok” Photojournalism and Documentary Photography School and completed courses “Documentary photography and photojournalism” and “Post-documentary photography and other media”. Have been published in Russian and foreign publications, hold a personal exhibition in St. Petersburg (Russia) and participated in group exhibitions in Brighton (UK), Berlin (Germany), Minsk and Brest (Belarus).

I wouldn’t call myself a photographer in the literal sense, rather a visual artist. I think that some stories are easier to tell about in the visual language of photography and it will be more understandable for viewers that way. I’m interested in different topics such as ecology, human rights, anti-war agenda, feminism, gender and corporality. Currently working on few photo projects. [Official Website]

Orthodox Paskha, Van Gogh cocktail and Napoleon cake. In March 2015, Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) issued a warning to the news website about “the inadmissibility of using the media for extremist purposes”. The reason for this was an illustration to the article “Social activists from Novosibirsk opposed the monopoly of the Orthodox Church on morality and spirituality” – a collage of three men in briefs with the heads of Vladimir Putin, Alexander Pushkin and Jesus Christ. Roskomnadzor considered that this image offends “the religious feelings of Christians”. The news website appealed against the Roskomnadzor warning and Roskomnadzor then presented in court an expert conclusion, that said the image insults and humiliates the honour and dignity of those featured on it, to whom the “expert” for some reason referred as “important religious figures”.

Handmade scarecrow on the field against the background of Orthodox Church. On June 1, 2016, two residents of the small town Sosnovka were found guilty under Article 148 of the Criminal Code (public actions, expressing obvious disrespect for society, with intention to insult religious feelings of believers). They were sentenced to 230 hours of compulsory work for placing on a standing prayer cross in the village of Staraya Malinovka a stuffed dummy, manufactured using “pants, a jacket, a rope, a hat, a mask and screws” as well as some dry grass. The prosecutors had believed that the act was premeditated and committed in order to insult the feelings of Christians. According to experts of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, the suspects’ actions presented no public danger, and should have been appropriately qualified as an administrative offense, rather than a crime.

Symbols of different religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism) depicted as prohibitory and mandatory road signs, fenced together with a prohibiting tape. A seminar for the alcohol and drug dependent, led by Bishop Sergii Zhuravlev of the Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior in the premises of the New Hope (Novaia nadezhda) Jewish messianic community in Petersburg, was interpreted by the court as an effort to “persuade the Jewish community to convert to Orthodoxy”. In September of 2016 Bishop Sergii Zhuravlev was sentenced to a fine of 5 thousand rubles (about 70 eur.) under Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code (the conducting of missionary activity in violation of the legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and religious organizations).

Exhibit of military equipment exhibition from reconstruction of the battles of World War II that took place in St. Petersburg in 2017. In January 2015, Svetlana Davydova, the mother of seven from Smolensk city, was detained under Article 275 of the Criminal code (state treason) which may result in imprisonment for 12 to 20 years of life. The charges against Davydova relate to a phone call she made to the Ukrainian embassy in April 2014. She rang to inform them that the military unit next to her home was deserted, and that the soldiers might have been sent to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Davydova spent 2 weeks under custody in detention center and then over a month under house arrest. On March 13, 2015, the case was finally dismissed for lack of evidence.

Lenin bust in the light of the projected picture of yellow field and blue sky. In September 2015, a criminal case under Article 214 of the Criminal code (vandalism motivated by hatred) was opened against Alexey Moroshkin, an activist from Chelyabinsk and the founder of the Church of the Chelyabinsk Meteorite. The case was initiated for painting the bust of Lenin in the colors of Ukrainian flag – the activist openly published photos from the place, stating that the action was intended to demonstrate support to Ukraine. On December 4, 2017, the case was closed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Another criminal case against Alexey Moroshkin was initiated in the summer of 2015 under Article 280 (public incitement to separatism) for posting online a series of 12 texts, which called for secession of the Ural region from Russia and creation of the Siberian federal union. In November 2015, Moroshkin was sent for mandatory psychiatric treatment, after having been diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia,” with added specification: “reformist delusions of religious nature”. He was released from the psychiatric hospital in mid-June 2017.

Objects of Christian burial rite, “voodoo doll” and toy cock. In February 2016, against “master of voodoo magic” Anton Simakov was brought a criminal case under Article 148 of the Criminal Code (public actions, clearly defying the society and committed with express purpose of insulting religious beliefs), due to the fact that in October 2014, in his office, he performed the ritual of his religion. According to Simakov, the purpose of the ritual was to magically influence the authorities of Ukraine. The ritual included a voodoo doll, the blood of a sacrificial animal, as well as objects of the Christian burial rite that are used during the funeral. On April 12, 2016, it became known that the court sent a “master of voodoo magic” to compulsory treatment. Simakov left the psychiatric hospital after the course of treatment in January 2017.

Three women «fry» a toy crocodile. In January 2016, Internet publication “Horizontal Russia. 7х7” was sentenced to a fine of 200 thousand rubles (about 2500 eur.) for mentioning the national name of the Eternal Flame memorial in Syktyvkar – “Women frying a crocodile” . The publication was held administratively liable under Article 13.15 of the Administrative Code (public desecration of symbols of Russia’s military glory, committed with the use of mass media and (or) of the Internet). The Supreme Court of the Komi Republic overturned the decision of the lower courts in June 2016. From the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis point of view that ironic references to the folk nickname of the memorial, which merely mocks the appearance of a sculptural group, do not constitute a desecration of a symbol of military glory, and that the prosecution of “7×7” was not legally appropriate.

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