ST. PETERSBURG, December 8 (Itar-Tass) —— Director of the Hermitage State Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky asks Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika to protect the museum from the pressure of religious activists.
The museum head told a press conference on Friday that after the October 19 opening of the exhibition of British conceptualists the Chapman Brothers Jake and Dinos who in their works tried to show horrors of war, the St. Petersburg prosecutor's office received a hundred complaints against the museum. The protesters demand to bring the museum administration and the exhibition authors to account for extremism in connection with the display of an image of a cross desecrated, as they believe.
"I have written a letter to the prosecutor-general that this interferes with Hermitage work. Let those who write absurd appeals, but not the museum, be checked," Piotrovsky said. According to him, it is clear that all the complaints are written as copies, according to one model. "I wait for the prosecutor's answer. There is nothing sacrilegious in the exhibition, but there is a clear wish on somebody's part to spoil the mood in the city," he added.
The St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office confirmed to Itar-Tass that an inquiry was really launched. About a hundred complaints from citizens were received. The check must be completed by December 12, the city prosecutor's aide Marina Nikolayeva said. However, the office does not comment on the check and its possible results until it is over.
According to Piotrovsky, prosecutors already went to the Hermitage, and deputy museum director Georgy Vilinbakhov, who is chief state heraldic officer, explained what a cross means in heraldry.
"Only professional art critics can decide what is art and what is not, and only a museum has the right to determine what to display at exhibitions and what not. The public, with all respect for it, cannot decide it," the museum director noted. He suggested holding a scientific conference to discuss what is sacrilege.