We are writing you asking for possible help because our friend Moscow artist Avdei Ter-Oganian is in danger now - he is being prosecuted for his art.

Situation with Avdei becomes very urgent - seems that the only solution for him would be to leave the country. That already could be illegal because it´s a political question: the church has to show its growing power. If he goes to prison - that could be very dangerous if not fatal for him because it´s fashionable among criminals to be religious and they will not have mercy on him.

Now we are looking for some residency/grant for Avdei in Europe/USA for 6-12 months for he could survive and think what to do next.

If you can help by any means or recommend some people/places let us know.

This becomes pretty urgent, we have some 2-3 weeks before the court.


Avdei support group


DETAILS: Moscow artist Avdei Ter-Oganian is about to go to prison for his performance "Young Anti-Christ" which he made in last December at " Art Manege Fair" in Moscow. During the performance he was proposing to the fair visitors to profane mass-produced copies of Orthodox icons and was giving instructions how to do it, i.e. crash with an axe (which was supplied), write obscene words and put obscene drawings on them. Few icons were profaned in this way. The action caused negative response from part of the audience which grew in a scandal. His installation was taken off the wall and further performing was prohibited by the Art Fair director. Moreover, the curator of non-commercial part of the Fair has later lost her job.

Avdei´s action attracted a lot of response in media. Most negative (and very fast) one came from a right-wing oriented TV channel "Moscovia" which devoted few (!!!) programs called "Russian House" to convicting of Avdei and calling to requital. They were accusing him of being a Satan´s envoy, offender of national sanctuaries, Orthodox religon, Russian Nation, father´s faith and Russia itself. In these programs all participants of the performance as well as artists and curators who share Avdei´s ethical and aesthetical principles were named (virtuos people should know their enemies!).

In TV programs and newspaper articles Russian Orthodox priests openly called for punishment for Avdei.After this massive media attack Moscow City Public Prosecution Department has initiated a case ("Kindling of religeous hatred"). Now Avdei is threatened by 2-4 years of prison.

Avdei says about his action:"I am continuing ironical thread in art. My action was a parody on modernism. Using banal gestures of agression towards public, culture, etc. I am coming back to the roots of epatage. This was the main idea of my work and as we can see it absolutely doesn´t fit our orthodox space. Analyzing it from the social and political points of view one can talk about protest against coming back ideology ( this time - orthodox), one can talk about unjustice: look - people are not getting salaries for their jobs and at the same time enormous money is being spent on reconstruction of aesthetically miserable Temple of Christ the Redemptor (in Moscow). Orthodox icon was not an accidental choice, it was an attempt to find the painful point of the society. Today, when Russian intelligentsia is turnig right without any reflection about that I consider my action as very topical. Intelligentsia was bought by clishes. It´s interesting to try to stop it and make thinking."

Advocats of Avdei have their points: his action must be evaluated by art critics and by the Church, but not by the state. He did offend religeous feelings of people but the question is: should true Christians reply with forgiveness or should they apply to the Public Prosecution Department? Avdei can be convicted very soon. Besides his personal problem this would bring real danger to the freedom of artistic expression in Russia because it creates the case.

You can help now!

1. By writing to Russina Embassy in your country and expressing your attitude to this situation.

2. By acting through media.

3. By writing directly to Moscow City Prosecution Department (NovokuznetskayaUl. 23A Moscow 113184 Russia) and/or to Khamovniki District Court (7th Rostovsky pereulok 21Moscow 119121 Russia). Please point "Avdei Ter-Oganian case."

4. By sending e-mails to for_avdei@easylife.org - they will be forwarded to the above-mentioned institutions

5. Spreading the word. If you would like to contact Avdei - his telephone in Moscow: 007-095-2617172 (speaks only Russian). You can also contact him via email through me. You can see one of Avdei´s projects at: http://www.cs.msu.su/wwwart/caw


Your Help is needed ........................................18th of May 1999