A Russian Orthodox Group Destroyed a Century-Old Artwork Because It Promoted the 'Worship of Satan'

This isn't the only recent example of Russian groups destroying art in the name of religion.

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Aug 31 2015, 2:19pm

The bas-relief before it was destroyed. Image via AP

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On Sunday, hundreds of Russians rallied in Saint Petersburg to protest an Orthodox group's destruction of a 100-year-old bas-relief of the demon Mephistopheles.

The group, calling themselves the "Cossacks of Saint Petersburg," wrote in an open letter that they "knocked down this devil" because it promoted the "worship of Satan," and also said it was inappropriate for the demonic figure to exist opposite a church. Protesters were not pleased.

"If it's true that the bas-relief was destroyed for religious reasons, then we are descending into the Middle Ages," Anna Astakhova, one of the protestors, told Al Jazeera. "This is inadmissible."

Roman Bagdasarov, a spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church, felt differently. "Mephistopheles embodies evil in this world," he said. "This person decided to act, most likely, to kill Evil."

This isn't the only recent example of art being destroyed in the name of religion. In Moscow earlier this month, Yahoo! News reported that Orthodox activists smashed "blasphemous" sculptures by renowned Soviet artist Vadim Sidur.

Prosecutors are currently searching for the Cossacks of Saint Petersburg members responsible for the attack. If found, they could be charged with destruction of cultural heritage, and serve a jail term of up to two years.

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