Museums Russian Federation

Orthodox activists attack Moscow museum employee

A bookstore clerk at the Gulag Museum was punched for criticising religious group

Several members of the group God’s Will showed up at the Gulag Museum last week

Russia’s culture wars continue to take a violent turn. Last week, a day after the punk band Pussy Riot were whipped by Cossacks during a street performance in Sochi, a Russian Orthodox activist group burst into Moscow’s Gulag Museum and assaulted the director of its bookstore, whom they accused of offending one of their members.

Security camera footage of the attack shows several members of God’s Will, which describes itself as a missionary organisation, demanding that Dmitry Davydov apologise to Mila Esipenko, a young female activist from the group. In an interview published last month on the liberal news site Polit.ru, Davydov, who had once planned on being a priest and studied at St Tikhon’s Orthodox University in Moscow, questioned Esipenko religious credentials.

“I met with her recently and found out that she hasn’t been to communion in two years,” he said. “How can one speak of Orthodox activism if a person does not take part in the sacraments of the church.”

Dmitry Tsorionov, the leader of God’s Will, then spit in Davydov’s face, and another man went behind the counter, punched him repeatedly and left with the words: “If you don’t apologise publicly, next time it will be even worse.” Tsorionov later said that the museum incident was a purely personal conflict.

The museum has said that it will seek to have charges pressed against the attacker.

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