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See How They Run: Madonna May Become a Persona Non Grata In Russia
August 21, 2012 15:11

Our Lady in Russia: Madonna may become a persona non grata (Source:

Madonna was never the one to shun away from scandal - but the aftermath of her Russian tour may baffle even the experienced American performer. Protests, a fine, and even the prospect of becoming a persona non grata in Russia - no Western celebrity ever got embroiled in such "action" in Russia.

Know your Kyiv from your Moscow

At first, Madonna left her Kyiv fans flabbergasted when she showcased her Russian foul language skills. This may belong to Madonna, but the Ukrainians, keen to maintain their separation from Russia, were not amused. Reportedly, she (like many Westerners) thought that Ukraine and Russia were the same country: she was surprised to discover there was a Ukrainian national flag.

Next was the concert in Moscow when she spoke for 10 mins. in support of Pussy Riot: 

“As an artist and a human being I have the right to express my point of view, even if other people don’t agree with me, even if the government doesn’t agree with me. This is democracy…I think that these three girls – Masha, Katya and Nadya – have done something courageous. They have paid for the act and I pray for their freedom. And let’s hope that one day we really will live in the world filled with peace and freedom and tolerance”. 

Following the concert, the vice PM wrote in his Twitter

"Every aging ex-tart seeks to teach morals to others, especially during overseas tours and concerts".

The statement spaked criticism, so in the evening of the same day the vice PM updated his Facebook:  "They linked my tweet with the so-called "Madonna", although I didn't say a word about her. Here is what happens when there is a solid public opinion on something". He clearly implied that it was the Russian public opinion that took Madonna for an ex-tart, and he merely quoted others' opinion.

The same day, August 8, the representatives of the Union of Orthodox Gonfaloniers burnt the posters of Madonna and Pussy Riot in front of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. As the Union's head, Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich explained to the Russian Interfax news agency, the Union was "against sin, not against people". One should probably be reminded that in June 2012 the Moscow City Court has upheld a decision to turn down the LGBT activists’ request for permission to hold gay pride parades for the next 100 years. The decision came after the LGBT activists submitted 100 hundred annual requests to hold a Gay Pride parade, so the Court turned down each one of them. 

The August Decembrists

However, the biggest resonance to date has followed Madonna's concert in St. Petersburg on August 9, 2012. In February 2012 the Petersburg authorities passed a controversial law against the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. An understable attempt to shield the youngsters from an onslaught of sexualised advertising took an ugly form of prosecution for sexual orientation.  

There was a promise of a scandal even before Madonna's Petersburg performance. Petersburg citizens, hostile to the LGBT and Madonna, planned to organise several events across the city 'enlightening' others about the threat Madonna presents. They were also reported as planning to go to the Palace Square in St. Peterburg where Madonna gave her first concert in this city several years ago and to ask a priest to purify the space with holy water.

Vitaly Milonov who is notorious in gay-friendly countries across Europe (particularly, Sweden) and who authored the mentioned anti-gay law was planning to attend Madonna's concert in Petersburg to personally observe the singer's behaviour, but then changed his mind. He "did not want to lose several hours of his life", so he sent his assistants instead.

The day after the concert Madonna is reported to have filmed a music video in a meat factory "Samson" in Petersburg. It remains unknown what song the video will accompany, but reportedly she wanted to do the filming at the Hermitage or one of suburban imperial palaces, but was denied access.

And now for something completely different

On August 13, the Trade Union of Russian citizens and other civil movement organisations filed a suit against Madonna for moral damage caused by hers insulting the religious and cultural feelings of Petersburg citizens. They sites the instances of Madonna's stomping on an Orthodox cross and asking people in the crowd, who wore pink braceletes in support of LGBT, to raise their hands. 

"This was impertinent, especially because children also attended the concert", the joint letter accompanying the suit reads.
  The suit for damages is for $333000000,00 (~$11mln), and the investigation started on August 17. If Petersburg citizens win the case, half the money will go into the municipal budget, and the rest will be divided between organisations supporting families and children and those that protect the population against homosexuality and paedophilia. 

Since August 9, nearly 150 complaints were sent to Petersburg authorities citing various degrees of offense caused by Madonna's concert. The offended citizens plan to demand their money back. 

Things may turn even more serious. Should the Investigation Committee of Russia and the judges find Madonna guilty in the instance of dancing on the cross, she may even become a persona non grata in Russia. 

The singer's representatives and the tour managers said they were not afraid of any investigation: "We also monitored the behaviour during the concert, and we are sure there were no illegal actions taken", they are quoted by the Russian media.
Money or the Russian visa is unlikely to be a problem to Madonna. However, the Pussy Riot case shows that any verdict is possible. Should Madonna lose access to the Russian shores, it is intriguing as to what happens to her high-profile Hard Candy gyms she has opened in Russia in 2012. 

See, how they run

As for how grounded are the complaints of Russians who attended the concert in St. Petersburg, it leaves one wondering, if they were aware whose concert they were attending. Madonna's stomping on the cross is an age-long trick she's performed in many concerts worldwide, so it is amusing someone in the audience was not prepared for this.

The real fear concerns the future concerts of Western artists in Russia. Given the complaints about an insult to religious and cultural beliefs, it is easy to imagine just about any foreign superstar being accused of the same. And should foreign artists begin to educate the audience about the freedom of speech and creativity, many of them may follow in Madonna's footsteps. 

And then performers and tourists stop visiting Russia, and the curtain falls again. Hopefully, this is the worst case scenario that never comes to life.

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian society Russian politics Russian International Pussy Riot  

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