Police in Perm have launched an investigation into graffiti depicting the cosmonaut Yury Gagarin crucified on the side of a building, Russian news agency Interfax reported. The image was graffitied onto the building by Perm resident Alexander Zhunev on Sunday 12 April, a day which coincided two Russian holidays — Easter and International Space Day.
Part of the inspiration behind Zhunev’s work was the desire “to warn science and religion from making new mistakes, like the burning of Giordano Bruno”, Zhunev wrote on his Facebook page, referring to the 16th-century Italian philosopher who was burned at the stake for denying several Catholic doctrines.
“[Yesterday’s] coincidence of calendar events is very symbolic, because science and religion have long been on the opposite sides of the barricades, trying to recapture their share of influence on people’s minds,” Zhunev wrote. “The work Gagarin: The Crucifixion is my attempt to speak on the topic of this centuries-old confrontation in the language of modern art.”
Perm’s City Duma deputy Yury Utkin has appealed to law enforcement agencies “to conduct a thorough investigation into the offence under Article 214 of the Criminal Code (vandalism)”.
Zhunev added: “Why Gagarin? He’s a modern Jesus of science, willingly taking on the first cosmonautical pains of humanity. His attraction to the stars screwed him with bolts to a steel cross. And he became a superstar — like Jesus Christ! His image is used by the state as an icon of patriotism. He rose in the media landscape in our minds and will never die.”
According to Zhunev, the site of the graffiti was chosen due to its proximity to the former military command-engineering academy of missile forces and the Spaso Preobrazhensky Cathedral, which now houses the Perm Art Gallery. The graffiti has since been removed.