Russian police are investigating a poet on the criminal charge of “insulting atheists’ feelings” with “extremist” poetry that he posted on social media.
The investigation against poet Maksim Drozdov is the first of its kind in Russia and centers on legislation passed in 2013 that outlaws “insulting believers’ religious feelings,” according to Free Radio Europe. The legislation, which follows the trend of Russian anti-extremism laws passed since 2002, is typically invoked to defend the the government-linked Russian Orthodox Church against rival religious groups. Russian authorities opened an investigation into Drozdov after he posted satirical poetry to the page of satire group “Patriotic Work.”
“There aren’t people worse than dreadful atheists, we will bring back the Inquisition yet,” the verse read.
The unnamed investigative committee assigned to Drozdov’s case launched their investigation after receiving citizen complaints about his online post, and determined that the poetry contained “extremist content.” Police also determined that the verse in question amounted to an incitement to violence against atheists, according to an excerpt from an analysis of the poem in their case file, which Drozdov’s lawyer posted on Facebook.
Drozdov defended his poetry and claimed that, rather than mocking atheists, his poetry was meant to mock the “obscurantism” of the radical Russian Orthodox, and that he himself holds “antifascist” views.
Patriotic Work also defended Drozdov’s poetry, and said it was “everyday banter about religious fanatics, about the idiots who today are threatening terror attacks on cinemas,” referencing radical Orthodox protesters that threatened to burn down movie theaters if they screened “Matilda,” a movie about an affair between Tsar Nicholas II and a ballerina. The group posted to social networking site VK, advertising a day of prayer on Drozdov’s behalf in the midst of his investigation.
Authorities have prosecuted several Russian citizens under the 2013 law, but have yet to imprison anyone on charges of violating it.
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