Exiled Russian comic unsure about return amid blasphemy charges after insulting Putin
The Russian police launched a probe into charges that the comedian insulted “the feelings of religious believers”.
Dolgopolov could have been jailed for a year and has received death threats.
During a standup performance videoed at a small bar in St Petersburg in February 2019, Dolgopolov made a joke about Putin and his supporters.
“Our population has split into two camps. On one hand, there are those who support Putin; on the other, there are those who can read, write and reach logical conclusions,” he said in the show that has been widely viewed on YouTube,
In 2013, legislation outlawed the mockery of religion despite a protest by the punk group Pussy Riot in Moscow’s largest Orthodox cathedral.
“How is possible that such a law can be introduced in this century?” Dolgopolov said from exile in Israel. “This law is a repressive tool used by our government against the opposition and freedom of speech.
“It seems Putin saw my performance and released his attack dogs.”
Dolgopolov told Russian broadcaster Current Time that he recently cancelled a performance in Moscow shortly before stepping on stage after learning that someone had arrived at the venue and was questioning staff about him.
The comedian is unsure if he will return to his motherland.
Dolgopolov said: “It’s really easy to say now, when I’m in Israel, that, ‘Yeah, I will continue to tell such jokes, even if end up in jail.’ But I really don’t know. Maybe it will break me, and I’ll start to praise Putin and become religious.”
In 2016, the police in Stavropol raided the home of citizen Viktor Krasnov after he wrote, “There is no God”, in an online chatroom.
Krasnov spent a month in a psychiatric ward before the charges were dropped. A judge in southern Russia said: “No one in their right mind would write anything against Orthodox Christianity.”
Numerous charges and convictions have been made under the blasphemy legislation. A video blogger was imprisoned for playing Pokémon Go inside a church. A teenage film student was jailed for “liking” online images of angels smoking cannabis.
The church said only offenders who refuse to repent should face prosecution.
The official piety contrasts with the Communist era. A 1995 Kremlin committee reported that approximately 200,000 members of the clergy were murdered during the first two decades of the Soviet rule.
Aleksandr Dolgopolov. Picture credit: Wikimedia