MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russia's Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said Saturday that he treated as a “joke” a radical Orthodox Christian activist’s demands to remove a painting of Ivan the Terrible from one of Russia’s main art galleries.
Kremlin-linked dairy magnate known for his radical Orthodox views, Vasily Boiko-Veliky, made a lengthy appeal describing 19th century Russian painter Ilya Repin’s work widely-known as “Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son” as “slanderous” and “unpatriotic” earlier this week. He insisted that it is a smear on the nation’s reputation and urged the culture minister, among others, to remove the painting from Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery.
Medinsky, the culture minister, reacted only on Saturday by saying that he considered “such statements with irony” and doesn't plan to follow them.
“I dare to hope that the authors who signed that letter, that they joked,” Medinsky said during a Saturday news TV show on Rossia television channel. “But frankly speaking, there are bad jokes,” he added.
Mainstream accounts of Russian history have it that the notoriously ruthless 16th century monarch did, in fact, kill his son in a fit of intemperate rage, but Boiko-Veliky insists the tsar was in fact an upstanding and landmark historical figure.
In his comment, Medinsky noted that it was the case when the historic fact and artist’s work should be viewed separately. Although, he added that most likely didn’t kill his son but there is no evidence to prove it.
The original title of Repin’s painting is "Ivan the Terrible and his Son, Ivan," which doesn't implicate anyone with the killing, but the canvas is more commonly called “Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son” by Russians.
The artwork is considered a landmark of Russian realist art and features in most textbooks on Russian history, which have traditionally depicted Ivan the Terrible as a cruel tyrant.
Boiko-Veliky, 54, has gained media exposure by combining his business pursuits with hardline Christian activism. In 2010, he ordered all employees in relationships to conduct church weddings or face dismissal.
Updated with the painting's original title