[Sakralizatsiia sekuliarnogo v sovremennoi Rossii: “oskvernenie” Vechnogo ognia]
Type of publication: Research Article
desecration, eternal flame, blasphemy, law, secular sacred, norm, narrative, modern Russia
The article examines more than 100 cases of “desecration” of the Eternal Flame in Russia in the 2010s–2020s. In the context of criminal cases involving blasphemy and desecration of holy places, starting with the “Pussy Riot case”, the cases of the “desecration” of the Eternal Flame allow us to see, first, how the arguments and language used by the media and law enforcement in the legal discussion regarding the secular sacred are shaped; and second, how the shift from the symbolic to the material occurs in relation to symbols of memory in contemporary Russian society. The article shows how and on what grounds perpetrators of such behavior are prosecuted in contemporary Russia, and what penalties are imposed on them. Despite the presence of special norms on such deeds in the Russian criminal law, they are in some cases qualified by law enforcers with their use, in others as vandalism or desecration of the bodies of the dead and their burial places, in still others as administrative offences. Law enforcers in all cases clearly read their meaning (as an attempt on the sacred), but the Russian law lacks a legal definition of “desecration” (if the term itself exists), which apparently leads to the use of different norms to punish those responsible. Since these actions are interpreted by law enforcers as sacrilegious, it seems appropriate for us to propose for them the general term “memorial sacrilege”, by which we mean unconventional actions with memorial complexes and their elements, in particular the Eternal Flames, entailing the use of repression.
This research was supported by the following institutions and grants: Russian Science Foundation, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100006769 [grant no. 21-18-00508]
Petrov, N.V., and B.S. Peigin. 2023. Sakralizatsiia sekuliarnogo v sovremennoi Rossii: “oskvernenie” Vechnogo ognia [The Sacralization of the Secular in Contemporary Russia: The “Desecration” of the Eternal Flame]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 2: 66–92. https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541523020045 EDN: QQOWZO
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