Sorokin's Goluboe Salo

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Date: 1995 - 2005

Region: Russia and Central Asia

Subject: Explicit Sexuality Language Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Artist: Vladimir Sorokin

Confronting Bodies: Moving Together, colloquially known as the Putinjugend, a youth movement that claims no ties to the government, but nevertheless has been getting preferential treatment over the last couple of years.

Public prosecutors. Police.

Dates of Action: 2001

Location: Russia

Description of Artwork: The 1999 novel Goluboe Salo (Blue Lard), is a fantasy satire on the present, past and future of Russia. Like all of Sorokin's works, this one is full of obscenities, but Blue Lard also includes a scene of sexual contact between Stalin and Khrushchev — with neither character bearing any resemblance to historical reality.

The Incident: In June 2001, Moving Together staged a public protest against Blue Lard. In an action that many in Russia interpret as a regime-orchestrated attempt to restore censorship, Moving Together accused Sorokin of pornography. Prosecutors immediately found his works to be pornographic, and the police launched a criminal probe against him, based on these charges.

Results of Incident: The Sorokin case caused a visible split in the Russian society. While some (a seeming majority) insist on an author's freedom to write and the public's freedom to read whatever they please, others are concerned, lest obcene books corrupt their children, and demand that restrictions be imposed. But, unlike the case of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago in the 1950s, or Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago in the 1970s, almost nobody assumed the once-traditional Soviet posture of "I-haven't-read-that-filth-but-I'm-against-it." These days, people want to make sure they know what they are talking about. Hence Sorokin has enjoyed tremendous book sales.

The criminal probe apparently caused embarrassment in the Kremlin. The puppeteers felt compromised, that their minions have gone too far too fast, and that they have been way too crude in the way they jumped on Sorokin.

Source: TIME Europe; NCAC