The curator of a Russian museum says he was fired for refusing to censor an exhibition which criticises the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Marat Guelman was dismissed as director of the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art after backing the collection, which portrays a decidedly darker side of the former Soviet country.
The work, entitled ‘Welcome Sochi 2014’, was created by artist Vasily Slonov and features the Olympic rings as nooses and loops of barbed wire, bloody axes, grenades and a caricature of Joseph Stalin in a polar bear suit.
Perm, where the museum is located, was home to one of the most famous labour camps for political prisons under Joseph Stalin
Guelman Tweeted that he had been sacked by minister of culture Igor Gladnev, stating: "Gladnev just called me and confirmed the fact of my dismissal. The Ministry of Culture, it seems, has confused its role with that of the FSB [the former KGB]."
“I had hoped that censorship was impossible and illegal,” he told NBC News.
He added: “The new trend of Russian politics is to divide everyone into groups of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and the small liberal islands are getting even smaller.”
By way of response, Perm regional governor Viktor Basargin later claimed in a blog that Guelman "had possibly abused" his position and used government funds for self-promotion, Ria Novosti reported.
Guelman has dismissed the allegations and maintains his dismissal was down to official "censorship".
In 2006, Guelman was violently attacked and his personal gallery was vandalised. A criminal investigation was launched after it was discovered several nationalist websites listed him as an "enemy of Russia" because of his Jewish surname, FAD reported.
The Sochi mascot of a leopard - reportedly chosen by President Vladimir Putin himself - is show here holding a Statue of Liberty upside down, exposing her buttocks
Russia’s Life News reports officials have launched a legal case into Slonov’s works, alleging he used Sochi 2014 symbols without permission.
Though Guelman was sacked in June, criticism of the upcoming Sochi event is gaining momentum amid an uproar at the prospect of homosexual athletes and supporters facing arrest under the country’s newly approved anti-gay legislation.
It comes as a human rights organisation alleges Russian authorities have harassed activists and journalists critical of the upcoming Games.
Human Rights Watch also cites incidences where criminal charges have been brought against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their work.