Director of the Museum of Holiness, Confession and Asceticism in the Urals, Oksana Ivanova, turned to the head of Wagner PMC Yevgeny Prigozhin with a request to help stop the “idolization” of the Sverdlovsk region and the promotion of the ancient sculpture – the Shigir idol. In her opinion, the authorities are changing the regional identity of the city, which was built by Orthodox people. Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to the activist, has enough political weight to boldly speak out about the “injustice of the bureaucratic machine.” Authorities say that this is a world heritage, comparable in importance to the British Stonehenge and the ancient Egyptian pyramids.
Orthodox activist Oksana Ivanova approached the head of Wagner PMC through the media and social networks. She asked Yevgeny Prigozhin to help stop the “idolization” of the Sverdlovsk region and stop the “intrusive advertising” of the Shigir idol in society. In her opinion, the promotion of sculpture imposes an idol image as a regional identity, and also involves young people in “spiritually dangerous practices of idolatry.” Moreover, the woman believes that “for idolization” God punished the Sverdlovsk region with incessant fires and “poisonous smog.”
Oksana Ivanova is the director of the Museum of Holiness, Confession and Asceticism in the Urals. In Yekaterinburg, she is known as an activist promoting the ideas of Orthodoxy. In 2019, she organized pickets in support of the construction of the Church of St. Catherine in the park near the Drama Theatre. In the summer of 2020, she organized a protest action “Don’t trample on love!”, directed against the work of street artist Pokras Lampas, who painted the “Suprematist Cross” as part of the Stenograffia festival in Yekaterinburg. As a result, the woman was detained by the police for organizing an unauthorized rally.
Subsequently, she tried to run for the City Duma of Yekaterinburg, and also became an assistant to the leader of the Sverdlovsk branch of A Just Russia Andrei Kuznetsov in the State Duma. In 2022, Andrei Kuznetsov, as a candidate for governor of the Sverdlovsk region, nominated Oksana Ivanova for senators.
The Big Shigir Idol is a monumental sculpture made from a split larch trunk. Initially, it was 5.3 m long, after the loss of the lower part – 3.4 m. The artifact was found at the end of the 19th century at the second Kurinsky mine (80 km north-west of Yekaterinburg) in peat. According to the latest estimates of researchers, the idol was created more than 11.5 thousand years ago – immediately after the end of the Little Ice Age. It is stored in the Museum of the History and Archeology of the Urals (local history museum site). In 2022, an organizing committee was created to promote the Shigir idol, which, in particular, included director Alexei Fedorchenko, Vice Mayor of Yekaterinburg Sergei Plakhotin.
“I am addressing you as a brave person who pays attention to the social atmosphere in our region, and also as a person who respects the Orthodox faith and our Church. You, along with your comrades-in-arms, are effectively resisting the neo-pagan “Azov” at the front, ”says the activist’s appeal addressed to Mr. Prigozhin.
In an interview with Kommersant, Oksana Ivanova noted that she decided to turn to Yevgeny Prigozhin, because before that she had not been able to get support from the authorities of the Sverdlovsk region.
“This year we have the 300th anniversary of Yekaterinburg, and the Shigir idol is one of its main symbols. Although the city was built by Orthodox people, where are our traditional religious monuments that would be promoted for the anniversary? The Church of St. Catherine, for example, was never restored, ”she noted.
The activist added that the head of the Wagner PMC, in her opinion, can afford to boldly speak out about the “injustice of the bureaucratic machine” due to his political weight. Oksana Ivanova hopes for Yevgeny Prigozhin’s indifference, although she has not received an answer from him.
Kommersant also sent a request to the press service of the Concord company (owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin) with a request to comment on the appeal of the Sverdlovsk activist.
“This is a landmark museum exhibit, and we are glad that it has been preserved in this form by this moment,” Tatyana Mosunova, head of the public relations department of the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore, told Kommersant. “And of course, no one will clean it up or hide it. We see no point in commenting on the activist’s statement – this is a private opinion. Perhaps there would have been a reaction if the authorities or religious organizations had spoken out.”
Deputy Mayor of Yekaterinburg Sergei Plakhotin, a member of the organizing committee for the promotion of the Shigir idol, said in a conversation with Kommersant that the sculpture is a world heritage, comparable in importance to the British Stonehenge and the ancient Egyptian pyramids.
“We do not want to make Shigir a symbol of Yekaterinburg, we want the world to know that it is in Yekaterinburg that a treasure of world significance is located. And of course, we want him to be associated with our city in the world, like Shigir from Yekaterinburg,” he said. The official also noted that he treats such statements as a marketing ploy: “Good move, a person is advertising on Shigir, which is almost 12 thousand years old.”
The head of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has repeatedly spoken critically about the authorities of the Sverdlovsk region. In February, he said that the Sverdlovsk region is one of the regions that “openly crap and do not support the SVO”, and also that in Yekaterinburg there is “formal lawlessness on the ground.” The reason for such a statement was the refusal of some municipalities to bury Wagner PMC fighters with military honors, as well as the decision to leave Igor Pushkarev, director of the Museum of the History of Yekaterinburg, who was convicted in January on charges of discrediting the Russian armed forces. Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev then called Yevgeny Prigozhin’s attempts to “poke his nose into regional administration and personnel policy” outrageous.