How a silly Instagram photo sparked an investigation by Russia’s secret police

Russia's blasphemy law, pushed to the limit.


Published Aug 24, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 2:46 am CDT

Anti-extremism police in Russia are investigating their most extreme case yet: whether it’s sacrilegious for a woman to wear a religious robe and fake beard in an Instagram photo.

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It started in April, when journalist Ksenia Sobchak was working on a feature for Snob magazine about how different religions are practiced in Russia. The corresponding photo shoot included Sobchak dressing up in priestly vestments and sporting a long fake beard—you can still see her in the garb on the online version of the magazine. Naturally, she put a posted of herself all dressed up on Instagram.

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Есть люди (их ужасно много), Чьи жизни отданы тому, Чтоб обосрать идею Бога Своим служением Ему И. Губерман (На фото-отец Дмитрий Смирнов,который ворвался на радиостанцию Серебряный Дождь,столкнул ведущего со сцены,и стал орать ,что тут все грешники и безбожники,что радиопраздник мешает службе ,при том,что в светском государстве служба ровно также может мешать празднику радио как и праздник службе)

A post shared by Ксения Собчак (@xenia_sobchak) on

Mikhailov has duly reported Sobchak again for that post, too. Once again Center E—this time the Moscow branch—is investigating, though its slowness in prosecuting the journalist may be a sign it’s not terribly concerned. Sobchak has so far refused to comment. Her Instagram account, however, remains as active as ever.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Aug 24, 2015, 12:06 pm CDT