Is He Nuts?

St. Scholastica's Student Newspaper
The Cable
By: Erik Bergholm - Student Journalist -
Pyotr Pavlensky takes his perspective to the extreme. Photo credit to sptimes.ru

Pyotr Pavlensky takes his perspective to the extreme. Photo credit to sptimes.ru

       In a shocking display of testicular fortitude, a Russian protester was arrested earlier this month for nailing his manhood to the ground in Moscow's Red Square.

        Pyotr Pavlensky, an artist and outspoken activist, stripped naked, sat on the cold cobblestone, and...well, you can fill in the blanks. He described his cockamamie display of defiance as a "metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society", according to the Huffington Post.

        For a good hour, Pavlensky sat on the street in an almost meditative posture, pedestrians looking on in horror. Eventually, the police responded, covering his skinny (and likely very cold) body with a blanket and freeing him from the pavement, whereupon they sent him to the hospital. He received only minimal care when he decided to set off for home, refusing further hospitalization. Appearing in court after the matter, charges of "petty hooliganism", which have a standard penalty of about 15 days in jail, were dismissed.

        This act of self-mutilation was set to coincide with Police Day, an occasion celebrated nationally by Russian law enforcement. Pavlensky fears the nation is degenerating into a police state under strongman Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent in the old Soviet Union.

        "It's not the authorities who hold people by their balls", he told the Washington Post in a telephone interview. "It's people themselves. The country will turn into a police state if people do nothing."

        This was certainly not the first extreme act of protest for the 29 year old painter. Another such "performance", as he describes the acts, was entitled "Stitch", where he sewed his mouth shut to condemn government violations of free speech. This May in St. Petersburg, he wrapped

himself in barbed wire (naked again, of course) in defiance of repressive acts of legislation. His most recent performance he named "Fixation."

        I have a feeling I know what you are thinking. He's crazy, right? Actually, if you give it thought, there is some sense to his actions. Would he get his message across if he stood on the street waving a sign all day? It is doubtful. People would simply pass him by. But what about something as extreme as what happened in Red Square? It was obviously quite effective. You are reading about the incident in an American newspaper, after all. It is reminiscent of the self-immolation of Buddhist monks-bold, painful, a statement of utter despair.

        So the question remains: is he nuts? No, I don't think so. Defiant? Obviously. Eccentric? For sure. Crazy? Well, in a country that may be relapsing into its old authoritarian ways, he just might be the sanest of them all.