Artists News Russian Federation

Culture clash sends Russian arts teacher to prison colony

Artist who upset conservative villagers convicted of accepting bribes

Ilya Farber receiving his sentence in Ostashkovsky City Court. Photo: Facebook user Александр Барошин (Alexander Baroshin)

Ilya Farber, an artist who moved from Moscow to rural Russia to teach drawing to local youth, has been sentenced to more than seven years in a prison camp for allegedly extorting bribes from a building contractor. The case has galvanised members of the Russian intelligentsia, who believe that Farber’s case is a warning to those who challenge the system.

In 2010, Farber moved to Moshenki, a village in the Tver region, and was hired as a drawing, literature and music teacher. But his unorthodox, bohemian approach—he reportedly taught classes while lying on his desk—created a conflict with some of the residents in the mainly conservative village. This came to a head after he was appointed director of the local, state-run recreation centre in 2011. That same year, Farber was arrested after a contractor he hired to renovate the space accused him of accepting a Rb300,000 ($10,000) bribe. Farber said that he had loaned the contractor money to carry out the repair work because state funds had not yet come through.

Farber was found guilty by a regional court last year, sentenced to eight years in a maximum-security prison colony and fined Rb3.2m ($97,000). The court ruled that the unfinished repair work cost the village Rb941,000 ($28,500). Russia’s Supreme Court overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial.

On 26 July, Farber was found guilty again by the regional court and was sentenced to seven years and one month in prison and fined Rb3.1m ($94,000).

A member of the Kremlin’s human rights council, which is now reviewing the case, called the verdict “too harsh”. The Russian Jewish Congress also raised concerns of anti-Semitism during the first trial, in which the prosecutor asked in court: “Is it possible for a person with the last name Farber to help a village for free?”

Artists, intellectuals and musicians gathered in Moscow last Sunday for a benefit concert to raise money to pay the fine. Farber’s supporters held another small demonstration in Moscow on Tuesday, 6 August.

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Comments

29 Aug 13
1:27 CET

AGNES, BIRMINGHAM

It will never be over, will it?

9 Aug 13
16:6 CET

ALINE, MULHOUSE

middle age.....emotions, middle age justice and smartness like a nut, in which future are we going? it takes a long time to make a human beeing, after years of darkness will it take longer and longer to build a democracy in the still remaining ussr? a generation will come .... solidarity with the artists there, with the "other one"!!!!

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