06MOSCOW12265, OWNER VOWS TO PUSH FOR VIGOROUS INVESTIGATION OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12265 2006-11-03 04:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8301
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2265/01 3070456
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 030456Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4881
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 012265 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2016 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM SCUL RS
SUBJECT: OWNER VOWS TO PUSH FOR VIGOROUS INVESTIGATION OF 
GALLERY RANSACKING 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns:  1.4 (b, d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) A resolute Marat Gelman told us October 31 that he 
intended to use his remaining official contacts to energize a 
languishing criminal investigation of the October 21 attack 
on his Moscow Gelman Art Gallery.  Law enforcement officials 
had "done nothing" since ten men smashed twenty paintings and 
beat up Gelman in an attack that could have been provoked by 
the nationality of the artist being exhibited --Georgian-- or 
by the gallery's history of displaying work offensive to the 
sensibilities of nationalists.  We will continue to raise our 
concerns about continued lack of movement of the 
investigation with appropriate GOR officials. End summary. 
 
------------- 
What Happened 
------------- 
 
2. (U) As the Moscow media have reported, on October 21 a 
group of men stormed the central Moscow Guelman Art Gallery, 
destroying paintings, computer equipment, and beating the 
gallery's owner Marat Gelman.  Observers at the time 
suggested that ultranationalists may have been behind the 
attack.  They noted that: 
 
-- it came one day after artworks from the Gelman Gallery 
lampooning President Putin were confiscated at Sheremetevo 
airport; 
 
-- on display at a time when anti-Georgian passions in Moscow 
were being stoked, were the works of Georgian artist 
Aleksandr Dzhikia; 
 
-- Gelman's gallery, which regularly exhibits irreverent art, 
had been a source of controversy, and similar depredations, 
in the past. 
 
3. (C) Gelman, who was briefly hospitalized after the event, 
told us October 31 that he had no proof that the attackers 
were ultranationalists.  The ten men who invaded his gallery 
wore heavy boots and ski caps, and were "methodical, as if 
they were just doing a day's work."  They ordered Gelman's 
two female assistants to face the wall, beat Gelman, 
destroyed his computer (which was equipped with a webcam that 
could have recorded the incident), and savaged twenty 
paintings before leaving. 
 
4. (C) Gelman discovered after ending an enforced period of 
bed rest that the criminal investigation opened on the day of 
the incident "had gone nowhere."  He planned to use what 
connections to the government he retains in an effort to 
energize law enforcement authorities, but was not hopeful. 
 
---------------- 
Possible Motives 
---------------- 
 
5. (C) Gelman did not know who was behind the attack.  "The 
goal," he said, "was to terrorize by demonstrating that 
perpetrators of such acts can act with impunity."  Gelman 
suggested two possible hypotheses for the attack: 
 
-- it was the work of rank-and-file nationalists, perhaps 
off-duty police officers or members of the military, who were 
riding the wave of anti-Georgian feeling then current in 
Moscow; 
 
-- behind the sacking was someone in power unhappy with other 
gallery-sponsored pictures, then en route to London, that 
lampooned President Putin, and had been confiscated at 
Sheremetevo airport. 
 
6. (C) Gelman did not ascribe the attack to his place on the 
"enemies" list making the rounds here --recently assassinated 
journalist Anna Politkovskaya was on that list-- nor was he 
certain that the Georgian nationality of the artist being 
exhibited was the cause.  The recent history of his gallery 
notwithstanding, Gelman remained optimistic that contemporary 
Russian art would triumph over "the forces of darkness," 
although he conceded that those dark forces were currently in 
the ascendancy.  In a separate conversation, artist Dmitriy 
Gutov, a well-known contemporary of Gelman's, was less 
sanguine.  Culture in Russia is "hanging by thread," he said. 
 He mentioned last year's attack on the Sakharov Center as 
another example of creeping intolerance in Russia. 
 
MOSCOW 00012265  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
---------------------------- 
About Gelman and His Gallery 
---------------------------- 
 
7. (U) Gelman is no stranger to Russian political life.  He 
has worked as a consultant to the Kremlin and, in 1995 
co-founded with Gleb Pavlovskiy the pro-Kremlin Foundation 
for Effective Politics.  Gelman as well figured in the 
creation of the Rodina political party (which merged with the 
Russian Party of Life and Russian Party of Pensioners on 
October 28) and was an adviser to Kremlin favorite Viktor 
Yanukovich in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections. 
 
8. (U) The Gelman Gallery was founded in 1990 and has 
frequently exhibited irreverent art.  In 2005, the gallery 
staged an alternative Moscow Biennale, exhibiting 
controversial works about Putin, Chechnya, and Russian 
Orthodoxy not included in the official show.  In February 
2003, the Gelman Gallery exhibition "Obscene Paintings" was 
ransacked by two persons disturbed by its content. &
#x000A; 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) It is indeed difficult to pinpoint the exact motive 
for the October 21 attack. Media accounts of the Sheremetevo 
airport confiscation the day before the rampage may have 
triggered action by one or another group, or the gallery may 
have been the victim of a then cresting wave of anti-Georgian 
sentiment.  On the margins of a recent Tretyakov Krimskiy Val 
Musuem press conference inaugurating an exhibition 
co-sponsored by the Gelman Foundation, some of the regional 
museum and gallery owners present worried about creeping 
public impatience with epatage art, but they seemed to agree 
with Gelman that perseverance, not retreat, was the only 
course of action.  We will continue to raise our concerns 
about this case with GOR officials. 
BURNS

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