Prosecutors in Russia confirmed this week that they would investigate a Russian state circus performance involving a monkey dressed as a Nazi and goats wearing swastikas.
The prosecutor’s office for Russia’s Udmurtia region said on January 13 it had launched a probe into “the display of Nazi symbols” at the Udmurtia Circus after it learned of the performance through social media.
“The January 8 performance was part of a show at a state-run circus in the regional capital, Izhevsk, that was commissioned by the local branch of the Russian Orthodox Church a day after celebrating Christmas,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on Wednesday.
В Удмуртии прокуратора проверит цирк, который сделал по заказу местной епархии историческое шоу о роли церкви в войне. Все дело в том, что в шоу участвовали обезьяна и козлы в нацистской форме pic.twitter.com/9ZVyF8I3D7
— МБХ медиа (@MBKhMedia) January 12, 2021
Russia’s MBH Media published video footage of the performance. It appears to show a woman in a Soviet military uniform leading a monkey dressed as a Nazi around the circus ring. She then parades two goats sporting swastika banners on their backs around the same ring.
The Russian Orthodox diocese in Izhevsk has defended the performance, saying it was intended to be “a symbol of not just the victory over fascism, but also of the spurning and the global condemnation of the ideals of Nazi Germany” post-World War II (1939-1945).
“The monkey and the goats were commanded by trainers wearing Soviet uniforms during the show,” church officials pointed out.
Izhevsk’s Orthodox diocese also referred to an amendment passed in Russia in 2020 lifting a blanket ban on the display of Nazi symbols in the country if the display aims to “create a negative attitude to Nazi ideology.”
Russia’s parliament in February 2020 voted to lift a 2014 ban on the public display of Nazi symbols, including swastikas, when the symbols’ display promotes a “negative attitude to Nazi ideology and extremism” and when there are “no signs of propaganda or justifying Nazi and extremist ideology.”
The Udmurtia Circus rejected criticism of the vignette on Wednesday in statements to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
“Images of the animals are taken out of context,” Elena Krasnova, the head of public relations at the circus, told the BBC.
“There is nothing unusual about such ironic or grotesque characters being used in circus performances,” she added.
“Religious believers were persecuted in the former USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics], but now Orthodoxy and the veneration of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany form two of the most important pillars of Russian state ideology,” the BBC noted on Wednesday.
The USSR, also known as the Soviet Union, was a federal socialist state from 1922-1991 that consisted of Russia and 14 surrounding countries. Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 marking a significant turning point in WWII.