Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hmm. Turns out the Soviet penal code had an article for offending the religious feelings of believers and worshippers, and for desecration of religious objects. It was there since 1961 and foresaw a sentence of up to three years. That in a country where most churches served as vegetable warehouses and gyms. One church in Kyiv's historical center, for example, had a tennis court in it in the 1970s (the cute wooden one near St. Michael's Cathedral; actually, it served as a canteen for the monks at first, then was turned into a gym with a tennis court, and now it's a church). So yes, that law was pretty useless, or else most of the party schmucks would've been jailed, too.

In Moscow, there's a mosque right next to that huge sports arena, Sport Complex Olympiysky - it's the main mosque, I guess. It's a little bit out of place there - or the sports arena is - and one Tatar cab driver told me a story of how they almost demolished the mosque on the eve of the 1980 Olympics, when it was probably the only mosque in Moscow: it would've happened if it hadn't been for the the Muslim states' leaders - they threatened to boycott the Olympics, and the threat worked.

The Tatar guy told me this story on Oct. 26, 2005: I was by the Dubrovka theater for the third anniversary, the weather was awful, my pants were sliding down my belly, I had just left some flowers there and was very sad, and when the cab stopped and I opened the door, the very first thing I noticed was that flat, round, green-and-gold souvenir thing hanging from the mirror, with the word 'Allah' written in Arabic and some of the Quranic calligraphy around it. I thought it was pretty strange to run into a Muslim driver there and then. Like, really weird. We didn't talk about the siege, though. It was the month of Ramadan, and the guy told me he was fasting and had managed to finally quit smoking. He said it was hard to follow all the rules - for example, he didn't want to get married yet but loved women. There was something really interesting about his native town near Nizhniy Novgorod - the number of mosques there, I guess, a great number of new mosques for a really small place - but I don't remember what it was now... Oh, and it was funny how the guy wanted to know what my religion was: "But what do you have in your passport?" he asked. Just think of it: there are people out there who think that your religion is mentioned in your passport.

Why am I writing this? Because (in Russian) mentioned that useless penal code article: some Russian legislators want to reintroduce it now.

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