Protesters jailed for throwing holy water at Lenin mausoleum

Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body has been on public display at a specially-built mausoluem in Moscow's Red Square since his death in 1924 (AFP Photo/Alexander Titorenko)

Moscow (AFP) - Two Russian performance artists were jailed for 10 days on Tuesday after throwing holy water at the Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square and shouting, "Rise up and leave!"

The men were sentenced to 10 days in police cells for petty hooliganism after the protest they carried out on Monday, an Orthodox holiday, a member of their art group, Irina Dumitskaya told AFP.

"Ten days for basically just pouring water," she said. "When it rains, it pours on the mausoleum too."

The performance was called "Exorcising the Devil, Desecrating the Mausoleum", she said.

The two men, Oleg Basov, a dance teacher, and Yevgeny Avilov, a computer programmer, are members of an anti-establishment art group called Blue Rider, Dumitskaya said.

In a video of the performance posted on YouTube, the two young men are shown carrying five-litre bottles of holy water marked with a cross from a church across the square.

They move barriers in front of the mausoleum and throw the water at the doors and steps, shouting "Rise up and leave!" several times before being detained.

On Monday, Orthodox Christians celebrated Epiphany, a holiday marking the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river that people commemorate by immersing themselves in icy rivers and lakes.

Dumitskaya said that the aim of the performance was "to confront two myths", the Communist idea that Lenin "lives" and the Christian idea of resurrection.

Red Square, closely monitored by police, saw Pussy Riot perform a protest song against President Vladimir Putin in 2012 while in 2013 performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the ground to protest against tight police control.

The continued display of the Bolshevik leader's body in the mausoleum divides Russians. While most back the removal of his body, many Communists ardently oppose this.

A 2012 poll by independent polling centre Levada found that 25 percent thought Lenin's body should remain in the mausoleum, while 53 percent thought he should be buried.

Another poll last year by Levada found that 51 percent of Russians thought of Lenin's role in history as positive.

A video of the performance can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcvzubxdCMI