Tallinn, October 3, 2016
The National Museum which opened in Estonia in the presence of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves last week, is offering its visitors to kick one of the exhibits, an interactive image of Virgin Mary, causing the picture to fall into pieces.
The virtual painting has been criticized by a number of politicians, entrepreneurs and parliamentarians in the Postimees newspaper. Thus, according to Priit Sibul, who chairs the parliamentary faction of the ruling Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, "kicking an image of the Mother of God is something they did in the Soviet cultural space but would not demonstrate in public."
Meanwhile, the chairman of the parliamentary opposition Conservative People's Party, Mart Helme, warned against a particularly negative reaction in the Russian-speaking community where religious traditions are especially strong.
"Most Russians living in Estonia are actively religious people and their integration is not helped by religious insult approved on a state level," Helme said.
"The image should be removed as soon as possible because the virtual destruction the authors offer insults the feelings of religious Russian-speaking residents and hinders their integration," the politician was quoted in his party's press release as saying.
According to Helme, who was Estonia's ambassador to Russia in the 1990s, "mocking of the symbols of faith also has a political dimension to it." "An attack on symbols may lead to an escalation of social tensions and a cooling of the inter-state relations," he said.
For his part, Archbishop Urmas Viilma of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church said the image is an affront to the whole Estonian society, all Christians, not just Orthodox ones but Catholics and Lutherans as well. For Estonians, Virgin Mary has a special meaning, no wonder the country is popularly called the Land of Mary, the archbishop said.
The installation on display at the Estonian National Museum is a depiction of Virgin Mary on a big light screen almost the size of a human being. It is static until someone kicks a specially marked spot at the bottom of the picture, causing the virtual figure fly into pieces and the word "Reformation" appear on the screen.
The Estonian National Museum is open in the city of Tartu and set to become the country's most important. It is predicted to attract up to 200,000 visitors per year.