IKEA removes Pussy Riot-like photo from its Russian site

Saying their website should not be involved with any sort of campaigns, IKEA removed a picture from their Russian site which showed people in colorful ski masks sitting on IKEA furniture.

Sergey Ponomarev/AP
Opposition demonstrators wear balaclava masks like those worn by members of the punk band Pussy Riot at a protest rally in Moscow, Saturday, Sept. 15. The furniture store IKEA removed a Pussy Riot-like photo from its Russian website.

Furniture firm IKEA has removed a photograph from its Russian website of people in colourful ski masks like those worn by punk band Pussy Riot, three of whose members were jailed after staging a protest against Vladimir Putin in a church.

The picture, which showed four people in the masks sitting on IKEA furniture, had been posted on a section of the site which displays photographs of customers posing at stores.

A notice on the website confirmed the image had been removed and said: "IKEA is a commercial organisation that conducts its activity outside of politics and religion."

"We cannot allow our advertising project to be used as a platform for campaigning of any kind," it added.

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after belting out a song criticising Putin, then prime minister and now president, in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February. They were handed two-year jail terms.

The brightly coloured balaclava masks they wore during the protest have become the band's trademark. A large opposition protest in Moscow last weekend featured big balloons with the mask design and the words "Free Pussy Riot".

The Russian Orthodox Church head has called the cathedral protest part of a campaign aimed at curbing the resurgence of Russia's main faith. Foreign governments, rights groups and musicians have criticised the women's sentences as excessive.

Russia has dismissed the criticism from abroad, which the Foreign Ministry said pointed to a "clash of civilisations". Putin has said the state is obliged to protect the feelings of the faithful.

The photograph, which appeared to have been submitted by a person with the last name Starovoitova in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, had appeared on a competition section of the IKEA site where visitors were invited to vote for their favourite shot.

The picture had received 1,431 votes before it was taken down - more than any other posted in the same week.

A representative of IKEA in Russia confirmed on Sunday the notice had replaced a photograph of people wearing ski masks and declined to comment further immediately, asking for a written request which would be answered on Monday.

IKEA has invested about 2.5 billion euros ($3.25 billion) in Russia since 2000, building stores that anchor malls on the outskirts of big cities. When it posted record profits for the fiscal 2010/11 year in December, the company said some of its biggest sales gains were in Russia.

In 2009 IKEA had threatened to halt further expansion in the country, citing corruption and red tape, but last November it said it was looking to at least double its three-store footprint in Moscow and refurbish its 14 MEGA malls.

A Moscow court is to begin hearing an appeal against the convictions and sentences in the Pussy Riot trial on Oct. 1.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.