Last year a Moscow court imposed stiff fines on two former gallery curators found guilty in a church-instigated case of "inciting hatred" against Christians for exhibiting unconventional images of Jesus.
Chaplin's proposed dress code has received applause from some conservative quarters. Russia's Association of Islamic Heritage this week expressed its support for Chaplin's call for "creation of a national dress code," which might involve compelling women to wear headscarves, a rule already in force in Orthodox churches and church-run orphanages. Muslims make up about 20 percent of Russia's population.
Chaplin's remarks came in a letter published this week by the independent Interfax-Religion agency, the church's chief liaison with secular society. While his proposed dress code would also apply to men who go into public wearing T-shirts, shorts, or track suits, the letter was most likely to rankle Russian women, who are famous for their love of shocking colors, generous makeup, and daring fashions.
"Archpriest Chaplin's comments sound absurd," says Irina Shcherbakova, head of youth programs for Memorial, Russia's largest human rights organization. "Instead of dealing with real social issues – such as the rise of ethnic hatred – and teaching tolerance, they busy themselves with this nonsense. Most women will ignore this but, especially since Islamic religious authorities are in support, it does threaten a serious attack on women's rights."