They’ve kind of been overshadowed by recent events in Russia, but the Communists of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region (KPLO) aren’t the kind of folk to stay out of the news for long. At least, I hope not.
The organization, not to be confused with Russia’s much larger Communist Party, has made international news over the years with a series of outrageous and eye-catching statements.
I first became aware of the group – whose website features images of Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Yury Gagarin, and Che Guevara – in 2008, when they launched an attack on Russian international national team captain Andrei Arshavin as he sought a move to a top European football team.
"The behavior of Arshavin causes all communists and patriots to feel shame and disgust," the group's statement said, accusing the forward of "displaying for sale his body for many months in front of covetous Western clubs."
"Andrei - stay!" the statement read. "You have not yet lost all your morals, but you are half a step away."
The group warned him that if he were to sign for a foreign club, he would lose his "spiritual connection with Mother Russia, and the Russian people will never forgive you.”
Arshavin paid no heed, and eventually signed for English Premier League side Arsenal.
The group has earlier also shown an interest in football, calling a victory by Zenit St. Petersburg (featuring Arshavin) over Germany’s Bayern Munich “a triumph over NATO!”
But the KPLO aren’t only interested in football. They also keep an eye on the world of film.
Shortly after the attack on Arshavin, the group accused Bond girl actress Olga Kurylenko of also betraying her Ukranian homeland.
The group slammed Kurylenko for “sleeping with enemies of the people,” i.e. James bond, who they said was an "American spy" who had killed "hundreds of Soviet people and their allies."
It was at this point that folk started to wonder if the group might be a joke. But if they are, they have maintained a straight face throughout.
As well as football and film, the group also keep a watch over the world of rock and pop music.
In 2009, the KPLO urged Madonna to act “modestly” and sing revolutionary songs during her concert on St. Petersburg's central square.
"You must understand the responsibility of singing in such a place," the group said in a statement. “You should be dressed modestly, sing melodically, and keep the rules of morality in mind."
"We ask you, Madonna, to include in your repertoire on Palace Square a revolutionary song in honor of those who stormed the Winter Palace." The letter went on to suggest several Soviet-era songs Madge might like to perform.
Later that year, the group claimed $30 million in moral damages after the colorized re-release of a legendary Soviet spy series.
The group said that the decision to release a specially-colorized version of the 1973 black-and-white film Seventeen Moments of Spring had offended their "sense of patriotism."
They also said that the decision to screen a color version could have an adverse effect on social morality and the development of minors.
Sting was the next to feel the, er, sting of the KPLO, when he dared to bring his tepid jazz rock meandering to the home of the Bolshevik Revolution.
In April 2010, Mister Sting called for “the worldwide legalization of marijuana,” the group said in a statement.
“Not only communists, but everyone in favor of a healthy way of life, the strengthening of our nation’s culture and tradition must understand that such a figure, however talented screaming teens may consider him, can not appear on stage in the Russian Federation,” the group said.
It also claimed the failure of the police to detain Sting as a “leading” proponent of drug use in St. Petersburg was an example of “double standards, negligence and rotten liberalism.”
The statement went on to call for the dismissal of St. Petersburg’s cultural authorities, and accused them of “pushing our children toward the hell of degeneration,” by allowing Sting to perform.
Sting declined to comment.
But, as I said, the KPLO has been oddly quiet of late. Still, the website is up and they don’t appear to have disbanded. More scandals, please.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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Marc Bennetts is a journalist who has written about Russian spies, Chechen football and Soviet psychics for a number of UK newspapers, including The Guardian and The Times. He is also the author of Football Dynamo: Modern Russia and the People’s Game (Virgin Books).