The contrast between the actions of Russian authorities and those of Rudy Giuliani's office shows a lot about the differences between a "free" state and one that is not. The very fact that such a show as "Sensation" would be funded by taxpayer money, even if facing controversy, is a Western reality that would never exist in Russia. And, that the city of New York tried to impose their view in the courts instead of by political arrests and exiles shows another way Western society has come a bit further than Russia. But, the lawsuit itself shows a stark lacking in tolerance and openness that is remarkably similar to that of what was, and to some extent remains, a police state.
Russia's status as such is not only visible in the arts, but also in their handling of other affairs, including several journalists' investigation into possible government involvement in the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings, a coordinated terrorist attack of a cluster of communist-era apartment buildings that left over 300 dead. The finding of a special forces-issue bomb that had been installed and then later dismantled in a fourth building led many to question that the attack was an inside job designed to be blamed on Chechen Islamists, prompting a brief, successful bombing mission of Chechnya that encouraged nationalism and support for new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his party. One of the journalists involved in investigating the bombings after a government commission ruled them the fault of Chechen terrorists was caught at a stoplight, asked to step out of his car and open his trunk. While his car was being searched, an officer threw a gun into his trunk yelling "he has a gun!" The journalist was arrested on the spot for possession of the weapon, and served five years in prison.
This is a long way from asking a Brooklyn gallery to take a show down, but the government deciding how to write history or what constitutes appropriate culture are both examples of a police state. On top of all of this, Giuliani showed incredible disregard for "separation of church and state." There is no official state religion to offend. The government cannot regulate anyone's expression of religion or disdain of such, it has absolutely no business doing so.
In censorship attempts and general attitudes towards tolerance and openness, we have to ask ourselves--are we really as far removed from, or superior to, the former Soviet Union?