The Big Pussy Riot Post

News on Friday that the three jailed members of Pussy Riot had been handed a 2-year prison sentence for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and enmity” (“хулиганство, совершенное по мотивам религиозной ненависти и вражды“) provoked immediate reactions on the streets of Moscow and beyond.

The 2-year term is actually less than the 7-year sentence originally proposed, suggesting that maybe Vladimir Putin’s Olympic fervor-fueled call for leniency had been taken into account. Nevertheless, the verdict enraged those who thought the defiant women deserved more (Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Yelena Vayenga, and close affiliates of the Orthodox Church), and those who thought they deserved freedom (everyone else). I do not know if the 5-6 months already served to date count against the prison term.

Reactions by ‘everyone else’ have led to the viciously satirical:

the viciously visceral:


http://deadspin.com/5935626/chess-grandmaster-garry-kasparov-arrested-beaten-outside-pussy-riot-trial

and to the viciously absurd:

In Pussy Riot’s closing statement at their trial (they represented themselves), Nadezhda Tolokonnikova stated that she did not feel defeated, even though she and two of her bandmates remained behind bars.

Her triumphant feeling may be due to the fact that the band set a very real societal goal for themselves, and then went out and accomplished that goal, something that had not been achieved by a flagging opposition led by bloggers and aging establishment rock stars. They should be applauded for this. From a February 2012 interview with Vice magazine, just before their arrest, Pussy Riot explained their objective:

“We realized that this country needs a militant punk-feminist street band that will rip through Moscow’s streets and squares, mobilize public energy against the evil crooks of the Putinst junta and enrich the Russian cultural and political opposition with themes that are important to us: gender and LGBT rights, problems of masculine conformity, absence of a daring political message on the musical and art scenes and the domination of males in all areas of public discourse.” (emphasis added)

They have vaulted themselves into the vanguard of subversion, inspiring fellow travelers Femen in Ukraine to be even bolder than heretofore:

and they have gone far beyond heights reached by guerilla art group Voina (note that Pussy Riot is up for the Kandinsky prize, which has been awarded to Voina in the past).

As artists, one could further applaud Pussy Riot’s aesthetic; their multicolored balaclavas project a compelling strength while also granting them anonymity, an asset that means – like a network of punk rock Obi Wan Kenobis whose power posthumously grows – you will create a multitude of rioting pussycats for every one you diminish. Indeed Pussy Riot has performed with anything from three to eight to fifteen members on stage. The triumphant feeling may even be one of invincibility. This prison term is not the end of Pussy Riot.

As to their method, their Red Square debut was noted in this space, and I challenge anyone to watch their prison rooftop performance without getting goosebumps or thinking of Johnny Cash:

As for the performance that landed them in prison, there’s a link to it here:
http://gawker.com/5930925/the-know+nothings-guide-to-pussy-riot-the-realest-punks-alive

(and for a technical discussion of the linguistic nuances of the charges against Pussy Riot, read Michele Berdy: http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=36057)

Whether or not you agree with Pussy Riot’s message (that Russia is run by a Putinist junta of evil crooks) the fact remains that they tapped into a deep vein in contemporary Russian public discourse. And what is consequential is that they did so by disrupting the mores of the Orthodox Church. Long suppressed under communism, the renewal of Orthodoxy has been a story of corporate opulence (the lavish Christ the Savior Church where Pussy Riot was in full effect was rebuilt in the 1990s with public funds, and who could forget Patriarch Kirill’s gold watch) and state cooptation. To those who write that this trial is about emotions, the reason is because of the sensitive role of Orthodoxy in a society that in a lot of ways remains atomized. Russia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country, but the incident with Pussy Riot has crystallized for many the true role of the Orthodox Church as an anchor of Russian political conservativism. On an optimistic note, I think this means that the possible path to eventual reform in Russia is wider than previously thought.

I don’t have any additional words other than that I respect deeply anyone who is willing to make personal sacrifices while challenging authority. Out of personal predilection, my favorite tribute to Pussy Riot comes from the Perm-based Rapper Сява:

Thanks to YI, AT, MH, and SB for links and photos.

This entry was posted in Characters, Music and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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