Three members of the Russian punk-rock rebel band, Pussy Riot, have been jailed for two years after staging an anti-Putin protest. The official reason for their incarceration has been officially listed as “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred (1).” The sentence has sparked intense global support for Pussy Riot, as well as increased opposition against the Russian government.
The all-female band performed this protest in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. After blessing themselves with the sign of the cross, the members, dressed in vibrantly colored masks, bowed towards the alter and videotaped a “punk prayer.” Their song called to Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin. The resulting video, titled “Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away” was subsequently uploaded onto the Internet. The video suggests a direct criticism of Putin’s anti-feministic political infrastructure and aims to undermine his reelection.
A still from the
members in jail. (11)
Their punishment came in the form of "two years deprivation of liberty in a penal colony (1).” And according to a B.B.C article (1), Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich smiled from inside a glass-walled cage as their verdict was announced on Aug. 17. Tolokonnikova, her fist pumped into the air as she was led out of the courtroom, was sent to Mordovia. The region of Perm was left to Alyokhina. Both are considered the harshest existing camps. Samutsevich was released last month, but Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, both mothers of small children, will be expected to complete the full sentence.
The three awaiting their verdict in the courtroom (12).
In terms of the immediate domestic response, Pussy Riot received both support and criticism. And the underlying religious context was undeniable. A group of four women, one of them topless, sawed down a cross at a public square in Kiev. But despite a few small, localized displays of support, many Russians were unsympathetic to the fate of Pussy Riot. Feminism in the form of direct political action is viewed wearily in the country. The direct criticism came mainly from religious zealots, those who viewed the band’s performance as a direct insult to the Russian Orthodox Church. One demonstrator outside the court in Moscow even shouted, “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell (1).” A Time article (2), “Pussy Riot Trial Unleashes Putin’s Secret Weapon: The Orthodox Faithful,” further discusses the issue of religion. “Putin has advocated a return to religion as the core of a new Russian national idea,” says the article. Putin’s following lack the motivation to guarantee him a reelection and so, “for the church and state, the result would be some kind of symbiosis, which may be Putin’s only chance of reawakening his tired base.” Additionally, the article believes “[t]he verdict against Pussy Riot has empowered this base and its values,” perhaps strengthening the only true devotees Putin has left.
Female protestors in Kiev sawing down a cross. (13)
Unlike the domestic response, global outside response to the matter was not centered on religious alliances. It was also overwhelmingly pro-Pussy Riot. Yet the solidarity seems torn. Though Pussy Riot’s punishment is widely viewed as unjust, some support appears to be a direct result of a pro-Feminist mindset. But others take on an exclusively anti-Russian agenda, focusing their outrage on the governments’ attitude toward freedom of speech and creative expression instead.
The Russian government has a certain reputation for being anti-Democratic. The same B.B.C article (1) reports how Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, believes “Russia's image was quite scary even before [this]. What happened now is a clear sign that Russia is moving towards becoming more like China or North Korea.” There...
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