With Friends Like These

The Pussy Riot verdict came in.

The band is guilty of “hooliganism,” a crime that warrants an exasperated, shaking fist on The Andy Griffith Show but two years in prison for these women who dared to criticize Putin in a church.

We can pee on Jesus in an art museum here and get yelled at on TV, and maybe lose our funding, but we would not be put in prison. Let alone a prison where “more than 50,000 inmates have tuberculosis, there are 35,000 people with HIV and there are nearly 90,000 drug addicts.”

The Guardian UK article on the verdict quotes the judge’s verdict.

Indeed, they were imprisoned for the clothes they wore and the way they danced, as much as for the words they shouted.

[Judge] Syrova repeated witness testimonies that the three women had offended Orthodox believers by wearing bright clothes inside a church, by “making sharp aggressive movements”, and by wearing their trademark balaclavas. She also read the words to the anti-Putin punk prayer they performed in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Inside their cage, the women laughed as she quoted the lyrics: “Shit, shit, holy shit!”

As Syrova argued against their feminism, saying that the Russian constitution “protected the rights of men and women equally”, they laughed again.

Sharp aggressive movements. Bright colors. Vulgar lyrics. What would men have been imprisoned for, had they sung the same tune and danced the same way in the same clothes?

And the band’s critics don’t disappoint: racism, sexism, homophobia, paranoia, and anti-semitism wrapped in a flag.

Eduard Bagirov, a prominent writer who campaigned for Putin earlier this year, wrote on Twitter: “Not one normal Russian person would ever support the ‘acts’ of these cunts. Note that only emigrants, fags and kikes support them.”

The case against Pussy Riot has ruptured any pretence of decorum in the growing split between those who align themselves with Putin’s government and those who oppose it.

“Pussy Riot’s act inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is not the stupidity of young girls, but part of the global conspiracy against Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church,” Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected analyst, wrote in a widely circulated editorial on Friday. “According to this version [of events], Putin isn’t obliged to just punish three idiots in a fatherly way, but also protect Russia from this conspiracy with all possible severity.”

With friends like these protecting the Russian people, who needs enemies?

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2 thoughts on “With Friends Like These

  1. Matthew says:

    It’s evident that Putin is an old-style tyrant in the tradition of the General Secretaries of the Communist Party who ruled the USSR. Pussy Riot are incredibly impressive, in that they’ve made that extra clear to the outside world in a way that other protestors have not thus far. The state apparently fears them with good reason — they’re powerful.

    • Elizabeth says:

      They also have tapped into very Western emotions about free speech, music, and (hate to say it but) fashion. I relate to them so much more deeply than I usually do with undifferentiated masses of protesters. Smart punk feminist moms (just two of them), sent to a terrifying labor camp for speaking their minds. There are injustices all over the world, but this is the one that made me cry, and made me grateful to live in the US.

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