— The Erimtan Angle —

Friday will see the verdict, but last Saturday Reason TV posted this clip: ‘Amnesty International called Russian punk feminist collective Pussy Riot “prisoners of conscience,” after a February 21 anti-Putin protest landed three members of the band on trial for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The plight of Pussy Riot has provoked international attention — and pressure for lenience — as the women face three to seven years in prison. On August 10, Reason TV headed down to the Solidarity Concert for Pussy Riot, right across from the Russian embassy (11 August 2012)’.

On Friday, 17 August 2012, the Pussy Riot girls were convicted of hooliganism. The wording employed by the judge, however, sounded more like a blasphemy charge: “The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church’s rules”.[1]  The three jailed members of Pussy Riot now face a two year jail sentence . . . for performing a “punk prayer” in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. Judge Marina Syrova appears to toe the line very well. The news agency Reuters’ Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova opine that the judge “declared all three guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral in February to belt out a song deriding Putin. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, giggled as the judge read out the sentences one by one. They have already been in jail for about five months, meaning they will serve another 19. They say they were protesting against Putin’s close ties with the church when they burst into Moscow’s golden-domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts”.[2]  In fact, the girls came off lifghtly, as “[s]tate prosecutors had requested a three-year jail term”.[3]  It seems to me that the Russian judiciary was “lenient” in only handing out a two-year verdict, possibly a result of Putin’s intercession as a reaction to the global outcry. Marina Syrova could have gone up to seven years in jail, and by way of good from the prosecution’s demand for three appears somewhere in the middle. The Reuters report quotes the following statement: ‘”They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge,” Alexei Navalny, one of the organizers of big protests against Putin during the winter, told reporters outside the court. “This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin”’.[4]  Under Putin’s benign rule, state and church work together in Mother Russia. On the other hand, nationalism and racism are on the rise and lead to many unprosecuted and unpunished crimes in Russia.

The independent advocacy and action organization Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov writes recently that the Russian “government ignored problem of violent, racially-motivated attacks for many years. Only recently have authorities stopped calling skinheads ‘hooligans’, and gone after the neo-Nazi gangs that were responsible for hate crimes. Having arrested and prosecuted the bulk of violent racists, the government turned up the heat on others whom it could potentially view as intolerant, but wound up targeting those with differences of opinion.  As a result we ended up with a mountain of cases in which journalists, religious believers, and artists face persecution in Russia. Though racially motivated attacks continue to occur—an African man and a policeman who came to his rescue were just severely beaten in Moscow three days ago—the police and courts nowadays have much more time on their hands to pursue other extremist enemies of Russia”, adding bleakly that “[o]ne of them is, of course, Pussy Riot”.[5]


[1] “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years” Reuters (17 August 2012). http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/17/entertainment-us-russia-pussyriot-idUSBRE87F1E520120817.

[2] Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years” Reuters (17 August 2012). http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/17/entertainment-us-russia-pussyriot-idUSBRE87F1E520120817.

[3] Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years”.

[4] Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years”.

[5] Innokenty Grekov, “The Enemies of Russia’s Freedom” Human Rights First (16 August 2012). http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2012/08/16/the-enemies-of-russia%E2%80%99s-freedom/.

Comments on: "Pussy Verdict: Putin, Hooliganism, and the Orthodox Church" (1)

  1. caput_2006 said:

    your blog is really excellent. it inspires the readers who have that great desire to lead a better and happier life. thanks for sharing this information and hope to read more from you.

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