Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jul/12

23

Free the Pussy Rioters!

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Via the New York Times:

MOSCOW — When four young women in balaclavas performed a crude anti-Putin song on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February, it seemed like just one more episode in a season of audacious, absurdist and occasionally offensive protest.

Instead, the case of the young punk rockers, whose group is called Pussy Riot, is becoming a bellwether event in the Russian capital, signaling an end to the chilly tolerance the Kremlin displayed in response to the winter’s large demonstrations.
The three women arrested after the performance have been held in custody for more than four months, a term that was extended on Friday by six months, through next January. They could be sent to prison for seven years.

Preliminary hearings in the case offered some of the most striking courtroom images since the trial of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, which took place in the same building. While that case tested Russians’ feelings toward a billionaire businessman, this one picks as its targets slender young women with hooded sweatshirts and Twitter accounts — avatars of the protest movement itself.

Stupid form of protest, but sledgehammers and nuts come to mind.

And then there’s this:

The criminal prosecution of the three women — Maria Alyokhina, 24; Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 — rests on the notion that their performance incited religious hatred. That argument is supported by Orthodox activists who say the women are Satanists. Ten witnesses have said they suffered “moral damage” as a result and are considered victims in the court proceeding, as is standard in Russia. One, a cathedral security guard, “had trouble sleeping after the crime in the cathedral,” said his lawyer, Mikhail Kuznetsov, in an interview with the newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti.

The band, Mr. Kuznetsov said, “is only a tiny visible tip of the iceberg of extremists who are trying to destroy the thousand-year-old basis of the Russian Orthodox Church, provoking a schism, and using lies to lead the flock not to God but to Satan.”
…A poll released on Friday by the independent Levada Center found that a substantial proportion of Muscovites, 37 percent, took a positive view of the prosecution, and 50 percent had a negative view.

“When it began to turn into this fantastic biblical story, social attitudes toward the girls changed radically,” said Marat Guelman, a former political consultant and gallery owner whose projects have been denounced by religious activists.

“Most of the population now are not so much talking about what Pussy Riot did as much as their fear that these people who want to introduce some kind of Orthodox Taliban to Russia, that they will take power,” Mr. Guelman said. “So now I think the authorities are making a big mistake, taking revenge in this way. Society will not support this.”

Whether he is right will become clear only gradually, as state-controlled television reports on the prosecution of the three women, two of them mothers of small children. So far, the case has aroused intense interest only on the extremes of the political spectrum, a fact reflected on Friday outside the courthouse, where protesters wearing white ribbons tried to shout down Orthodox activists carrying Bibles…

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5 comments

  • bmp · July 23, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    “…rests on the notion that their performance incited religious hatred.”

    The Kremlin can say this with a straight face?

  • John · July 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    It wasn’t too long ago that Russia suppressed its church to increase state power. Now they are using the church to increase state power.

  • Marco · July 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Well, I’m sympathetic to the defendants from what I read here and in the NYT article, but there are unanswered questions. If there were four of them, why were only three arrested? Did they take over the altar during a service or did they, as I infer, pick another time, when maybe there were just a few church members around?

    Either way, I’d think some sort of disorderly conduct charge, for not leaving believers in peace to do their thing. Four months in jail already? Time served ought to cover it, more than cover it. Hate to see governments going after “blasphemers”, though.

  • Polichinello · July 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    IIRC they interrupted a service. Of course, Orthodox churches hold a number of services during the course of a day, so it’d be pretty hard to find an open period.

  • cynthia curran · July 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    This is Orthodoxy which pretty much means the church and state were together in Constantine’s time, more so in Theodosius the Great’s time and definitely in Justinian’s time. Justinian even had his laws sometimes sung in Church. So, Orthodoxy has a longer history of church and state together.

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