Who Cares? Pussy Riot Sentenced

Three supporters of Russian female punk band Pussy Riot deliver a petition at the Russian embassy in London
Picture: EPA/KERIM OKTEN

 

“This is all nonsense. I can’t believe that in the 21st century a judge in a secular court is talking about devilish movements. I can’t believe that a government official is quoting medieval church councils.”

- Boris Akunin, well known Russian author

I’ve been following along with and writing a bit about the Pussy Riot arrests and trial. Although the news of the Pussy Riot sentencing came down yesterday, I was too despondent to write about it. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Marina Alyokhina have been found guilty of  “hooliganism” and sentenced to two years in prison.

A friend just said, “Well it could be worse, they could have got seven years.” See, not feeling the “it could be worse” vibe here.

These young women have been incarcerated since March – that means they have already served 5 months in jail, while the circus … emm .. I mean trial … has been under way. They have been accused of  ludicrous motivations: “destroying 1000′s of years of orthodox church tradition”, “undertaking the work of the devil”, “abusing god”, “blasphemy”, showing “religious hatred and enmity”…

Let’s pause to recap what they actually did do.

They sang a song.

Yes in a church, yes about Putin, yes questioning the division of state and religion. Peaceable, creative, protest about social justice and political accountability and fairness.

I’m reading the news reports about the sentencing this morning.

Support of celebrities and Amnesty International has been suggested to be “a magnet for vapid celebs…” International protests are questioned as being merely fashionable and not helpful. [ To see some wonderful shots of the protests, have a look HERE]

A recent poll suggests that Russian support for Pussy Riot is low,

“… only 6 percent sympathized with the women and 51 percent found nothing good about them or felt irritation or hostility. The rest could not say or were indifferent.” – Independent Levada research group

Some suggest that “clueless” non-Russians are simply unable to understand that what might be seen in their countries as “provocative political protest” is seen in Russia as considerably more serious. Some people even seem to think these young women are getting their just desserts.

The issue is complex. It is about the inter-relationship between government and church in a country that doesn’t want to address the issue, any more than our countries want to address the issue.

That’s right. The division of church and state is not a Russian issue.

The Pussy Riot women, could be you, or me, or anyone who believes and values separation between church and state.

So who cares about what has happened to Pussy Riot? I care. I care that this trial has made a mockery of secular justice and has highlighted the lack of separation between church and state. I care that all of this has happened at the expense of three young women’s lives.

I care.

Were Nadezhda, Yekaterina and Marina foolish or brave? Did they know what they were signing on for? Do they regret their actions?

I think no. I hope no.

“I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ‘so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.”

Marina Alyokhina (Pussy Riot)

An appeal is on the way. It ain’t over til the punk girls sing.

Related Posts: Lest We Forget; Speaking Of Stupidity.. Pussy Riot Update; More On The Pussy Riot Travesty … emmm… Trial; The Church Is Offended and The Pussy Riot Trial Continues

65 responses to “Who Cares? Pussy Riot Sentenced

  1. just curious: anybody ever tried singing a pro cummunist, “please god kill our president” song in a church in texas, mosque in dubai or synagogue in tel aviv…..?

    • Not sure what your point is?

      If the point is that if someone did do what you suggested they would end up in a similar situation – not sure that the analogy translates. Either way, IF there was protest about the division of state and church (and there is plenty of discussion about this in the US), I’d see it as equally legitimate.

      This is not a Russia issue.

    • This is a common argument of russians, honester.
      Pussy Riot girls were persecuted not for desecration of “holy” place. They stood up against criminal dictator, KGB brute named Putin. He pretends to be Orthodox but remains predatory bolshevik scum.
      Read the words of their song: “Mother of God, banish the Putin!”
      Could have russian dictator left this without punishment?

  2. I doubt we are being told the true number of Russians concerned about free speech or separation of church and state. Look how many took to the streets when Putin was “elected.” My hope is this controversy sparks change for the better.

  3. Pingback: Who Cares? Pussy Riot Sentenced | Cbcburke9's Blog

  4. Argument of honester is the one russians adore to use.
    Do you know what Pussy Riot song was about? Girls are persecuted not for desecration of “holy” place (holiness of which is debatable with predatory russian corruption). They were singing “Mother of God, banish the Putin!”
    KGB criminal dictator, murderer brute Putin decided to punish girls for standing up against him. Slave nation of russians supported those neo-soviet repressions, as always before.

  5. Argument of honester is the one russians adore to use.
    Do you know what Pussy Riot song was about? Girls are persecuted not for desecration of “holy” place (holiness of which is debatable with predatory russian corruption). They were singing “Mother of God, banish the Putin!”
    KGB criminal dictator, murderer brute Putin decided to punish girls for standing up against him. Slave nation of russians supported those neo-soviet repressions, as always before.
    Freedom and russians are things hostile to each other.

  6. It takes great courage to stand by your convictions and I only have admiration for Pussy Riot. I find it baffling that a country that until fairly recently didn’t even officially have a church or acknowledge religion is taking such a stance. By the way, I was reared in the Russian Orthodox church…outside Russia. While my sensibilities are clearly not Russian, I find the reaction of the Russian judge waaayyyy over the top. Thanks for the post!

  7. Trolls will always be trolls. The issue is the fact that a church and a despot are gang up again to do what has always been done in that country and all over the world for years… manipulation of the masses using the collective dellusions created by an organized religion that wants nothing more than control people and cash up with the help of the ruthless creep running the show. It’s about a despot who doesn’t like critics to his brutal actions and will do every legal and illegal thing at his reach to silence anyone who may try to act against him. About three women who managed to call the attention of the world to the situation of the people, most importantly the situation of women in their country. About their sacrifice and martyrdom for free speech and democracy in a country that still thinks the rules of the 16th century are still valid to this century where equality is ever more present. About how a simple act of defiance using the only good method for expression in a world where everything else is aligned with the opressors or the poltics that shadows them: they sang a punk prayer and they did it with pride. And they did what Garry Kasparov has been trying for years now. Three fragile looking, but strong in spirit girls with a message to their despot leader got the attention from the entire planet in a 3 minute act. They didn’t do it for the cash or simple attention to themselves, but for equality, freedom and democracy.

    To the first guy who commented: that has happened already in US and Israel a couple of times… guess what the ruling was? no crime, free speech. In Dubai something similar nearly took place, but the guy was stoped and deported (I don’t think they would bother)… so read the news sites with more attention and read a good history book. Trolling is becoming a crime in EU and other places in the world, so I suggest a change in behaviour next time you post something, you may regreat what you write (friendly advice from a Lawyer, by the way).

    To the author of the blog… Awesome post. Sadly the subject not so much. People should learn that whatever happens in other countries will affect their own way of life eventually. Keep up the great writing. With the appeal this riot is not over yet…

  8. This reminds me of women driving in Saudi Arabia; it’s looked down upon by the religious establishment, but that doesn’t mean it should be a crime! Jeez, Russia is behind the times! I hope they get out of jail and Russia learns to rebel a little.

  9. Pingback: Who Cares? Pussy Riot Sentenced « Portia Placino

  10. It’s hard to judge the Russian government in this case. They (unlike the rest of this secularized world) feel a stronger attachment to religion, and hold it to be a very sacred part of their daily life (I speak in general here). What we consider acceptable here, in a country known for taking in any and all cultures and religions, is considered appalling elsewhere. I don’t think we, on the inside of such a country, have any right to judge other cultures that hold different aspects of life (e.g. religion) in higher esteem.

  11. I have trouble trying to figure out how to characterize this sort of behavior… brave, or stupid, unselfish or selfish. Free thought is a lot more important than free speech, and even the latter doesn’t include shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. It appears that, in this Russian courtroom at any rate, what they yelled was tantamount to “fire” and the crowded theatre was Russia herself. Did they not realize? One can think whatever one wants, but I understand at least one of these gals is a mom with a young child. Somewhere along the line, caution needs to rule. Martyrs can be selfish people…

  12. Looks more like a PR (Pussy Riot?) action gone wrong; I think Russians went a bit too far from first destroying the religion to worshiping it like never before, without really knowing what they’re doing. It’s a country of fanatics, that’s the problem, a bunch of Raskolnikovs and I dunno, weird people in general. I seem to think climate has got something to do with it.

    Obviously Putin, a former KGB agent, doesn’t qualify as a great believer, you know faith follower, that kind of thing. It’s not normal for a tough communist to morph into a church-goer. The worst bit is that the opposition leaders are all former Communist Party members themselves, old farts like Kasparov, etc.. A waste of time.

    Regarding the division of state and church – that’s definitely a must or should be a must. I’d rather go with a political idea as some kind of new opium for the masses rather than any existing religion. This stuff messes with your brain.

    Think Pussy Riot or their manager – a self-styled Russian Malcolm McLaren I would imagine – made a bet and lost. Fantastic publicity world-wide but I doubt they’ll ever reach the Sex Pistols status. You gotta be a total idiot to put yourself in jail, especially when your music is so lousy, sorry.

  13. This is absolute disgust. It’s the death of freewill. The people of world should come together against such Hitleresque verdict.

  14. I can’t see how the Russian state can justify keeping Pussy Riot jailed for hooliganism. In my mind the very word hooliganism conjures up memories of extremely violent, very deliberate and dangerous acts of drunken football fans rampaging post-match in Europe. Hooliganism simply does not equate with three artists performing a non-violent verbal protest against their government, in what is supposed to be a free country.

  15. Pingback: Riotous POONTANG Pussy . . . | Trippin' the O.V.

  16. I support anything that has with freedom and the spreading of it to do. Great work here, you! :)
    That whole church thing is… just plane rediculous. People bending religion to fit their own causes. Childish >.<
    Anyways – thanks for a great post ! :)

  17. The conscious, compassionate, intelligent, and active human beings of the world must cry out deafeningly loud about the incarceration of these activist musicians of Pussy Riot; the issues of free speech & the sentencing of citizens for appeasement and control; and these women must be released.

    One of the biggest problems at the foundation of the pathetic lack of public outcry in this issue is many people see these women as foolish, perhaps… in the least (albeit having their hearts and minds in the right place), as well as insulting at most, but they are perhaps the most important woman on Earth at this time, up there with nurses, doctors, scientists and social workers.

    What’s going on at Avaaz, on this?

    Great article. Thank you.

  18. While this is not Russian issue only, the fact remains that Russia has long tradition of uncomfortably close relationship with church (Russian Orthodox Church). Before revolution influence and power the church held over Romanovs was legendary. Communists only replaced it with their own iconography and even deadlier repercussions. Since their demise, in the vacuum of power and true leadership, and with economy mostly in hands of so called ‘gangs’ … well what a surprise that church has found a fertile ground to re-claim its historic powers! Why nobody seems to care? Well, for the same reasons all other gross injustices, violence, hunger, slavery, etc. are still well and alive in this world, we call ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ …!

    Regards,
    Daniela

  19. Not only do we have a warped justice system in the US but it is also far off the mark in other countries as well. Why is this? It all comes down to what people thinks is tolerable based on their distilled knowledge of what is right and wrong and their understanding of the proper role of government.
    So please allow me to introduce to you a most profound work that if you will read seriously and thoughtfully, It may well change the course of history for the better!
    http://www.fee.org/library/books/the-law-by-frederic-bastiat-free-download/

  20. Seperation of religion and state is something that all governments around the world espouse and have enscried in their constitutions. But there are barely any that seem to know about it. Even better than all this is India where one of the biggest political parties is outspokenly Hindu,with a policy whose primary belief is”Hindustan is by the Hindus ,for the Hindus and to the Hindus”. So where exactly are the millions of non -Hindus supposed to go. The answer from one the Hindutvas firebrands “Go drown in the Indian Ocean or hell”……well so much for secularism.

  21. and if the silly young girls just got on with living normal lives instead of attempyting to provoke and stir an issue which is clearly a sensitive one…they would be free to live as they please…..if you wish to dabble in radical type politics then dont be suprized when you get assasinated…………

  22. They are brave women. They knew exactly what they were doing. Because they actually live in Russia, and know the situation there from experience, and not from western media, whose only aim is to serve their corporations and governments and please Mr Putin so that he please please would continue supplying gas and weapons. In Russia people get killed for speaking out. It is as simple as that. In Russia, the state thinks it can do anything to its people and get away with it. In Russia, the Church serves the state instead of serving the people. It is a foul system, and the fact that most Russians did not support Pussy Riot only speaks of the their fear and that their only desire is to survive. They have no time or energy for feminism. They usually work at two, three jobs juts to put bread on their tables. And in Russia, the state is the dominant economic player. You do not go against the state if you want to live.

  23. Drive politicians we must or we should. But they are done in the right places. Whoaah! A church is the home of those who believe in it, guys. We support freedom of belief, remember?

  24. Drive politicians we must or we should. But do it in the right places, guys. A church is a place for those who believe in it, right? And we support freedom of all kinds of beliefs, right?

  25. Point of information: Did the church invite or sanction the punk band’s performance? To the extent a minority was exploited (the believers), criminal trespass occurred, and a hate crime committed, the band is not to be “held harmless.”

  26. I was shocked by the conduct of the judge in this case. Unfortunately, all the links I had on hand have expired, but you can Google it. As I recall, she was overtly hostile to the Pussy Riot members, refused to consider the testimony of the band’s supporters, and solicited testimony from Church supporters regarding how “their souls” felt after the protest.

    It was a sham trial, a mockery of justice, a black mark on the idea of equitable legal treatment for the entire world.

    Then Putin’s supporters got on Twitter to crow about it.

  27. I don’t think the issue is whether they insulted or attacked religion. That is just the official “spin” on the story and the excuse for putting away three overly bold system critics.

    The issue is that they spoke out against Tzar Vladimir, also known as Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin. You don’t speak out against Russia’s so-called “president”, not if you live in Russia. If you do, the state will find an excuse and a way to shut your mouth.

  28. They did it to get attention and publicity, just like how their name is made for shock value. They were just like “most offensive thing ever….?” …Pussy…..we like riot grrrls….pussy riot lol. That doesnt mean i dont support them though. people dont pay attention to things until it’s all over the media, so good job to them by knowing how to exploit that. now everyone is saying “justice this, injustice that”

    Church and state IS separated though in the states. it’s not like it is in russia, italy, spain. just because the leaders in U.S. are viewed as “correct” because they have to believe in a specific faith – (it’s very bad) – it still doesn’t mean though, at all, that if YOU dont practice it you’re guna get yours. therein lies the difference. so im sure they did it to demonstrate that and everything, but at the same time it’s quite obvious that they wanted to get publicity – for themselves AND the situation. they lose points, for me, for the whole attention thing though, hard to take them too serously if they are laughing at their trial. Trial and jail time isn’t fun, been there! Don’t know how they could smile about it.

  29. I can’t really comment on this issure. I am have no knowledge of this. However, I can say that these women are brave for what they’ve done.

  30. I can’t really comment on this issue; I have no knowledge on this issue. However, I can say that these women are brave for what they’ve done.

  31. I haven’t kept up with this, so all info I have comes second-hand from my husband, but…weren’t they also naked?

    That’s what I heard, anyways, that it wasn’t just a matter of singing a controversial song, but being a great deal more lewd and obvious about it.

    I seriously doubt their lives are ruined. I’m 110% sure that a Russian punk band who all grew up in Russia would realize how severe of a reaction their extreme protests against the Russian government in a highly esteemed Russian religious institution would garter them.

    Do I agree with the punishment? Eh, without having all the facts, and not knowing anything much about Russian culture, I can’t make a judgment one way or another. But it definitely wasn’t the best or brightest way for them to make a point. Very unproductive, but very newsworthy. :)

  32. Very excellent post that is wonderfully balanced by your strong, personal opinions and researched facts on the matter. I’m pro-Pussy Riot, I guess you could say. I’m happy they’re speaking out. However, I read an article earlier which detailed that many Russians are not pro-Pussy Riot and consider them too over-the-top even for the issues they’re protesting, which you’ve mentioned in your post. The article also commented on how Pussy Riot have done similar, highly offensive acts before in the name of protest (like having sex in a museum or something like that). again, I support what they’re trying to do but at the end of the day it’s understood that the mainstream will NOT support obscene acts or anything that makes them uncomfortable. The mainstream thought is parodied beautifully in government and law enforcement and it cannot be a surprise to anyone that these girls have been convicted. 2 years sucks very badly and I wish it weren’t the case. But I could not say I’m surprised. It is unfortunate. Here’s that article if you were interested: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/western-media-concealing-facts-about-female-rock-bands-desecration-of-russi

  33. Pingback: Gathered for the freedom of speech « subsequent

    • First of all, nobody says Hooliganism anymore. Second, it’s not the 15th century. Third, it was just a protest, which is not a crime…unless you’re trying to subject your people to your values.

  34. Certainly there always needs to be those who have the courage to voice the unpopular opinion and challenge the status quo, that is the way cultures evolve, and pushing for the separation of church and state is a noble goal in my opinion, but, there comes a time when a political action from an activist crosses a societal line. When translating a idealist message, separation of church and state, you still need to consider that the reality of the environment, this one being Pro-orthodox Russia, might not allow for a verbatim message. In this case, occupying the steps in front of an extremely important Church to the majority of the Russian people is not exactly going to go over too well. The comments of the judge reflect his personal beliefs, and yes, they do not have any place in a court-room, but, the charges of Hooliganism are legitimate. It is illegal to willfully disrupt a place of worship. Rights and Freedoms are only granted to an individual when they do not impede or take away the Rights and Freedoms of any other individual. Thus, this is a case of the Freedom of Speach against the Freedom of Religion. Regardless of the political motive of the group, anyone causing a disruption at a place of worship can and should be arrested. The girls knew exactly what they were getting into when they staged their protest, so yes, they are lucky that they got off with only a two year sentence as the Law regarding Hooliganism could put them away for seven. Simply because you support the equality of human beings does not mean you are above the law.

  35. Thank you for writing about this! It seems that a lot of people are willing to laugh about it and point at Russia as if it doesn’t happen in the US, all the time, and as if it didn’t affect these womens’ lives. Any prision sentence in repression of freedom of speech is a setback for everyone worldwide, regardless of your point of view or nationality.

  36. If a punk band did that in my church I would be seriously pissed off. They showed a great deal of disrespect to the members of that church. What’s so grown up about that? The left want to be taken seriously, but they don’t want to take other people’s beliefs seriously. Religion is not going away. Accept it. Move on.

    Separate church and state? Of course. But stop hating religion and religious people.

    Do they deserve two years? Absolutely not. This is nothing more than a scare tactic and Putin using the courts to serve his political purposes.

  37. yeah this is NOT only a Russian issue, this is a global issue. Our freedoms are limited. And I most certainly believe it depends who is in office in the United States as to what, why and how they preceded with action against an artist who performed what Honester said above.
    I see people on the corner holding pictures of Obama as Hitler and they do it all the time even in front of a church. Not only does nothing happen to them but they find support. It’s essentially the same thing as what pussy riot did, it’s protest.
    The court did not prosecute for their protest they jailed these women on crimes they committed on the church which is even MORE ironic because the Soviets pretty much abolished religion under communist rule.
    Their Presidents hand is so strong I don’t even want to type his name out of fear.

  38. I think it’s a shame what those girls are going through and cannot belive this kind of crap exist in 2012. The more we allow “religious values” influence our laws the worse of we all are. As an atheist watching the increasing amount of religious extremeism in the US, I really hope people start thinking a little more.

  39. The media is perpetuating the anti-Putin angle of this incident, but the so-called ‘prayer’ that this dysfunctional bunch of anarchists sang was unabashedly blasphemous as follows:

    St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
    Drive away! Drive away Putin! (end chorus)

    Black robe, golden epaulettes
    All parishioners are crawling and bowing
    The ghost of freedom is in heaven
    Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains

    The head of the KGB is their chief saint
    Leads protesters to prison under escort
    In order not to offend the Holy
    Women have to give birth and to love

    Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit!
    Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit!

    (Chorus) St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist
    Become a feminist, Become a feminist (end chorus)

    Church praises the rotten dictators
    The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
    In school you are going to meet with a teacher-preacher
    Go to class – bring him money!

    Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
    Bitch, you better believed in God
    Belt of the Virgin is no substitute for mass-meetings
    In protest of our Ever-Virgin Mary!

    (Chorus) St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
    Drive away! Drive away Putin! (end chorus)

    Here in the UK, any such behaviour within a place of worship would constitute a criminal offence, as demonstrated in the following piece of legislation:

    s2 Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860
    Penalty for making a disturbance in churches, chapels, churchyards etc
    Any person who shall be guilty of riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour in England in any cathedral church, parish or district church, or chapel of the Church of England, or in any chapel of any religious denomination, or in England in any place of religious worship duly certified under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, 18 & 19 Vict c 81, whether during the celebration of Divine service, or at any other time, or in any churchyard, or burial-ground, or who shall molest, let, disturb, vex, or trouble, or by any other unlawful means disquiet or misuse any preacher duly authorised to preach therein, or any clergyman in Holy Orders ministering or celebrating any sacrament or any Divine service, rite, or office in any cathedral church or chapel, churchyard, or burial ground shall on conviction thereof before two justices of the peace, be liable to a penalty of not more than level 1 on the standard scale, or may, if the justices before whom he shall be convicted think fit, instead of being subjected to any pecuniary penalty be committed to prison for any time not exceeding two months.

    So, these girls are being treated no differently than what the law demands in many societies in respect of sacrilege within the house of God.

  40. A very eloquent response to an issue that desperately needs to be discussed- of course the separation of Church and State isn’t just a Russian issue! This whole issue is about feminism, definitely, but it goes even further than that as you have illuminated.

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