Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Punk's not dead! (But it might end up in prison)

Rob finally weighs in on the Pussy Riot story...

3 years – arguably longer than the punk movement lasted in its entirety. Yet three years is the sentence that prosecutors are pushing for in the case against Russian punk band Pussy Riot who performed an impromptu concert in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour last February. The group shouted political slogans, dressed in masks and generally acted like, well…punks.
A simple case of hooliganism is being given a sinister, religious spin by prosecutors who are attempting to cast the trio as the whores of Babylon. Sadly, such an approach may prove successful in the surge of pro-Orthodox feelings after the fall of the Soviet Union. The bizarre religious edge to the case is obscene with the band being affronted for wearing “definitely colourful dresses*” which seems to be equal to an act of treason in a country where nationalism and religion are so dangerously interwoven.
On top of this, the reduction of the group’s actions from “protest” to “hooliganism” is also an attempt to pull the veil over Russia’s wooly political atmosphere that the band was trying to give an artistic opinion on. In this light, the state can be seen to be using religion as a levering tool to remove an opposition voice – something that should outrage Christians as much as secular Russians.
Pussy Riot in their "garish hell dresses"

If the mix of ultra-conservative religious fervour and politics doesn’t make you sick enough already then you need only pick up the Sex Pistol’s debut to feel really nauseous. “God Save the Queen the fascist regime”, while tongue in cheek, is a work of provocative, political art that raises a serious point of contention in contemporary Britain. This can be proven by how quickly it flared up again as an issue surrounding the grandiose royal wedding a few months ago with graffiti showing up across the UK showing republican discontent.
While rigid conservative types and royalists were bound to be flustered in 1977, a public court case against the Sex Pistols was never opened. The group was never incarcerated. Society didn’t break out in anarchy. Johnny Rotten changed his name and started flogging butter.
Surely, these attempts to lock up Pussy Riot will achieve nothing but the converse of the prosecution’s hopes. Global attention has been drawn to a band that practically no-one outside of Russia would ever have heard about.  Last night, Madonna was the latest celebrity to add her support the band’s bid for freedom. Unfortunately this kind of foreign support will only be turned into anti-Western propaganda and may prove to be even more damning in court.
So it’s to Russians themselves that this article should be re-directed. Orthodox Christians should be outraged at the use of their church as a tool for furthering political goals. Non-believing Russians should be outraged at the harshness of this sentencing. And everyone involved should be gobsmacked that the prosecution is trying to say that the group’s actions were in no way political.
 *quote taken from:

Photo: Lorena Cupcake (taken from flickr through creative commons)


  1. "Orthodox Christians should be outraged" at who? The Russian state or Pussy Riot or both?

    I'm most disturbed by how this story been reported by the BBC's Putin-hating correspondents. What Pussy Riot did is comparable to the Sex Pistols singing whatever they sang on the altar in Westminster Cathedral - and if they'd done that they probably would have found themselves in court. According to the Moscow Times, the girls' defence lawyer agrees - he says "they would not have been prosecuted if they had performed on the Arbat".

    Not only is all of this completely overlooked by our media, who cite this as another example of evil Putin curtailing freedom of speech as he takes Russia back to the dark old days of Stalinism, they also make out that the girls trial is a Soviet style show trial and they are bound to get 7 years in prison, when in fact, as the Moscow Times article explains, the girls have proper defence lawyers making proper arguments (and being applauded in court for them), and the prosecution is only seeking 3 years, not 7, while Putin has publicly called for leniency.

    Personally I hope they don't go to prison, but some sort of community service would be pretty appropriate. You just can't do these things in 'sacred' spaces (and not just religious ones - museums should be off limits too).

    And I really hope that our media employ some people who actually know something about Russia and can present something which at least tries to resemble reality, instead of using complicated events like this to reinforce their caricature of Putin's Russia. Vot...

  2. Thank you for the long reply! Nice to finally get a kind of debate going on here. I agree that Western media is quick to see Putin as the "evil mastermind" when the issues involved are far more complex than that.

    I also agree that the girls choice of location for the demo was provocative and bound to get them into trouble, but the length of time they have been held for is unreal! It has been turned into a caricature by the heavy handedness of the authorities who are acting as if they are dealing with a serial arson.

    Perhaps my own secular bias has crept into the article somewhat, but I want to see no-one going to prison for simply offending someone. If they were actually preaching religious hatred then I would, rightly, have a different view.