Russian Pussy Riot

Who is Pussy Riot, and why is any halfway credible newspaper allowed to publish anything with so vulgar a title? Freedom of speech laws, of course, something which does not have a concrete equivalent in Russia where the protest-punk band originates, and this is why you should know their name.

A collective  that formed sometime mid-2011 started with  a group that consisted, until recently, of all anonymous members who would gain notoriety by going into public spaces and performing their music illegally. The music performed was and is anti-government, pro-freedom and particularly hateful of the relationship between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. In the course of their political discourse, the punk group loudly declares that this incestual mixing of church and state is the causing and sustaining force of the patriarchal society which has allowed anti-women and anti-LGBTQ hate crimes to proliferate.

The group gained international acclaim in February 2012, with a music video portraying the group storming onto the ‘soleas’ or altar, of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior to provide visual material for their breakthrough song, “A Punk Prayer” in which they beseeched the Mother Mary to become a feminist and for God to remove Putin from power. Three members were subsequently arrested and unmasked in charges of hooliganism, a glorious name for a crime.

The trial and circumstances around their arrest created international turmoil which, to this day, has not subsided. A slew of acclaimed artists, including Paul McCartney and Madonna have come forward to hail the group as activist heroes deserving freedom while Russian protest groups vie to keep the momentum  the Pussy Riot created, moving forward towards a more equal state. On the flipside, there is nonsensical, yet widespread, debate about whether or not the group was being paid by outside forces to destabilize the Russian government. Conspiracy theories abound  that blame everyone from Amnesty International to the CIA, even including personal blame on Obama for the group’s actions.

These claims are ridiculous. As silly and underhanded as the CIA is known to be, this laying of blame is obviously a diversionary tactic by orthodox Russians who wish to proliferate the paradigm of inequality and feel threatened by any real discussion or opposition.

Most notable of the trio has been one Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, otherwise known as Nadia. International human rights groups such as Amnesty International have started campaigns to either free the woman or to see that she is treated with dignity.

She is currently being held in the Mordovian prison colonies, a maximum security prison that operates in practice a lot like any other illegal political prison: 15 hour work days, deprivation of hygiene and food and general psychological torture allowed under Russian Federal law. In response, Nadia is currently undergoing an extensive hunger strike in protest to the colony conditions.

“I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves.”

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