Update: Pussy Riot Gets Two Years

An update on a story we’ve been following. A Russian court today convicted  three members of Pussy Riot, a punk band that stormed the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral last winter to perform a “punk prayer” to protest Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, of criminal hooliganism and sentenced them to two years in prison. By Western standards, it’s a harsh and disproportionate sentence. By way of comparison, when members of a group called ACT-UP disrupted a Mass at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1989, they received only misdemeanor convictions and no jail time. Similarly, in June, a New York court convicted Occupy Wall Street protesters of trespassing on property owned by Trinity Church; again, only misdemeanor convictions and no jail time.

But Russia is different. Before we get all sanctimonious about how much better we are in the West, though, it’s worth reflecting on a couple of things. First, as I’ve written before, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour has a sad history. The Communists dynamited the first version of the cathedral as part of an anti-Christian campaign in the 1930s, and Christians remain very sensitive about it. Notwithstanding the politicization and corruption in the Russian Orthodox Church, many believers genuinely feel pain at the desecration of the cathedral and what they see as anti-Christian animus. (Right on cue, in response to today’s sentencing, a topless female protester got a chain saw and cut down a cross in central Kiev that commemorated the victims of Communism. Way to win people over to your point of view!). Second, the media’s selective outrage is a little hard to take. Putin’s human-rights record has been poor for a long time now. Many less well known protesters remain in prison. Yet not so long ago, bien-pensant types like Goldie Hawn and Sharon Stone gave Putin a standing ovation when he crooned “Blueberry Hill” at a charity fundraiser. So what’s so different now? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, had the members of Pussy Riot not been so telegenic, and had their target not been the bad old Orthodox Church, the media would have paid much less attention.

Back to CLR Forum

About these ads

2 responses to “Update: Pussy Riot Gets Two Years

  1. Andrey Panov

    Your conclusions demonstrate that you really have no clue whatsoever as to why Russia is different. The media attentions is not due to their alleged targeting of the orthodox church, it is rather because this trial demonstrated what criminal cases in Russia are about. Not that many people really care about the church and this new fake building of the cathedral does not have any connotations whatsoever among the majority of the believers, other than that it is strikingly ugly.

  2. I agree with you that this case has received a bit more attention because the band members are relatively attractive females. Additionally, the fact that media gets throw around the word “pussy” probably doesn’t hurt either. But following this case in the German press, where I live, I think you are way off base that the world press has taken an extra interest in this case because of some bias toward religion. Every article I have read to date barely mentions religion other then to point out that hatred toward religion is the crux of the case against these punk rockers.

    The focus here in Germany at least has been how this case illustrates the failure of the rule of law in Putin’s Russia. Furthermore, I think the fact that he is once again exercising absolute power makes this story even more timely and newsworthy. Finally, most of what I read acknowledges that some kind of trespass took place here, and a fine would be in order. But of course, that is not the case the Russian government lodged against them.

    I may have, of course missed, the deeply hidden anti-religion agenda in the articles that I read, but I doubt it.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s