Writing assignment 1
24 February 2014
Punk Prayer in Russia
With an intentionally vulgar and attention grabbing name, the anonymous feminist activist group “Pussy Riot” has been making international headlines for the last two years. In February 2012, clad in their standard brightly colored balaclavas, to conceal their identity, a group of five women walked into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and attempted a musical protest against the Orthodox Church and its support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who they view as a dictator. They were immediately stopped by security but they had captured enough footage from the incident to release a video on YouTube of their self-proclaimed punk prayer entitled “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away”. The group of around a dozen women had been gaining in notoriety by taking to the streets performing these unscheduled punk rock protests at significant public locations. They protest the current state of human rights in Russia and draw particular focus onto the countries perspective on women’s equality and LGBT rights. The next month three members of the group were arrested and two of which were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism. This began the rise of the plight of “Pussy Riot” and of the two imprisoned members, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, to international attention. The two were realeased just prior to the start of this year’s 2014 Olympic games in Sochi in what is seen by many as a ploy to make Putin appear sympathetic to their cause and more accepting to athletes and spectators concerned about the countries homophobic atmosphere. To try and understand the true motives of the activist group, why they have earned such wide spread recognition and how they have used social media to assist them in their cause are issues that deserve a closer examination.
While the actions of these women may seem brave and courageous to the liberal minded western viewer, Russian officials strive to remind people that this is a group of dissidents that they feel are dangerous and promote anti-Kremlin ideas. The two aforementioned members had previously belonged to an artist activist group known as Voina, (the Russian word for war) of witch pussy riot is considered to be a faction. Voina has been accused of setting fire to police car. Painting offensive graffiti on a St. Petersburg drawbridge and conducting a group orgy inside a Moscow Biology museum in 2008 to protest limited sexual expression due to government oppression. These incidents remind that the behavior of dissident radicals can be provacative and dangerous and, perhaps, should not to be supported unless fully understood. There is a deeper root cause for these actions beyond just the hooliganism for which they are charged. While they act against Putin’s Regime their idealism does not stop there as Vadem Nikitin author of the New York Times article The Wrong Reasons To Support Pussy Riot states “These young people are as contemptuous of capitalism as they are of Putinism. They want freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, religion, conventional morality, inequality and the entire corporate state system”. The groups zany antics may seems easily likeable to western viewers who are desensitized regularly by celebrities like Madonna and Lady Gaga, or to those interested in “its usefulness in discrediting one of Americas geopolitical forces (Nikitim)”. It is important to remember that the activist group represents an anti-government ideology that applies to the west just as much as it does to Russia.
The Russian government while having decriminalized homosexuality in the early 90’s has recently enacted an anti-gay propaganda law that has come under much scrutiny in the last year. This is but one example of the authoritarian style of Putin and the Kremlin. This law has provoked a demand for a more fairly democratic society and has fueled activism and