Russian punk band on trial

Yeah, they’re deadly.

For those of you following my earlier posts mentioning the girl-band “Pussy Riot,” the Russian government has made it clear they’re not kidding around: the girls went on trial today facing a maximum sentence of 7 years.

The BBC has an excellent video report here.

Agence France Presse has a good report as well, noting that the regime and the Orthodox Church are playing right down to the stereotype the girls accuse them of being:

Three women arrested in March over the incident face up to seven years in a prison colony after being charged with hooliganism and have already spent four months awaiting trial behind bars.

Their case has been taken up by celebrities including pop star Sting and US rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

By acting with the utmost harshness, the authorities have turned the obscure group into a household name in a case that, according to some observers, risks becoming a publicity disaster for both Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church.

In a world of “color revolutions,” the Putin regime is showing it’s true color:


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  1. You would think the Pussy Riot girls would be scared straight with a little time in the clink, crying, blubbering, pleading for their freedom, but I don’t think these girls will break that easy. They were protesting against Putin after all, everyone’s ab-flashing dreamboat leader, and had to know the consequences. So now it’s a test of wills, Putin, Putin’s ego, and the Orthodox Church against Punk Rocker Girls. The only way for Putin to win is to crush them completely, their wills and spirits pounded into mush. (Ah, just like the good old days. Am I right, comrade?) Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Unlike repressive Russian regimes of the past, Putin and Company are under 24/7 insta-web media scrutiny. What they need is a high priced Hollywood PR to cover their silly asses and a little iron in their pants. Stop beating up girls, Mr. Putin… You wimp.

  2. Andrew – I think the key here, as you say, is that Putin just doesn’t get it that the arrival of social media is messing up his life. For a man as clearly smart as he is, this is like a huge blind spot for him. (Medvedev, to his credit, understood it and played it well.)

  3. Oh, I think he gets the drill well, and that is why he supports Assad, and of course if you throw in Iran and North Korea into the mix, then you have lots of external opportunities to unite the people, if hopefully around his diplimatic coup of gettting Iran to do a reasonable deal and Assad to gracefully step aside, although that is rather optimistic.

  4. Yeah, Putin is trembling in his boots.

    All this noise about trivialities really means is that the AFPE&P are upset that Russian deaths no longer exceed Russian births by a million a year, as was the case when a gratifyingly submissive Russian government was misruling the place.

    • Wow. That’s kind of cool. Do I apply to join that? Are there dues? Or am I in, and just didn’t get my card already? 🙂

  5. I think it’s increasingly clear that Moscow, especially the MP, has overreached here and is creating sympathy among the GBPC (Global Bien-Pensant Community) for people who deserve none. Pussy Riot don’t belong in jail, but neither are they admirable, much less free speech heroes.

    Moreover, Putin made a point which will resonate with more than a few people (see 2:20) when he stated that, had the PR gals tried that stunt in a synagogue or mosque, far worse would have happened to them than anything so far:

    Russia’s head mufti suggested that the PR gals be sentenced to several years’ hard labor in GULAG fashion, so Putin’s not wrong here.

    And now Dmitriy Rogozin has pwned a leading member of the GBPC over the PR case – in classic Russian in-your-face style … makes the judo master look classy.

  6. To say that PR would have been punished worse for acting up in a mosque is a pretty weak argument. I mean, it’s true…but so what? That’s like beating up your daughter and then defending yourself in court by saying: “Well, if we had been in the Middle East, I could have killed her.”

    Whether the girls are admirable or not isn’t the point. (As I said in the post, I think they’re a lot more admirable than the Occupy Wall St. weenies.) So they caused a fuss in a church. Again: so what? Are the Orthodox now one of those terminally insecure religions, willing to take offense at young girls singing rock songs to the Virgin Mary about Putin? This reminds me of the way that Christian traditionalists treated guitar masses and “Jesus Christ Superstar” back in the 1970s. Not everything that is offensive is worth taking offense over.

    The more important point is that the president of a major country is so insecure and brittle that he’s willing to get into an embarrassing, degrading pissing match with a bunch of kids, and to parade them in jail like they’re murderers. I don’t think the girls are bona-fide heroines any more than the protest rockers of the 1960s were, but Putin seems determined to give them heroic status by acting like a moody teenager who just got lampooned in the school comedy show.

  7. “Are the Orthodox now one of those terminally insecure religions, willing to take offense at young girls singing rock songs to the Virgin Mary about Putin?”

    The “punk prayer” was an obscene parody of the act of Christian worship carried out using excremental language in Russian Orthodoxy’s most important Church in an area just before the sanctuary which contains the Altar access to which is prohibited to all except members of the priesthood. The “punk prayer” contained abuse of the Patriarch, the leader of the Russian Church, calling him a “bitch” (suka) and accusing him of believing in Putin rather than God. The “punk prayer” was carefully planned, the location having obviously been chosen in advance for maximum effect and the form of the “punk prayer” adapted to mimic the order of the Christian service starting with the making of the sign of the cross followed by an obscene prayer to the Virgin (the Theotokos) and ending with a scatological parody of the Sanctus. The “punk prayer” was performed by three young women dressed in skimpy and brightly coloured clothing with bare arms the wearing of which is prohibited in a Russian Orthodox Christian Church and was accompanied by dance and music of a sort also prohibited in a Russian Orthodox Christian Church. The “punk prayer” used offensive and coarse language of a sort that is also prohibited in a Russian Orthodox Church and which Russian Orthodox Christians would be expected to find grossly disrespectful in a house of God.

    “The more important point is that the president of a major country is so insecure and brittle that he’s willing to get into an embarrassing, degrading pissing match with a bunch of kids, and to parade them in jail like they’re murderers.”

    Um, the president of the major country in question isn’t a judicial authority.

  8. Tom, did you know that in happy, shiny, Western-oriented Poland, you can get two years in the slammer for blasphemy (which ‘Punk Prayer” clearly is)?

    “Moscow, August 10, Interfax – Massimo Introvigne, an internationally well-known sociologist of religions, believes Pussy Riot action in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior is a crime and manifestation of xenophobia.

    “Freedom of expression does not include the right to enter a cathedral and shout insults at religion, just as it does not include the right to enter a synagogue and insulting Judaism, or a mosque and insulting Islam – or even a restaurant, uttering profanities at the owner and the clients,” Dr. Introvigne said in his interview with Interfax-Religion.

    According to him, if words such as ‘bitch’ and ‘shit’ were used in the song performed in the church ambo, “this would be illegal under American, Italian, or European Union law”.

    “Assuming that what I read about the case correctly describes it, and that the group entered the cathedral in Moscow and performed a song including obscene words aimed at the Church, the Patriarch and religion – not only at political Russian figures, as some Western media have incorrectly reported – this would have been regarded as a crime under the law of any Western country,” the expert stressed.

    In 2011, he was the Representative of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) for combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.”

  9. rkka –

    First, I don’t care about what you could get in Poland, I care about what is happening in Russia. If you trash a church in the United States, you can be fined for criminal trespass, too. But two things to consider:

    1. I don’t care what all the other mommies might hypothetically do, I care about the case that’s actually happening. And,

    2. Normally, the President of a nation does not get involved with trespassing or other misdemeanors. If this happened in Boston, it would make the “Metro/Region” section of The Boston Globe , and be forgotten. (True story: Some people got arrested for having sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on a dare from some radio DJs some years ago. No one remembers it now. No one cares.)

    The Russian regime, both at home and abroad, constantly acts like a teenage girl threatening to lock herself in the bathroom until everyone stops saying she’s fat — even if no one has said that. After everything Russia has been through this century, including the horrors of Nazi attack and Communist rule, it’s a shame to see it ruled by such a juvenile and thin-skinned regime.

  10. By the way, I found PR’s lyrics offensive too. But that’s the price of freedom: you put up with things that are offensive. Your listing of the offensive nature of the song at the cathedral is of course upsetting: I, too, am Orthodox, and would have been one of the first to call the cops to have the girls hauled out of there and sent home with a court date for trespass and mischief.

    But I live in a country where two decades ago, Sinead O’Connor “shocked” us all by ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II on live TV. Americans, however, reacted the right way: We did nothing to O’Connor except to stop buying her records, and to stop inviting her to be on our national television shows. Problem solved.

    Seen “superstar” Sinead O’Connor recently? No. The market, and the public, spoke clearly. Much more effective. Arresting her for…well, whatever…would have made her a hero, just as Putin is doing to PR now.

  11. ” I care about what is happening in Russia.”

    In this case, it’s called law enforcement.

    But I really doubt that you really care about Russia. For instance, did you know that in 2012 births in Russia may well equal deaths? With a few minor and recent exceptions, the “Putin steals to build Crimean palaces for himself while The Bear lies dying” meme dominates Anglosphere discourse on the topic, despite data showing the rapid improvement of Russia vital stats since around 2006.

    Deep down, I suspect the AFPE&P are far more upset about the methods used to end Russia’s demographic death spiral than they ever were about Russia’s 1990s demographic death spiral itself. And the hissy fit around PR the Anglosphere is having is indicative both of its inveterate hostility to Russia and of its complete irrelevance to Russia.

  12. Any use of the police can be called “law enforcement.” (Technically, hosing down black protesters in the Deep South was “law enforcement,” too.)

    I’m not sure who inhabits this “Anglosphere” you think is so interested in Russia; it’s typical of Russian nationalists and the media to believe that no one in the West has breakfast before obsessing about what’s going on in Russia, but the world’s a lot bigger than that. Insecure countries tend toward conspiracy theories, and Russia is no different.

    At this point, I suspect that most U.S. and Western policymakers have, for now, given up on waiting for the Kremlin to outgrow this adolescent phase. I think we all had higher hopes for a faster maturing of the Russian political class, and for Russia to rejoin the fraternity of civilized nations. Mostly, it has — but it’s just taking longer than decent people might hope. (And longer in jail for a bunch of girls who should have been made to spend a few days cleaning up litter around Moscow’s parks as a penance than being thrown in jail.)

  13. “At this point, I suspect that most U.S. and Western policymakers have, for now, given up on waiting for the Kremlin to outgrow this adolescent phase. ”

    No, it seems to be just the Anglosphere. The French are bulding LPHs for the Russian Navy. The Germans are building a fully-instrumented brigade-sized training range for the Russian Army near Nizhny-Novgorod. The Italians were the main contractor for laying the Blue Stream and Nord Stream pipe. These governments seem to get along with the Russian government pretty well.

    It’s just the Anglosphere that demands the Russian government abjectly submit as a precondition for just about anything. And I’m sure they were deeply gratified when the drunken comprador buffoon Yeltsin fulfilled their every, every wish.

    But those days are over.

  14. Everyone does business with Russia — including the United States. Whether they take Russia into account in international affairs is another matter, as Qaddafi found out, and as Assad is probably about to find out.

    I find this argument strange. I would think you would object to these financial and business deals as exploiting Russia, which is treated, in many ways, as the economic equivalent of a third world country: the cash generated by the inflated price of natural resources is redistributed to wealthy foreign firms, who are more than happy to build big infrastructure projects to deliver those resources, and to sell military hardware that will never be used, to a regime that has plenty of money but precious little budgetary or common sense.

    Russia’s money is as good as anyone else’s. But the one thing it can’t buy is respect, which Putin is spending away faster than it can be replaced.

  15. “Everyone does business with Russia — including the United States.”

    LOL! Tom, such is US paranoia about Putin that the US Congress cannot manage to pass legislation whose only practical effect would be to allow US companies to benefit from Russia’s entry into the WTO!! Note that this FAIL won’t prevent Russia entering the WT. Russia is in whether Congress likes it or not. All it means is that Russia need not extend the provisions of the WTO to US exports to Russia until Congress pulls their heads out.

    “But the one thing it can’t buy is respect, which Putin is spending away faster than it can be replaced.”

    The French, German, and Italian governments value their relations with Russia. Since they share a continent, they all know they have no choice but to find a way to live together. And they seem to be doing pretty well at it.

    It’s the Anglosphere (sea powers) who think they can set conditions for Russia.

    And they get put on ‘Ignore’ because of it.

    • Except that Russia needs trade — anyone’s trade — more than the U.S. needs Russian trade (which is now around $10 billion). Of course Jackson-Vanik should be repealed; but the idea that somehow the U.S. isn’t involved in trade with Russia not only is factually wrong, but misses the point that even a lot of EU companies — Russia’s big partner, along with China — are multinationally owned.

      I feel like this whole conversation is caught in a time warp sometime around 1990. Wow. 🙂

      • Russia has trade. Lots and lots of it. So much of it in fact that Russia has no need to listen to a lot of bleating about PR.

        “Of course Jackson-Vanik should be repealed”

        Except that the people who have the power to do so disagree with you. The people who have that power think that Russia somehow needs their approval and should therefore must jump through more hoops to get it.

        And they’re the ones that matter on this issue, not you.

        “I feel like this whole conversation is caught in a time warp sometime around 1990.”

        Bill Clinton observed to Strobe Talbott “We keep telling ol’ Boris ‘Okay, here’s what you have to do next. Here’s some more sh*t for your face.'” Bill wasn’t happy with that. What Bill couldn’t do was to get the US foreign policy process to come up with anything for ol’ Boris other than additional platefuls of the brown stuff.

        That continues to this day. The only difference is that the Russian government no longer believe that to be an adequate basis for US-Russian relations, though many in DC openly pine for those days.

        Hence all the noise they’re making about PR.

    • I still don’t understand your point. I mean, I get it: Pussy Riot is an offensive group of louts. So were the Sex Pistols. (Their music sucked, too.) And that means what, exactly? Should the Archbishop of Canterbury and 10 Downing St. have gotten together to decry Johnny Rotten’s insults to Her Majesty (and the Defender of the Faith), and thrown them all in Dartmoor Prison?

      You keep responding as though I’m defending the girls of Pussy Riot on their own principles. I’m not. I’m merely pointing out that Putin is acting like an insecure, pissy teenager, and that the Russian Orthodox Church is acting like Scientology.

      And John – you know that Rod Dreher and The American Conservative don’t mean anything to me. If we must, let’s just agree with Dreher’s right-up-front lead: The Kremlin and the Church are making a huge mistake doing this. That far, I can go. The rest — well, seriously, who gives a rat’s ass about the politics or lyrics of Pussy Riot? I mean, cripes, calling them a “punk” band is an insult to the real punks of the 1970s, who were no-shit anarchists.

      I give Pussy Riot their due respect for one thing: doing their time in prison and hanging tough, when “activists” and “protesters” in other parts of the world crap their pants at the first whiff of tear gas.

      You really want to put down Pussy Riot and send them to oblivion? Then encourage the Russian government to do what mature governments do with grandstanding children: ignore them. The longer this goes on, the stupider the Kremlin (and the Church) ends up looking.

  16. The Sex Pistols spewed their slime in appropriate venues which they had legally contracted, stadiums and auditoriums, to their paying fans. Not a crime.

    PR spewed their slime in a cathedral they had barged into, to people who had come for a church service. A crime.

  17. The Pistols were arrested in 1977 when a fistfight broke out during their attempted performance of the song from a boat called “The Queen Elizabeth.” If memory serves, they did not then spend the next seven months in prison at the behest of the Prime Minister.

  18. The Sex Pistols were not infrequently louts in public, including the first-ever f-bomb dropped on live British TV.

    That said, Johnny, Sid, and the boys never burst into Westminster Abbey in the middle of a service, screaming obscenities from the altar … can’t imagine it would have entered their minds.

  19. John: I bet if the Archibishop and the PM had declared them to be enemies of the Realm, they’d have tried it.

    We’re both fathers, and we both know that kids do things to get reactions. Mature adults don’t take the bait. If PR has become some kind of minor cause celebre in Russia, Putin and the Patriarch now have no one to blame but themselves. The whole incident, and Pussy Riot itself, would by now already be forgotten, if the Kremlin were run by grown-ups. The whole thing would have been just be a footnote in a social history of Russia, if that much. Too late now.

    • ” If PR has become some kind of minor cause celebre in Russia, Putin and the Patriarch now have no one to blame but themselves”

      Nonsense. Putin-phobic media like Moscow Times and Novaya Gazeta would have screamed about it, and the Putin-phobic Washington Post/FL/VoA/etc as well as the Murdoch rags would have picked it up, no matter what Putin and the Patriarch would have done.