IN THE CULTURE OF ONE WORLD

On Human Rights & Censorship, World Cultures, Wanderlust and Media Criticism

Putin’s Pussy problem | Feminist punk group Pussy Riot calls Vladimir Putin’s Russia “repressive” and “totalitarian”

Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow | Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko

Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow | Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko

Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot said that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the one on trial when they delivered closing arguments in Moscow.  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, one of the three women, said, “If this political system throws itself against three girls … it shows this political system is afraid of truth.” She called the charges against them a “political order for repression” and denounced Putin’s “totalitarian-authoritarian system.” She said Pussy Riot actions are an example of “opposition art.”

“Even though we are behind bars, we are freer than those people. We can say what we want, while they can only say what political censorship allows,” Tolokonnikova added.

Tolokonnikova and her two band mates, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, sat in a glass cage in a courtroom in Moscow during the nine-day trial.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, one of the members, also read a closing statement in the criminal case. This is what she said:

During the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent or express regret for her deeds, or to enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to express my views about the causes of what has happened with us.

The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.

Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national TV channels for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where in fact the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would be pronounced, helping the faithful make the right political choice during the election campaign, a difficult time for Putin. Moreover, all shooting has to take place continuously; the necessary images must sink into the memory and be constantly updated, to create the impression of something natural, constant and compulsory.

Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of this media image, generated and maintained by the authorities for so long, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia.

Perhaps such an unpleasant large-scale effect from our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. First they tried to present our performance as the prank of heartless militant atheists. But they made a huge blunder, since by this time we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out their media raids on the country’s major political symbols.

In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we now expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. Now the whole world sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, Russia looks different in the eyes of the world from the way Putin tries to present it at daily international meetings. All the steps toward a state governed by the rule of law that he promised have obviously not been made. And his statement that the court in our case will be objective and make a fair decision is another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

SOURCE:  Chtodelat News (https://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/yekaterina-samutsevich-closing-statement/)

Amnesty International Demands Russia Release Punk Singers Detained Following Church Performance

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About Randy Gener

CultureofOneWorld.org is a U.S. media project devoted to global politics, public diplomacy, cultural issues, innovative art projects and international reporting in the public interest. Its founder, Randy Gener, is a New York–based editor, writer, critic, dramatist and installation artist. He has been an entertainment reporter for The New York Daily News, a features writer for The Star Ledger, an "Arts & Leisure" writer for the New York Times, a theater critic for Time Out New York, and a staff contributor at The Village Voice, where he was an arts critic from 1991 to 2004. He contributes to NPR (National Public Radio), Miami Herald and The Global Post. His 12 years as Senior Editor of American Theatre magazine earned him the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Deadline Club Award for Best NYC Arts Reporting, and NLGJA Journalist of the Year.

2 comments on “Putin’s Pussy problem | Feminist punk group Pussy Riot calls Vladimir Putin’s Russia “repressive” and “totalitarian”

  1. lowerarchy
    August 17, 2012

    Nice article – thanks

    Like

  2. Pingback: Putin’s Pussy problem | As world awaits Russian court’s verdict, “Free Pussy Riot” protest actions become global « in the theater of One World

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