Pussy Riot Goes on Trial in Moscow

If you’ve been following the news from Russia, you’ve heard of Pussy Riot, the fem-punk band, three of whose members go on trial in Moscow this Monday.   (In case you’re wondering what the Russian is for “Pussy Riot,” it’s exactly that–“Pussy Riot,” spelled out in English letters.)  The group got started during last fall’s street protests, with a shock-and-awe mission of unannounced blitz performances in unlikely locales.  Example:  bursting into Moscow’s famed Church of the Savior, making straight for the altar, and breaking into a rock performance of a brand new hymn:  “O Holy Virgin, Drive Putin Out.”  Watch it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALS92big4TY

They are charged with hooliganism.  In the Putin era, as under the tsars, the government and the Russian Orthodox Church act hand in glove.  The other piece of this puzzle is the country’s thoroughly corrupt judiciary, whose judges are too dependent on the existing political system to issue an independent verdict. So although the defense counsel has the right to call witnesses, all those whom it wishes to call have been disallowed by the court.  If the defendants are convicted and given the maximum penalty, they’ll be spending the next seven years in a labor camp.

There are questions to ponder.  Does the punishment fit the crime?  Was this in fact a crime according to Russian law, or was it a lesser offense?

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3 comments


  1. Christina Claxton

    I am not at all familiar with the Russian judiciary system or the country’s laws, but I have mixed feelings about the “hooliganism” charge. First, the fact that it is actually called hooliganism is somewhat comical (if Trinity was located in Russia, some of our students would need to fear being charged with such a crime, based on many of the late night activities I have observed). On another note, as an on-looker, calling the actions of Pussy Riot at the Church of the Savior “hooliganism” seems to me to be a bureaucratic way of convicting these people of what was, at its core, free speech. Is the seven year sentence to a labor camp fair? Considering the crime, probably not. Regardless of my own feelings about this group’s opinions and behaviors, I do not think that their impromptu concert should warrant such a punishment.

    • Connor Campbell

      Well… i have to say that the name really caught me by surprise. It shall be interesting to see what happens with the psuedo-mainstream culture and if they are effective in bringing about change.

    • The first time I saw the world “hooliganism” in a news report about criminal charges in Eastern Europe, I was as astonished as you were. To me it had meant drunk and disorderly. The American Press really should translate this term in news stories, perhaps as “gross disorderly conduct”.

      Definition from the Ozhegov Dictionary of the Russian Language:
      Hooliganism: Conduct which reveals clear disrespect for society, for human dignity, gross disorderlyness. “Convicted of hooliganism.”

      One can plausibly argue that to go into a church, put on an outlandish costume, play loud music, and sing a song with crude sexual imagery is a display of “gross disrespect for society” and “gross disorderlyness”.

      The charge “inciting religious hatred” is currently code for “criticising the conduct of clergymen”. It is a way to make protected speach sound criminal.

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