Why the Pussy Riot Case Still Matters

The punk feminists protest the abuses of Russia's authoritarian state.

(Page 2 of 2)

• Meanwhile, the Church has yet to censure priests who openly praise mass-murdering Communist dictator Joseph Stalin or preach Jew-hatred (such as Alexander Shumsky of Moscow's St. Nicholas Church, who routinely does both in his articles and blogposts).

• In a striking display of favoritism for Orthodoxy as a quasi-official state religion, dozens of buildings seized from the Catholic and Lutheran churches in Kaliningrad (formerly the German city of Konigsberg) after World War II have not been returned to their proper denominations but handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church instead.

• Less favored faiths still endure frequent discrimination and abuse. Just last month, the evangelical Church of the Holy Trinity in Moscow was bulldozed into rubble after the city refused to renew its land-use permit; church belongings, including costly audio equipment, were carted away by the demolition team. A few days later, pastor Sergei Romanyuk was briefly arrested for conducting a prayer service—deemed an unsanctioned rally--at the site.

• In May 2007, the Russian Orthodox Church allowed Putin to speak from the ambo of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior at the signing of the Church's cooperation agreement with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. (Apparently, the presence of a KGB thug in a sacred space is far less objectionable than the presence of girl rockers.) Father Mikhail Ardov, an archpriest who now belongs to a schismatic church, has remarked that, from an Orthodox point of view, for any layman to "talk down" to church hierarchs from the ambo was simply "crazy."

• Last year, after the announcement that Medvedev would step aside to let Putin run for a third presidential term, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of Public Relations, praised this cozy arrangement as a "peaceful, dignified, honorable, friendly transfer of power” that other nations could envy. In January, Chaplin suggested that Russia should step up its military involvement abroad to thwart “orange experiments” (Kremlin-speak for alleged U.S.-manipulated subversion, after Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange revolution”).

• During the Pussy Riot trial, a group of the women's supporters gathered on the steps of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior holding letters that spelled out "Blessed be the merciful." They were beaten and driven away by cathedral security.

The list could go on. Not surprisingly, many Russian Christians, including members of the clergy, have been turning away from the established Orthodox Church—sometimes joining schismatic groups and sometimes taking their faith private. The Pussy Riot case, in which the Church professed non-interference even as it lambasted attempts to minimize the crime and called for severe punishment, has pushed away more believers.

Whatever their faults, the punk feminists' small riot in the cathedral has laid bare a situation that both secular liberals and Christian conservatives should find equally abhorrent: the corruption of religion by state power.
So keep the prizes coming. Don't stop with the fundraisers. As the women's appeal moves ahead, the Kremlin should know that the world is watching. When political prisoners are pitted against their oppressors, not to side with the prisoners is the worst indecency of all.

This article originally appeared at RealClearPolitics.

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  • OldMexican||

    Why the Pussy Riot Case Still Matters

    Because... you can't let go?

  • affenkopf||

    Because property rights don't matter when it comes to bashing people you don't like?

  • ||

    They weren't charged with trespassing, they were charged with hooliganism. Which basically means doing something the government doesn't like.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: heller,

    They weren't charged with trespassing, they were charged with hooliganism.


    Do you know whose problem is it? Not mine - their attorney's.

    They TRESPASSED. Period.

  • Paul.||

    I'm a bit neutral on the pussy riot case, but let's say for a moment that they trespassed (which I believe they probably did), doesn't the sentence seem a little harsh for a trespass? Like, why not 90 hours of community service or something?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Ya I think it is harsh. I think just a plain old fine would be preferable for first offense.

    But it's far from a unambiguous free speech case. If a bunch of neo nazis trespassed onto a synagogue, they'd probably get the harshest sentence possible. And then nobody would be bitching at all. So while the harshness of the sentence is almost definitely related to specifics of who trespassed against whom, so is the bitching.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Paul,

    doesn't the sentence seem a little harsh for a trespass?


    Yes, very much. It's appalling, it's outrageous. Doesn't excuse them, just by virtue of the harshness of the punishment, for their trespassing.

  • FD||

    The objective of the state was not to be equitable or fair in its sentence.
    It was to teach a lesson, just like the fascist trash has always done in that neck of the woods.
    Err, check that. I mean, as the state does everywhere.

  • Robert||

    Yeah, that's the trouble. I can't really take their side, because they were trespassing and creating a nuisance. Just because the church is in bed with the regime doesn't mean there weren't people there who were sincerely there to worship, conduct a ceremony, or even just to take in the sights of the church. So it's not like the dance-in at the Jefferson Memorial, which after all is public property, and where the dancing wasn't done to dis the other visitors.

    But the penalty was grossly disproportionate to their actions, so I can't take the opposing side either.

    Still, I don't begrudge Ms. Young for using the news hook to point out some unsavory things about the Russian Establishment.

  • ||

    So if a thief gets charged for a murder he didn't commit, you don't have a problem with that?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Hey, sounds like something happening in my hometown. Well, who killed the innocent party isn't in question, but fingering the person who stole from him (as opposed to the cop who gunned the victim down) as the proximate cause of his death doesn't pass the smell test to me.

  • OldMexican||

    Patriarch Kirill, like most of the senior hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, rose through church ranks in the Soviet era as an active collaborationist with the atheistic Soviet regime[...]

    Do you know whose problem is it? Not mine.

    Was Pussy Riot's act in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior a political protest or a religious insult?

    Oh, don't spin so much, you'll get dizzy.

    The question should be: "Was it a breach of the agreement between parishioners and the Church to keep the place open and public for easy access to prayer and church services"? In other words, did the punk girls TRESPASS on PRIVATE PROPERTY that is open only for convenience of the parishioners?

    If they did, then their intentions are totally, absolutely irrelevant. I don't care if a person had the best and angelical of intentions when he trespasses on my home - I'll still shoot him very dead.

    It does not matter if they entered the place for a sweet and nice political protest or to insult the sensibilities of church-goers. It was TRESPASSING on PRIVATE PROPERTY - PERIOD.

  • Tonio||

    Well, that's a grand oversimplification, OM.

    Did the church actually check to see if persons entering were parishioners, or did they just, like, leave the doors open?

    Also, how does the church determine who is indeed a legitimate parishioner, and who isn't? Are there membership cards? Do churches have reciprocal membership privilieges with other churches?

    Sorry, but NOT analagous to your private home. And btw, if you leave your doors open it's considered an invitation to enter under english common law (obviously not relevant in Russia).

    BTW, are you now using Dunphy's (TRO - PBUH) style manual?

  • R C Dean||

    The Russian Orthodox Church is pretty much an arm of the state, so I don't get the critiques based on property rights or Christfag-bashing. Its like saying you shouldn't protest the government at the DMV.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: R C Dean,

    The Russian Orthodox Church is pretty much an arm of the state,

    Do you know whose problem that is? Not mine - their attorney's.

    so I don't get the critiques based on property rights or Christfag-bashing.

    The Cathedal was rebuilt by the Orthodox Church as the original was demolished by the Soviet Regime - so it belongs to the Church. So don't give this simplistic explanation that the Church is the "arm of the State", which would make anyone renting space in public land an "arm of the State."

    Its like saying you shouldn't protest the government at the DMV.

    No, I wouldn't. Not by making the people with valid business there miserable.

  • Calidissident||

    No one said it's your problem. Why do you keep repeating it? You are irrelevant to the argument.

    If they were arrested for trespassing and given an appropriate punishment, no one here would complain. Giving them a two year sentence for "hooliganism" is the part people take issue with.

  • Tonio||

    OM, if it's [NOT YOUR PROBLEM] why are you commenting so obsessively about it? Someone is butt-hurt.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tonio,

    OM, if it's [NOT YOUR PROBLEM] why are you commenting so obsessively about it?


    It means: It's irrelevant.

    The supposedly cozy relationship between the Orthodox Church and the State; the harshness of the punishment; whether they were accused of hooliganism (whatever that means) or of being the second gunman on the grassy knoll - it's all irrelevant. They trespassed on private property, a CLEAR act of aggression. Anything else said by Ms. Young is only one more over a pile of red herrings.

    Ms. Young upstairs seems to look at this as if they committed a peccata minuta and should not be prosecuted at all. Why? Why, because they trespassed on a Church! Religion - yuck! They should be commended, not condemned!

  • Robert||

    "Religion - yuck!" is not like Ms. Young at all. However, Ms. Young is so notoriously even-handed in her writing that it stands out when she passes up the opp'ty -- and I would say the obligation -- to consider the other side here.

  • Alan||

    Um, these ladies were arrested for a prayer said in a church.

    It may not be your traditional prayer, and it may not please certain people who profit from the status quo, but it seems to be at least as much of a statement of faith as most of what goes on in the Russian Orthodox Church. Good article all around.

  • John||

    You know what other case still matters? The poor bastard sitting in solitary out in California for making the Muhammad movie trailer. That guy is still in jail. How about we worry about free speech in the US?

  • affenkopf||

    Technically he's in jail for violating his parole (just like Pussy Riot are technically in jail for hooliganism not trespassing.)

  • OldMexican||

    Re: affenkopf,

    Technically he's in jail for violating his parole (just like Pussy Riot are technically in jail for hooliganism not trespassing.)


    The big difference being that one committed a real crime...

    ... whereas the other made a movie.

  • Paul.||

    John makes a good point. Nakoula "technically" violated his parole by using the internet.

    Of course I haven't heard any specific evidence that he personally uploaded the video. I'm sure he had people for that.

    The point here is that if the government wants to jam you, they'll jam you. They won't censor your speech or jail you for blasphemy, they'll jail you for trespassing, hooliganism or using the internet in contradiction of your parole...

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yes, the sentences were exceessive - a 60 day suspended sentence on "disturbing the peace" grounds would have sufficed, and anything extra is political discrimination worthy of an American "hate crime" law.

    And of course the Church authorities are snuggled up too closely against the state authorities - I think the term is Caesaro-Papism.

    The problem is in suggesting that there was no crime at all in the protest. As I suggested, a 60 days suspended sentence for disturbing the peace would have been fully justified.

    Consider a group of Orthodox Christians going to the American Atheist headquarters - a private building - and holding a "pray-in" against "atheistic socialism." I'm sure these hypothetical protesters and their supporters could work themselves into a fine froth of indignation at the very idea that they should be punished or that they violated anyone's rights - what about all the crimes of the atheists, to which they're trying to draw attention?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Eduard van Haalen,

    And of course the Church authorities are snuggled up too closely against the state authorities - I think the term is Caesaro-Papism.


    After 70 years of persecussion, I think it is understandable that the Church does not want to get into a pissing contest with the current regime and so hedge their bets. Is that supposed to be so objectionable that you can justify these women's trespassing on church property?

    I can't justify it, not on the Non-Aggression principle.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Chill out, tovarisch, or at least read what I wrote:

    "As I suggested, a 60 days suspended sentence for disturbing the peace would have been fully justified."

    How on earth do you get from there to "Is that supposed to be so objectionable that you can justify these women's trespassing on church property?"

    The article shows what the current Patriarch was doing during the "70 years of [persecution]" - he was denying that the persecution was taking place. So there is a certain degree of ... continuity ... between the collaborationism of the Orthodox Church leaders under Communism and the collaborationism of Church leaders today.

    And the article also mentions the charming priest who praises Stalin. Now that the 70 years of persecution are over, maybe it's time for the Patriarch to rein in that particular priest? Which he doesn't seem to have done so far?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Eduard van Haalen,

    Now that the 70 years of persecution are over, maybe it's time for the Patriarch to rein in that particular priest? Which he doesn't seem to have done so far?

    Do you know whose problem that is? The church's, not mine. That's THEIR problem, that's THEIR guy.

    AND, it is IRRELEVANT. All of that is irrelevant, it does NOT justify trespassing or violence. Just because I have some loud-mouth asshole working at my store does not give anybody the power to trespass in and cause a ruckus.

    RIGHTS ARE NOT ABRIDGED BY PEOPLE'S PAST COMMENTS OR BELIEFS. Period.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Again with the straw men? When, far from "justify[ing] trespassing or violence" I said they could rightly be punished for disturbing the peace?"

    I have a problem with handing out two-year sentences - this isn't about the punishment fitting the crime, but about tacking on extra punishment because of the politics of the defendants.

    In your all-or nothing world, either the protesters are right or the sentences are right.

    Can't you see the American analogy - an enhanced sentence for a defendant whose crime was motivated by race, sex, etc?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Eduard van Haalen,

    I have a problem with handing out two-year sentences

    So do I. Is the article, however, about excessive sentences for hooiganism, or about making false comparisons between one set of people and the Pussy Riot gals as a way to justify the actions of the latter?

    [...] about tacking on extra punishment because of the politics of the defendants.

    That's a possibility - except that these girls were not nabbed in the middle of the night by the NKVD and strapped to chairs while undergoing lengthy interrogations. NO, they were arrested after TRESPASSING on PRIVATE PROPERTY, creating a ruckus and frightening parishioners.

    This is very easy: The sentence is strictly their and their attorney's problem.

    Can't you see the American analogy - an enhanced sentence for a defendant whose crime was motivated by race, sex, etc?

    Sure, I can see it. So? I am clearly not in the business of entering churches to start a happening, so I simply cannot relate to their problem - I leave that to their attorney. I still have a sense of civility in my body.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    A lot of your indignation against me seems to be straw-manning, so it's very difficult to find how much we actually disagree.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Edward van Haalen,

    A lot of your indignation against me seems to be straw-manning, so it's very difficult to find how much we actually disagree.

    I don't sense much disagreement except when justifying the actions of the girls compared to the actions of the State. I am appalled at the terrible sentence they received, but I see it this way: It's THEIR PROBLEM. It was THEY who TRESPASSED; nobody pointed a gun on their fucking heads to make them do it. They made the choice, THEY know where they live (I mean, it's Russia for creeps sake!) and still took a very high risk - and lost. Why would that make them LESS GUILTY OF TRESPASSING? I cannot say.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "I don't sense much disagreement except when justifying the actions of the girls compared to the actions of the State....Why would that make them LESS GUILTY OF TRESPASSING?"

    When the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz held his family reunion, there were fewer straw men than in your post.

    "They made the choice, THEY know where they live (I mean, it's Russia for creeps sake!) and still took a very high risk - and lost."

    I'm not sure how that prevents liberty-fanciers all over the world from commenting on the excessive sentence.

  • Tonio||

    But I thought this was NOT YOUR PROBLEM(tm), yet you're still blathering on...

  • Applederry||

    Just to clarify:

    You don't thinks there's any problems with previously oppressed groups seeking and receiving special treatment from the current government because the past government persecuted them?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Appledery,

    Yes, I see many problems. Who is receiving special treatment, by the way?

  • Applederry||

    In this case? The Church.

    Because Pussy Riot was charged and convicted of "hooliganism with religious hatred", which is pretty much the equivalent of a hate crime law here in the US, rather than the more appropriate trespassing crime that would be charged in any other private property venue.

  • Tonio||

    ^This. OM is pwned.

  • Robert||

    I like that one: persecution + suppression = persecussion. Except it sounds too much like "discussion" or "sucussion". But every time I try portmanteauing them the other way, it sounds too much like "supper" and gets too long.

  • OldMexican||

    Here are a few things that should offend Christians—in Russia or in America—far more than Pussy Riot's antics

    This is the height of intellectual dishonesty when you present as defense for an action totally irrelevant, past actions by unrelated individuals.

    If I'm ever in court, I'm sure I can convice a jury that, due to the fact Ted Bundy was a much worse person than I, then I should not be punished.

  • Tonio||

    Pot, why are you dissing Kettle for being sooty?

  • Robert||

    I don't think Ms. Young deliberately presented that as a defense, but unfortunately that's the way it looks, possibly because she prioritized getting every possible shot in higher than her usual fairness to the other side. Her trouble was that she had to wase thru a few layers of "reaction to reaction" in writing a piece of reasonable length.

  • SugarFree||

    The staying power of this story is the naughty thrill so many journalists get out saying/typing "Pussy Riot."

  • Ska||

    And the hot chick on the end. Don't forget the hot chick.

  • SugarFree||

    She helps quite a bit.

  • Coeus||

    And she's the one they let go. Hardly seems fair, does it?

  • OldMexican||

    Last week, the women were nominated for Germany's "Fearless Word" Martin Luther prize and voted finalists for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

    Which speaks volumes about the level of dishonesty and moral bankruptcy that permeates the Martin Luther organization and the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought organization.

    I get that Putin is a detestable individual. That does not turn the Pussy Riot girls into great stalwarts for honest intellectual discourse.

  • grrizzly||

    Mexican, take a chill pill. Not interested in what's happening in Russia? Then don't post 15 times in the thread that discusses the events there. Just wait, Reason will post something about Mexico real soon.

  • John||

    I feel bad for them. And I think Russia is wrong to imprison them. But at the same time there is something called national sovereignty. Is throwing these chicks in jail, while awful, so bad that it transforms the issue from a national one to an international one? I don't see how.

  • John||

    And to make my point. Think of it this way. How is what Russia is doing here any worse than giving someone fifteen or twenty years in federal prison for a single drug distribution charge? I don't see how it is. In both cases the person is guilty of an underlying offense but is subject to wildly disproportionate and unfair punishment. Given that, I don't see where the US has a right to condemn Russia for this.

  • Applederry||

    Whether or not the US government has the moral ground to criticize is irrelevant to the ability of individuals like us and orgs like Reason magazine to criticize it.

  • John||

    Or maybe it is Russia's business. Just a thought but perhaps we ought to worry more about the liberty abuses that go on in the US first and save our outrage over international abuses to things that truly shock the conscience.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yes, indeed. Liberty-fanciers can certainly deplore judicial abuses in any country, their own or another, but the international movement to single out Russia like OMG it's the most oppressive country ever is just lefty bollocks.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Or if they *do* want to single out Russia as evil vis-a-vis their own countries the activists will have to fasten onto another case.

  • Brandybuck||

    If those chicks are supposed to be punk rockers, where are their piercings? Their tats? Heck, they look more like a grunge band than punks.

  • John||

    They are apparently some kind of free love Pagans. Why is it always the homely girls who buy into free love?

  • sarcasmic||

    Because the good looking ones know they can get something for it.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Beat me to it.

  • Paul.||

    Commodities are commodities. Never give away what you can sell.

  • ||

    I think the one on the right is kinda cute.

  • John||

    They are okay in a 'probably plays on the other team but is just cute enough to have sick fantasies about' sort of way.

  • Paul.||

    If those chicks are supposed to be punk rockers, where are their piercings? Their tats? Heck, they look more like a grunge band than punks.

    I believe that the venerable members of The Sex Pistols were a bit bemused by the tats and piercings that became the punk movement. John Lydon in an interview was quite fascinated by all the prop-culture (yes, I said 'prop' culture) that surrounded the idea of 'punk', like safety pins and the like. He noted that the Sex Pistols were never into that stuff.

  • FrankWoodford||

    Maybe they're not aware of the punk rock dress code.

    http://www.angelfire.com/punk2.....page2.html

  • π-e||

    of course i had to go watch this sex orgy after reading this, thanks a lot reason O_o

  • Sidd Finch||

    But they are no anti-male or anti-capitalist fanatics; when ex-oil tycoon and political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky spoke out on the women's behalf during the trial, they did not denounce him as a male capitalist pig but responded with gratitude and admiration.

    So ... they didn't denounce some dude who spoke on their behalf. Well I'm convinced.

    Their activism has been entirely against the authoritarian Russian state.

    Giant dong drawings and public masturbation with chicken legs is "activism ... entirely against the authoritarian Russian state"?

  • FrankWoodford||

    Pussy Riot had already split acrimoniously from Voina by the time the "dick bridge" and "chicken snatching" actions were done.

    Nobody is responsible for the behaviour of their former associates.

  • Chris Mallory||

    Funny, I can't find any instance of Reason defending Simon Sheppard and Steve Whittle or calling their case important. Two men jailed in the UK for thought crimes after the US denied them asylum. Of course they are bad bad raycissts, not a cool hip punk band.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Shut up, racist.

  • FrankWoodford||

    Just a small correction to the article. Yekaterina Samutsevich was a member of Voina, but Maria Alyokhina wasn't. See Thomas Peter's profile of early Voina here: http://www.reuters.com/article.....PW20120816

  • Enlightenment||

    Cathedral of Christ the Savior is owned by the state. It is not private church property.

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