Pussy Riot versus the Religarchy

24/11/2013

The destiny of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich has merged with the future of Russian democracy.
The three members of feminist protest group Pussy Riot face charges of hooliganism, after allegedly staging an anti-Putin performance in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
If they beat the charge the civil society which raised its voice against Vladimir Putin in December 2011 will be considerably emboldened.
The question is, what is it about these women, that made them — not Mikhail Khodorkovsky, mothers of Beslan hostage crisis victims, Sergei Magnitsky’s colleagues or Chechen refugees — the reason for such optimism? What exactly made people think Pussy Riot are most likely to trigger change?

They judged  the victories chalked up to the popular theory of small deeds to be  insignificant. This belief, popular among Russian opposition activists abandons attempts to influence government, and instead focuses on small, local changes.
They witnessed how indifferent many intellectuals had become towards the absurdity of the Russian political system and judged opposition leaders to be. They were political sensations a mere three months after Moscow journalists first heard the name Pussy Riot.

Country of women

Pussy Riot appeared when two contexts collided: the one of the Church merging with the State and the other of Russia being a country of women.
Outside Moscow and the large Russian cities, the country consists of hundreds of small cities, which are all the cities of women, just like in Fellini’s movie. Women in these places run the most important institutions: schools, universities, museums and their families, managing to feed and dress their children with the USD 80 a month their husbands earn as drivers and builders in the big cities western journalists travel to.
It was quite likely that women would initiate a political scandal. There has been a false start in the mid-2000s when businesswoman Evgeniya Chirikova created a movement to defend the Khimki forest and gathered 5000 people — one of the biggest rallies before mass protests for fair elections — in the centre of Moscow.

Intellectual retreat

Since the arrest of the three band members the group has been supported by international musicians like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Franz Ferdinand, Sting and Faith No More. Victorious slogans claim “Putin is afraid of Pussy Riot”. But the number of protesters near the court has not exceeded 300 people. Even Mikhail Khodorkovsky — an oligarch in a country of the poor — gathered at least 1,000 people outside Khamovnichesky court. The lack of solidarity in Russia is perhaps the most important context of the emergence of Pussy Riot.
The scant attention paid to Pussy Riot in Russia is the responsibility of Russian intellectuals, who, during 12 years of Putin’s regime did little to prevent violations of the right to free expression. Censorship dominates Russian television, the judicial system has became more and more corrupted and people have not had access to free information nor efficient propaganda on how to fight for it. For 12 years people have not been able to stand up for themselves, having had no back up from the Moscow elite. No wonder the majority of them aren’t supporting Pussy Riot: they are not used to protecting their own freedom.
Pussy Riot are paying for the intellectuals’ inactivity in taking care of their own people, those who live in numerous cities of women and have no-one to protect them from authoritarian state.
Support actions near the court building are often visited by poet Lev Rubinshtein and artist Andrey Bilzho. Every time they sadly and ironically note that all their counterparts must be on vacations: that must be why they don’t show up to support the women of Pussy Riot, not because they don’t care.
Pussy Riot alone may not trigger a revolution in Russia, where art, punk rock and political debate exist only in Moscow and a few other cities. But their case should stir the conscience of Russian intellectuals, who may yet define the revolutionary programme.
Elena Vlasenko ( source http://uncut.indexoncensorship.org/2012/08/pussy-riot-versus-the-religarchy/ )
 

24/11/2013
Dmitry Florin

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