Pussy Riot Goes on Trial Monday as the World Watches Uneasily

Illustration for article titled Pussy Riot Goes on Trial Monday as the World Watches Uneasily

The three women who staged an extremely punk-rock protest concert against Vladimir Putin on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral will go on trial this Monday as the rest of the world watches, not particularly convinced that the members of Pussy Riot are going to get a fair shake in Russian courts. Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich will face charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility, and, if found guilty, could face up to seven years in prison.

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Pussy Riot's members have already been languishing in jail since February. The Human rights groups and high profile musicians such as Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have made no secret of their skepticism regarding Russia's judicial process, and think that the girls' fate is subject largely to the whims of President Vladimir Putin as well as the head of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (whose name and title, we might note, are just a few typos away from the being the name of a potentially awesome punk-rock band). Kirill, who speaks on behalf of an organization that has gained political influence in the wake of the Soviet Union's disintegration, has used particularly harsh language to characterize Pussy Riot's impromptu performance, which he styles as a far-reaching anti-clerical campaign. Pussy Riot has no lead singer, leaving room for rotating membership. The band modelled itself on riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, and organized their performance as way to demonstrate dissatisfaction among young Russians with Vladimir Putin's intransigent existence in Russia's political hegemony.

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Russians face trial for "punk prayer" about Putin [Reuters]

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DISCUSSION

As someone who did years of research on Soviet and post-Soviet dissent, I can tell you this is just another sort of show trial. The gov't of Russia has always been keen on finding people to make examples of. There aren't any more arctic gulags, just prisons riddled with antibiotic resistant TB and mutated strains of HIV. It will be interesting to see how the trial goes. After the largest public demonstrations in Russian history this past winter, it's not surprising that the gov't would be following it up with a trial.