Pussy Gone Riot

by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz  |  August 19, 2012  |  KOSCIUSZKO CHAIR

Russia's feminist punk crew Pussy Riot appeared on our radar screen around December 2011, when parts of urban Russia heaved with anger at the presidential elections appropriated by Vladimir Putin. Pussy Riot combines punk music, performance art, and a radical "anti-establishment" social message. It has fashioned itself to resemble similar ensembles in the West. As far as politics, the band belongs squarely with the libertine-anarchist orientation of the pro-Western, liberal camp which, in turn, is a part of the anti-Western, neo-Nazi and neo-Communist, coalition opposing the Kremlin. 

The chanteuses caught the public's eye with an unauthorized protest performance on a structure vis-à-vis the Kremlin itself.  Making fun of the Oberchekist of the Kremlin was, well, funny. But in February 2012, three Pussy Rioters decided to up the ante on their counter-Putin offensive. They foolishly turned performance artists inside of an Orthodox church. The trio burst in, set themselves up at the altar, and belched a blasphemous song to a religious tune for less than a minute.

This was intended as a double blow to the President: first, to offend him with the raunchy lyrics; and, second, to mock a disturbingly cozy, caesaropapist relationship between the Church and the Kremlin. That is why the members of the band chose the venue. Big mistake. First, by invading the sanctuary the feminists emulated their arch-enemy Putin by involving the sacred space of religion in their profane business of politics. The sacred sphere should be off limits, except as an asylum. 

Please note that the musicians did not seek sanctuary there; instead, their aim was to invade, shock, and criticize. They would have done better throwing an impromptu concert right outside of the church. This would have amply demonstrated their objection to Putin's routine violation of Russia's spiritual sphere by enlisting the hierarchs to maintain himself in power. Instead, the Pussy Rioters demeaned a Russian Orthodox place of worship, offending the faithful whose community is part and parcel of the nation's gingerly nascent civil society, barely recovering from the depredations of Communism. Thus, the feminists managed to outrage not only Putin and the hierarchs but also rank-and-file spiritual leaders and religious believers of all faiths.

Don't even ask if they would have dared to pull a fast one like this inside of a mosque. Whereas their previous capers were cute and daring, their last stunt was blasphemous and primitive. In March, the transgressing Pussy Rioters were promptly arrested and charged with hooliganism. In August the songstresses were sentenced to two years in the Gulag. 

This is horrible. Since, reportedly, they showed contrition, the Church should have forgiven them immediately, instead of waiting until the sentencing. And the hierarchs should have announced that the trespassing charges would be dropped. And the feminists should have been just slapped with a fine. Of course, that option was never on the table. From the very beginning, the aggrieved party was the state, hence the charge of hooliganism. Now it is up to Putin to show clemency to the chanteuses.

The Pussy Riot case has demonstrated that, in Russia, one can be an anti-establishment punk band so long as one supports the Russian president, pretty much like Mikhail Khodorkovsky learned that one can be a Russian George Soros so long as one is pro-Putin.

On a related note, in solidarity with the incarcerated Moscow trio, bare-chested feminist shockers of Ukraine's radical group Femen staged a performance of their own in Kyiv. To object to the Russian court's ruling, they cut down a large wooden cross that had been mounted to commemorate the victims of Stalin's NKVD. Did they think that it was REALLY going to upset Putin?

The feminists opponents of the Kremlin's miscarriage of justice have thus shown themselves completely incapable of comprehending reality. The so-called intellectual tools of radical feminism crippled their reason. Like many of their fellow activists in the West, they believe that the Cross is the symbol of their "oppression," in general, and of the Pussy Rioters in particular. 

Let us see how the satrap-wanna-be Viktor Yanukovych reacts to Femen's ugly stunt. If he just fines them that would be proper tribute to freedom, rapidly shrinking in Ukraine. His other option is to emulate the dictator Oleksandr Lukashenka of Belarus who, a few months ago, had a visiting group of Femen activists kidnapped and manhandled by his secret police. The feminists cried and were terrified for their lives. Or the Ukrainian president can copy Putin and put them in the slammer. That would be the middle way which is a sad commentary on Russia, but not as quite hopeless as on Belarus.

Let the young ladies go!

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 18 August 2012
www.iwp.edu