08/22/12Posted in Features by L4LM

Everything You Need to Know About Pussy Riot


By Justin Charles

If you haven't heard of Pussy Riot at this point, for lack of a better expression, you may as well have been living under a rock. The feminist punk rock group based in Russia were recently sentenced to two years in prison for staging a controversial performance in a sacred part of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The trial and verdict have incited protests around the world and support from some huge names in music like Paul McCartney and Madonna, yet most of America isn't completely familiar with the group or their actions. This piece is not meant to be an editorial, I don't intend on sharing my opinions on all that surrounds the case and the band, I just want to inform you, the readers, as the what exactly has happened. We are a group of people who can spend hours discussing which version of Phish's Tweezer is the best; The Pussy Riot trials represent an interesting and relevant argument about free speech that should arouse a higher level discussion.

Background

Pussy Riot was born out of the radical Russian street art group Voina, who became well known for their controversial politically charged performance art. The group came to prominence for their 2008 performance 'Fuck for the heir Puppy Bear!', in which five couples undressed in Moscow's Timiryazev State Museum of Biology and initiated public sex acts in front of a banner that said 'Fuck for the heir Puppy Bear'. The performance was dedicated to the Russian presidential election, and 'Puppy Bear' was a reference to Dmitry Medvedev, who was preparing to be elected. In attendance was a heavily pregnant Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the three members of Pussy Riots arrested. Yaketerina Samutsevich, also arrested, was known to have participated in various Voina demonstrations as well.

Formation Of Pussy Riot

In late September of 2011, Vladamir Putin announced that he would return as President of Russia, which would seemingly signal a return of corruption, terror, poverty, and the loss of civil rights. In response to this, Pussy Riot was formed in an attempt to fight back at what they perceived to be unjust laws against women. In a rare interview with Vice.com back in February, one member explained "we realized that this country needs a militant, punk-feminist, street band that will rip through Moscow's streets and squares, mobilize public energy against the evil crooks of the Putinist junta and enrich the Russian cultural and political opposition with themes that are important to us: gender and LGBT rights, problems of masculine conformity, absence of a daring political message on the musical and art scene, and the domination of males in all areas of public discourse".

In the same interview, the group explained the name Pussy Riot: "a female sex organ, which is supposed to be receiving and shapeless, suddenly starts a radical rebellion against the cultural order, which tries to constantly define it and show its appropriate place". They also listed influences, both musical (Bikini Kill, the Riot Grrrl movement acts, Sham 69, among others) and in feminist theory (De Beauvoir, Dvorkin, Pankhurst).

Performances

As they are always described as a 'feminist punk rock band', the common perception of Pussy Riot is an average band with controversial songs and albums. This is not the case. Pussy Riot have only released six songs and five videos in their existence, eschewing the traditional sense of a rock band, and instead performing in un-orthodox performance spaces with invited guests to document the event. The band remains completely anonymous, their faces covered with balaclavas.

The group's first performance, 'Release The Cobblestones', was released on November 7th, 2011, which happened to be the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. The song was a reference to the rabid protests around Russia that were taking place due to Putin's landslide win in regional elections; elections that many critics claimed to be rigged. Pussy Riot enacted it's audience to throw cobblestones during the street protest, while the song's video depicts the band members singing atop subway cars and destroying pillows.

In the coming months, the band staged further demonstrations. 'Kropotkin Vodka' saw the band show up announced in expensive restaurants and boutiques. 'Death to Prison, Freedom to Protests' were a response to the massive anti-Putin protests that had taken over Russia – many protesters were imprisoned. Pussy Riot performed their song atop the roof of the pre-trial detention center where these protesters were being held. The performance that brought them to prominence, however, it was 'Protests in Russia, Putin Chickened Out', which saw the band perform in Red Square. As the band publicly lampooned Putin, eight members were briefly detained, giving the group media attention.

Church Protest

As the protests against Putin's re-election continued to gain steam, Putin publicly spoke of the need to tie the church and state together once again. In response to the protests, on February 21st, 2012, four members of Pussy Riot descended to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, which is one of the most sacred grounds of the Orthodox Church. The members crossed themselves, bowed to the alter, and performed a 'Punk Prayer', asking God to 'banish Putin'. In less than a minute, guards escorted the members outside of the building – but not before video of the performance could be taken to make a clip.

Arrest and Prosecution

On March 3, two members of Pussy Riot, Mario Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were arrested and charged with hooliganism. While being held awaiting trial, many spoke in the media of alleged mistreatment. On July 4th, they were told they had until July 9th to prepare a defense – yet on July 21st, they extended their pre-trial detention by six months. Pussy Riot's lawyers constantly spoke out against the government, accusing them of making this trial a 'show trial', which would gain massive media attention only to make an example of the band, in order to send a message to others who oppose.

On August 17, all three members were sentenced to two years of prison; the court ruled it was 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred'. Pussy Riots' lawyers said the band would attempt to appeal the trial, however they expect the chances of the verdict being overturned are extremely slim.

Reaction

Initial world wide reaction was generally in disgust of the verdict. The United States embassy in Moscow tweeted "the sentence seems disproportionate to the actions" – a sentiment held by many in government around the world. The United States State Department also asked Russia to "review this case and ensure that the right to freedom and justice is upheld". Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Russian historian and human rights activist, claimed the verdict was not "in line with the law, common sense, or mercy". Various protests took place around the world as well, including New York City, Kiev, Bulgaria, and Scotland.

While initial media reaction in the west was almost entirely pro-Pussy Riot, defending the freedoms of speech and speaking against the harsh treatment of the band, some recent media outlets are providing counter-arguments. Rachel Marsden of the Baltimore Sun compared the action to "If Justin Bieber or the Rolling Stones suddenly decided to stage an impromptu concert in a public place somewhere in America without a permit", asking if authorities would just shrug it off here. She even goes on to ask why the mainstream media has so much sympathy for the band. Simon Jenkins of The Guardian called the media attention a "hypocrisy", saying that if London courts can jail people for infractions such as dog bites and stealing water, then who are they to criticize Russia? Further criticisms come from Pussy Riot's association with Voila.

Conclusion

Barring a miracle judgement, the members of Pussy Riots will end up in a Russian jail for two full years, able to see their children only every six months, and receive only four phone calls a year. Russian prisons are notorious for their poor quality, and there is no 'maximum security' prison for women – so these girls will share space with murderers as well.

What do you think of the whole Pussy Riot phenomenon? Who is right? What do you think of the verdict? Is the western media showing too much unbridled support for Pussy Riot? Or is this an outrage that must be spoken of? Sound off in our comments section.

Church Prayer:


Sentencing:


Related



Comments


Jerry Garcia's 'Tiger' Guitar Visits Phil Lesh At Terrapin Crossroads

The saga of "Tiger" continues! Yesterday, we reported on Jerry Garcia's "Tiger" g ...


Pretty Lights Confirms Third Mini-Festival In Telluride With Video Announcement

After releasing a cryptic video with dates and vague locations last week, Pretty Lig ...


Widespread Panic and Umphrey's McGee To Team Up For Alpharetta Show

Widespread Panic just announced that they will be joining forces with fellow jam coho ...


Widespread Panic Shares Pro-Shot 'Sweet Leaf' Cover Within 'Proving Ground' [Watch]

Earlier this year, jam powerhouse Widespread Panic treated fans at Norfolk, VA's Chry ...


Inspirational Sharon Jones Documentary Will Hit Movie Theaters, On Demand Streaming Services

Soul singer Sharon Jones has had quite her fair share of trials and tribulations. Fac ...


Bill Kreutzmann And Mickey Hart Hang Out By 710 Ashbury During San Fran Visit [Watch]

"I've been here since they were here," explains neighbor Tsvi Strauch just a few day ...


Umphrey's McGee's Archival Rock Documentary 'Reel To Real' To Be Released Online

Starting at 10AM on June 1, Umphrey's McGee will be streaming their archival document ...


Phish Will Host WaterWheel Foundation Fundraiser Event Ahead Of San Francisco Show

The WaterWheel Foundation, the charity organization that Phish founded back in 1997, ...


Bob Weir Names Songs That Dead & Company Plan To Debut This Summer

With Dead & Company tour just a few short weeks away, the band's two iconic guita ...


See P!nk's Incredibly Rousing Performance Of Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit'

It takes a certain presence to nail the powerfully raw vocals of Jefferson Airplane's ...


Radiohead Busts Out '2 + 2 = 5' For The First Time In Seven Years

It seems like Parisian Radiohead fans are getting all the "bust out" material from th ...


Allman Brothers To Remaster Majority Of Their Catalog For 180-Gram Vinyl Release

Exciting news for audiophiles, as a majority of the Allman Brothers' discography will ...


Dave Matthews Featured In New Musical-Themed Nature Program On Discovery Channel

A new Discovery Channel show is mixing the nature and music worlds, as the six-part s ...


The Great Outdoors Jam Will Welcome Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Aqueous And More For Florida Throwdown

With multiple sets being played by headliners Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, as well as A ...


John Mayer May Play On Jerry Garcia's 'Tiger' Guitar With Dead & Co This Summer

In 2002, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay made headlines by dropping close to one m ...


Phish Is Planning To Debut New Material On The Road This Summer

By now, most Phish fans know that the group spent the winter months working on a new ...


DYNOHUNTER Shares Footage From Boulder Show In Tribute To Late Drummer Justin Ehmer

Just one week after the tragic death of founding drummer Justin Ehmer, Colorado jam ...


Ten Reasons Why Buying Concert Tickets Is Money Well Spent

There are two types of concert-goers. There are the occasional ticket-buyers, who se ...


An Inside Look At Dead & Company's Smokin' Performance At The Fillmore [Gallery]

Just last week, the Grateful ensemble known as Dead & Company announced plans for ...


Remembering Sublime's Bradley Nowell On The 20th Anniversary Of His Passing

Forever tied to the sunny shores of California, the music of Sublime has inspired a g ...


Watch FlightWave's Smooth New Music Video For 'Beach City' [Premiere]

Detroit-based trio FlightWave impress us with their very unique sound, drawing on an ...


Celebrate Bob Dylan's 75th Birthday With His Best Moments & Tributes

Happy 75th Birthday Bob Dylan! Possibly the greatest poet to come out of the 60s, Dyl ...


Listen To A Classic Phish Show At Nectar's, On This Date In 1988

As Phish worked their way from a Vermont novelty to national sensations, one venue pl ...


Moon Hooch Pushes Sonic Boundaries On New Single, 'Booty House' [Premiere]

The beloved trio known as Moon Hooch began innocently enough, with three music studen ...


George Porter, Anders Osborne & More Boogaloo At NOLA Festival On The Bayou

For the eleventh straight year, the Bayou Boogaloo brought the people of New Orleans, ...


Candler Park Festival Boasts A Marvelous Array Of Music And Food Options To Delight Fans

Atlanta's Candler Park Music and Food Festival is right around corner and ready for a ...


Then And Now: Jauntee's Scott Ferber And Dopapod's Rob Compa Jam In 2006 & 2016

In the beginning of the spring, Dopapod hit the storied Bluebird Theater for a thr ...


Listen To A Glorious, 27-Minute Version Of 'Ghost' From This Day In 2000

The song "Ghost" has long been a fan-favorite of Phish fans, and many will argue th ...


The Meters & Lettuce Members Bring The Foundation Of Funk To Brooklyn [Videos/Gallery]

Funk music was on full blast at The Hall At MP, as the acclaimed Foundation Of Funk ...


Greyboy Allstars Supergroup Leads Funk Fest At The Brooklyn Bowl [Gallery]

For the first time in years, Karl Denson brought his illustrious Greyboy Allstars sup ...


Pink Talking Fish's Eric Gould Gets Us Excited For Their Chicago Throwdown Post-Phish

After Phish plays Chicago's Wrigley Field on Saturday, June 25th, Pink Talking Fish w ...


Travel Back In Time And Watch A Phish House Party, Performed On This Day In 1987

The Phish that we know and love today got their start in 1985, when Page McConnell j ...


An Ode To The Unsung Hero Of The Doors, Keyboardist Ray Manzarek

Three years ago, the world lost one of the best piano players it had ever known. Faci ...


Watch Trey Anastasio's Extended Jam With Dave Matthews Band On This Day 15 Years Ago

Within the wider jam sphere, few bands have captured the hearts of their fans like Da ...





L4LM Twitter