Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of female punk band, “Pussy Riot”, reacts behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow July 4, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Maria Alyokhina, Yakaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were taken into custody in March, after the group’s February performance of “Virgin Mary Put Putin Away,” an anti-Putin song, inside the Russian Orthodox Church’s main cathedral, asking the Virgin Mary to chase President Vladimir Putin out of power.
The three women were arrested over four months ago and have been held without bail on charges of criminal hooliganism — which carry a possible seven-year prison sentence. Two other female members of the band have avoided arrest thus far.
“I announce a hunger strike because it is unlawful,” said Tolokonnikova, wearing a T-shirt with the famous slogan of the Spanish Civil War, “No pasaran!” (“They shall not pass“), emblazoned across it.
“Until July 9 is not enough (time) for me. I think it is absolutely unlawful,” she said in the Tagansky district court.
“I am categorically against it and I announce a hunger strike,” Alekhina also said after the court delivered a separate ruling on her and another one on Samutsevich.
As the case generates media attention, activists all over the world are advocating for Pussy Riot’s release. Over 100 Russian cultural figures, including some known for pro-government views, have signed a letter calling for the release of the trio. “We see no legal basis or practical reason for the further isolation of these young women, who do not pose any real danger to society,” the letter said.
Video of Pussy Riot’s February 2012 performance inside the Russian Orthodox Church’s main cathedral which led to their arrests:
The Russian Orthodox Church has come in for criticism for not intervening in the case and calling for mercy. Instead, leading church figures have criticized the women. Thousands of Orthodox Christian worshipers have turned out in the Russian capital Moscow in April for a prayer to support the controversial Church in what it perceives to be an attack on its authority.
Yekaterina Samutsevich, a member of the feminist punk-rock band, Pussy Riot, is escorted in a district court in Moscow. She and two other band members began a hunger strike Wednesday. They face up to seven years in prison on ‘hooliganism’ charges. (AP/Misha Japaridze)
“Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away!
Рut Putin away! Put Putin away!”
The shining bronze-plated walls inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour echoed with the raised voices of an acapelo choir of strident female voices on February 21 this year, suddenly and unexpectedly shattering the silence. The anonymous feminist punk band Pussy Riot had begun an impromptu performance of their protest song ‘Holy Shit!’
“Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains!”
Members of the group dressed in brightly-coloured slinky dresses danced wildly in front of the cathedral’s atlar, their faces masked in balaclavas, prostrating themselves and making the sign of the cross, running away and changing positions as church vergers approached and tried to prevent the performance. http:/
/www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALS92big4TY Eventually captured, the performers were firmly escorted out of the cathedral, the show over in less than five minutes.
The group said the performance, which came amid the biggest demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin’s rule since he first came to power in 2000, was a protest against the Head of the Orthodox Russian Church, Patriarch Gundyaev Kirill’s support for Putin in the run-up to the March 4 presidential elections.
“The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness
Women must give birth and love!”
Critics say church leaders are no more than Kremlin stooges and that Putin has used the church as a potent tool in his command structure, allowing it to amass vast riches in return for unquestioning support of his policies, and spiritual blessing for his leadership. The church consecrates new nuclear missiles as “Russia’s guardian angels” and urges young Russians to volunteer for military service in Chechnya – all the while enjoying hefty government donations and tax immunity. Earlier this year Kirill met with Putin and praised his two presidential terms as “God’s miracle.” In return, Putin said that “the state still owes much to the Church.”
“Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!”
Perhaps it’s not surprising less than two weeks after the ‘flash’ performance 3 members of Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. They have been in detention since then awaiting trial. The criminal code defines hooliganism as “inciting hatred” with the “use of weapons” to create “public disorder.” If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.
Patriarch Kirilli condemned Pussy Riot’s act as “blasphemous”, saying that the church was ‘under attack’ and that “the Devil has laughed at us.”
And Russian Orthodox church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said: “God condemns what they’ve done. I’m convinced that this sin will be punished in this life and the next, God revealed this to me just like he revealed the Gospels to the church. There’s only one way out: repentance.”
In reply Pussy Riot say their impromptu performance in the cathedral was’ a special prayer’ addressed to the mother of God “to give courage and power to send away King Herod and his servants, and then begin a new life according to human conscience.” They also accused the Patriarch of letting the church become “a tool in dirty electoral intrigues.”
“We knew what the political situation was but now we’re personally feeling the full force of Putin’s Kafkaesque machine,” they said. “The state’s policy is based on a minimum of critical thinking and on a maximum of spite, and a desire to get even with those who don’t please it.”
“The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class – bring him money!”
Amnesty International has declared the detained women as ‘prisoners of conscience’ and is demanding their release.
“The severity of the response of the Russian authorities – the detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism – would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful – if, to many, offensive – expression of their political beliefs,” they said.
“The activists left the Cathedral when requested to do so and caused no damage. The entire action lasted only a few minutes and caused only minimal disruption to those using the cathedral … Instead of prosecuting members of Pussy Riot for their political opinions criticizing the Russian government and some Church officials, the Russian authorities must recognize that their protest is protected by the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed in international human rights law.”
“Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist!
Become a feminist, become a feminist!”
Two of the three young jailed feminists, Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samucevich, are the mothers of small children. Investigators have threatened to terminate their parental rights. Free Pussy Riot demonstrations have sprung up throughout Europe and the United States demanding an aquittal of at least a fair trial.
Meanwhile, Pussy Riot is looking for new recruits.
“Always! Pussy Riot has to keep on expanding. That’s one of the reasons we choose to always wear balaclavas—new members can join the bunch and it does not really matter who takes part in the next act—there can be three of us or eight, like in our last gig on the Red Square, or even 15. Pussy Riot is a pulsating and growing body.”
“We often change names, balaclavas, dresses, and roles inside the groups. People drop out, new members join the group, and the lineup in each Pussy Riot’s guerilla performance can be entirely different.”
“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 scenes, and the domination of males in all areas of public discourse. There are loads of Pussy Riot fans in Russia’s protesting masses.”
“We have nothing to worry about, because if the repressive Putinist police crooks throw one of us in prison, five, ten, 15 more girls will put on colorful balaclavas and continue the fight against their symbols of power.”
“Do you know anyone who wants to come to Moscow, play illegal concerts, and help us fight Putin and Russian chauvinists? Or maybe they could start their own local Pussy Riot, if Russia is too cold and too far.”
Patriarch Kirilli said that the Pussy Riot performance in the cathedral “desecrated” the church.
“We will have no future if sacred shrines are desecrated, if this desecration is seen by some as virtue, as some proper expression of political protest, as some appropriate action or harmless joke,” he said.
Perhaps he should be reminded of the ‘hooligan’ Jesus and his act of desecration when he overthrew the tables of the Money changers and drove them out of the Temple in Jerusalem.
That man would have been proud of these protesting Pussies.
“Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away!
Рut Putin away! Put Putin away!”
Michael Dickinson can be contacted via his website – http://yabanji.tripod.com/