What happened to Pussy Riot?

Richard Birch examines all of the punk controversy afresh

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Photo: Wikipedia

Pussy Riot became a household name in 2012. After a concert in the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on February 12, security forces arrested two of the leaders (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina) while a third (Yekaterina Samutsevich) was arrested 13 days later. The other two fled the country.

The crime was officially ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’. However, the song for which they received this label has just been translated into English in a cover by Norwegian folk troubadour Moddi, and what becomes clear is how non-blasphemous the original track was. ‘Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Drive Putin away!’, is not so much blasphemous as a comment on the corruption which bound the government and the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirillich pronounced that Putin was ‘a gift from God’, while Kirillich’s coronation was attended by Prime Minister Medvedev and President Putin. Thus, Pussy Riot’s critique is not blasphemous. By invoking, not besmirching, the name of the Virgin Mary to drive Putin away, they are highlighting that religion must never be entwined with politics (and vice versa).

For Pussy Riot, the religious leaders had become compromised by their love of Putin – in theological terms, they had become guilty of idol worship. In translation, Moddi has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate their views, their defence of gay rights, religion and free speech and the tragedy of their subsequent suppression. But as long as we are here to listen to them, they will not be suppressed. Even as soon as 2014, the band performed at the Sochi Winter Olympics, where they were attacked with whips by security. The revolutionary spirit lives on.

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