A Prayer for Pussy Riot

If you’ve been living in a box for the past several months you may not have
noticed what’s been going on with Russian Punk Rock band Pussy Riot. The
band, best known for their impromptu performances in unusual places such as
on top of a bus, or in the street, have had three of their members imprisoned for
two years on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
The charge is a result of a performance in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, where
the band, wearing brightly coloured balaclavas, sang a song called “Punk Prayer:
Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!”


The performance did not appear to cause any damage to the church, and the two year sentence has been criticised by the majority of the World’s media, who have described it as “disproportionate”. The band is best known for their feminist and gay rights stance, which goes against current ideologies within their country. Whilst, prior to their arrest and sentencing, few people outside of Russia would have heard of Pussy Riot and what they’re about, the result of this sentence seems to have galvanised the European community into action. In an open letter to the band, actor and comedian Stephen Fry described the sentence as “astoundingly unfair and disproportionate” and a petition launched on the Avaaz site already has over 571,000 signatures, and this is growing daily. According to the petition site, upon sentencing, a member of the band said:

“Despite the fact that we are physically here, we are freer than everyone sitting across from us … We can say anything we want…”.

And that is perhaps the crux of this whole thing, freedom of speech. That is something that in this country we take for granted. We are allowed to have and voice our opinions without fear of reprisals and it is for this reason that I have waved my usual Curly Wurly and taken this opportunity to exercise my freedom of speech to inform you of these events. Whether you agree with someone’s viewpoint or not, you need to support their right to an opinion. What Pussy Riot has done is extraordinarily brave. They have stood up and spoken, knowing full well the consequences of their actions and they have drawn the World’s attention to their plight. Amnesty International has a page on their site dedicated to sending messages of support to the band members, who have been in prison since their arrest in March. The online shop BackstreetMerch.com has launched a range of “Free Pussy Riot” t-shirts and bags, with profits going to support their legal fund. It is, perhaps, surprising that a simple performance in a church would elicit this much of an international reaction, and I can’t help but wonder if anyone would have noticed if Pussy Riot had simply been given a warning and told not to do it again. Reactions to the antics in the church have been mixed. Some people have called it distasteful and even blasphemous, but in a closing statement, Yekaterina Samutsevich – one of the convicted band members – informed the court that this was not their intention.

“That Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of the authorities was clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyayev took over as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of political power in Russia”.

It is, perhaps, for this reason that Amnesty has deemed them “prisoners of conscience”.


The band have gained support from celebrities all over the world; Madonna wore the band’s name on her back at a gig in Moscow, praised their courage and said that she prayed for their freedom.
Most recently Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said in a televised interview that “a suspended sentence, taking into account the time they have already spent, would be entirely sufficient”. Whilst this by no means secures the band’s release it does show how public opinion is affecting the situation.

Can music change the world? Well, maybe.

You can read all three members’ closing statements here.
Read more about the comments by Dmitry Medvedev here.

You can read Stephen Fry’s open letter to the band here.

See Madonna’s comments here.

Feature originally published on Rockonnection.com

Watch the performance that started it all below.

 

 

*Important update:Please follow this link and read the update from Amnesty International. Remember, we have a voice and can use it

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