17 August 2012

The sentence

Is two years in the big house for the ‘silly women with their silly name’, as David Lindsay describes them. Personally I am not particularly perturbed about the issue; I am not in support of the sentence, but I can see the reasoning for the ruling. Playing bad pop punk in a church is rather a crime against aesthetics, but you don’t go to gaol for those. More serious is the charge that they forced their way up to the lectern to do so and resisted relinquishing it to the parishioners, which would certainly be worthy of a disorderly conduct charge over here.

That, and the fact that the Cathedral which they were disrespecting was essentially rebuilt as a monument against Stalin, who had had it razed. Which prompts the question of what they actually stand for, other than standing against Putin and the Orthodox Church - do they want Stalin back? I don’t think they necessarily do; I have read nothing that indicates that Pussy Riot are Stalinists - though I do think they are (yes, Mr Lindsay put it best) extraordinarily silly. Not quite so silly, however, as the roars of outrage from the Guardianistas and New York Times readership who seem to be under the impression that trying three women for hooliganism and sending them to cool their heads for a couple of years automatically makes Mr Putin a tyrant and a dictator. Oy.

EDIT: A few supporters of Pussy Riot in the Ukraine have begun resorting to vandalism to get their point across, also against a monument erected to victims of Stalin (in this case, those who starved to death in the Holomodor). What better way to protest the court decision (debatable as it was) than by proving it right?


  1. I am not sure if they deserved this sentence, I may have levied a large fine instead (if such an option existed for the Russian judge). Prison is always a very serious punishment, even if it is for only two years. Plus, these silly women will now be made into martyrs when they do not deserve it, thus I think a hefty financial punishment would have been more appropriate.

    However, the United States is in no position to charge Russia with human rights abuses. Americans are still debating the pros and cons of torture in the 21st century. Our justice system is quite harsh, and essentially no effort is made to end the epidemic of sexual and other forms of violence in our own prisons.

  2. Hi John!

    Yeah, I feel the same sort of ambivalence over the case. I don't think they deserve prison time; you're right that that gives them more attention than they deserve. (I could say the same of other people, like China's Liu Xiaobo.) I feel like we need a third option - we don't have to agree with the sentence, but self-congratulatory nature of the news coverage strikes me as similar to what you might find in the Global Times whenever the American or British governments foul up. And that's pretty damn uncomfortable; it strikes me as a downright Pharisaical attitude, actually, sort of a 'thank God we're not like those damn Russkies'.

  3. Hello naverhtrad!

    I agree with you. There is still a good deal of anti-Russian sentiment in the West, which probably fuels the coverage of the sentence. It is the same view of Russia as a backward, despotic, inhumane society. This has been a Western stereotype as far back as the time of the tsars, so it is not just a Cold War relic, but something deeply ingrained in the Western culture. You can even trace some of it back to the Western stereotypes of the Byzantine Empire. Russia became the new Byzantium in more ways than one.

  4. Hi John! It's me, actually - I wasn't using my computer at the time, so I was using my OpenID account; sorry about that.

    'Russia as the new Byzantium' does make some sense to me, I guess. One wonders, though, what it will take to break the stereotype... Putin is no dictator and no Stalin (despite what some of the more delirious commenters claim), but neither is he a saint or a democrat. Perhaps in the future there may be 'Russia scholars' who are as dedicated to busting the myths of Russia as certain Byzantine scholars are now.