With six kitties in the house all wanting out first thing when I get up every morning, I usually end up with a daily “pussy riot” because I won’t let them out before sunrise. But far from our kitties rioting in Corrales, three members of the Russian punk rock group, “Pussy Riot” are on trial in Moscow on charges of “hooliganism”. In one of their protests in February against Putin running for President, they staged a “punk prayer protest” in the Moscow Cathedral asking the Mother Mary to deliver Russia from Putin. The three women are facing up to 7 years in prison for their dissent, and Putin wants to make an example of them. With all the serious crime and violent protests in Russia, it seems pretty pussy of Putin to pick on a group of girls whose public performance art is no more of a crime than driving a “Hello Kitty” car.
Now roll back the clock 163 years to 1849 in Tsarist Russia where Fyodor Dostoyevski found himself in front of a firing squad for his involvement with the progressive discussion group, the Petrashevsky Circle. At the last moment his death sentence was commuted to 4 years in prison in Syberia in what turned out to be a mock execution. It seems to me not much has changed from Tsarist Russia, then the Soviet Union, to modern Russia (with the exception that we would have never heard about “Pussy Riot” or their plight during the Soviet years), and there seems to be little difference in PR’s and Dostoyevsky’s cases. The girls haven’t faced a mock execution that we know of, and I doubt Dostoyevsky made a public scene praying for the Mother Mary to deliver Russia from the Tsar, but in both cases the penalties seem to be way out of proportion to the alleged crimes. Now I’m not going to argue that the US is any better as far as crime and punishment is concerned when possession of burglary equipment — a flashlight, for example — can get you charged with a felony and up to 5 years in prison. So I suppose a group staging a performance art protest against Obama in the Nation Cathedral might be brought up on similar charges, although I don’t think we could keep the group in jail for 6 months while awaiting trial for illegal performance art.
While Dostoyevsky went on to become one of the greatest writers of all time, publishing more than 30 novels, short stories and essays, which included his best known novels “Crime and Punishment”, “The Idiot” and “The Brothers Karamasov”, before his death in 1881. I doubt “Pussy Riot” will ever produce great music (at least from what I’ve heard), but maybe their case will inspire more people to oppose tyranny. Although, if the women are found guilty, and sentenced to 7 years in prison, which seems almost a given in Putin’s Russia, the message Putin is giving dissidents is that if they are planning creative and non-violent protests, forget it, they will be punished severely. Since most protestors seem to like violence, I believe the protests will escalate and become more violent if “Pussy Riot” is found guilty of “hooliganism”.