Pussy Riot May Be Russian Guitar Heroes

Russian free speech advocates are up in arms. 

Three women from the punk band Pussy Riot were slapped Friday with a two year prison sentence for railing against Putin in musical fashion at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral Church – what the verdict described as an act of “religious hatred.”


The resulting outcry is justified, but the case begs the question of whether these rockers appreciated beforehand the consequences of their actions. Did they not expect such a harsh sentence? They slammed Putin whilst donning what Reuters described as “bright ski masks, tights and short skirts,” at an Orthodox Church altar, nonetheless. Add to that the band’s edgy name, likely to offend stodgy politicians and bureaucrats, and you have a performance bound to end badly.

Unless Pussy Riot was incredibly naïve – and it’s difficult to believe that they were – the band has knowingly energized the movement against Russian anti-free speech measures.

Had this episode transpired in any reliably democratic state, Pussy Riot would have had reason to expect fairer treatment. But this was in Russia, where, even though Putin requested for the band to be treated reasonably, his latest presidential stint and December’s controversial parliamentary elections make clear the government’s disregard for democracy.

In a country where the president and prime minister play musical chairs and even a previous head of state questions the electoral process, government transparency and free elections are a tall order. One imagines Pussy Riot had the common sense to figure their deed would not go unpunished.

If not, then they weren’t heroes, even if they ruffled the feathers of Russia’s oppressive regime. Rebels are heroes only if they respond to injustice ready to face the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, they are mere captives of fate; unable to know what was coming for them but forced to deal with the consequences anyway.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul

A Chicago native, Jeff has been to every US state except Hawaii. After graduating from McGill University in 2011, he worked as a dishwasher and bookstore clerk before going on to serve as editorial assistant for the Hyde Park Herald, the main local paper covering President Obama's neighborhood, where Jeff also lives. Fluent in Turkish, Jeff has written for the Washington Times, the Chicago Weekly and the McGill Daily, his alma mater's weekly student newspaper. His work can be seen at jeffhba.tumblr.com. He can be contacted at jeffhba@gmail.com or at his YouTube channel, on which he posts videos from time to time: YouTube.com/MCLyteNyng.

MORE FROM

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

Yes, Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how he can do it.

It's a complicated process, and it could get messy, but he can do it.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

Yes, Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how he can do it.

It's a complicated process, and it could get messy, but he can do it.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.