Pussy Riot's closing statement


Argument in the show-trial of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot -- who gave an unlicensed anti-Putin performance in a cathedral and now face harsh, Stalinist justice for daring to point out the spy-emperor's nudity -- has concluded. Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich has given a tremendous closing statement, which is a masterful summary of Russian oligarchy:

The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.

Olenska | Yekaterina Samutsevich closing statement at the Pussy Riot Trial

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    1. Yeah, except that my understanding is that the Orthodox Church has basically said they think the punishment for this is unnecessary and overly harsh. So, basically, this is a political thing. Not a religious one. The political people are citing religion. But the religious people don’t actually think it’s an issue. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve heard on NPR. 

  1. It’s difficult not to totally adore such an obviously political and culturally-savvy  intellectual who is in a band called Pussy Riot.

    1. Yekaterina Samutsevich writes with such strength it’s scary. Her band’s style suggest a lack of intellectual depth, the that’s hardly the case. She’s thoughtful and calculated; plus, she’s fun. All I want to know is what can I do to help? 

      Free the Pussy Riot 3!

  2. I wonder what you’d get for pussy-rioting at other Western or Eastern sacred places (=places of power) – depends on the country, but I estimate between 1 day in jail to death penalty. So Putin’s Russia seems quite average with its treatment so far. Perhaps a little bit over the top.

    1. That’s pretty much what Putin’s tame circus bear (Medvedev) said: that the women were lucky this was in Russia (when they were facing 7 years instead of 3 now).  Yes, among countries run by and for oligarchs with corrupt priests to keep the peasants from dreaming of anything better, Russia compares quite favorably!

  3.  Most of those girls arrested were just dancers.  So what did they charge the guitarist for?  I know what the reaction in the US would be if masked folks start hauling band equipment into what was reportedly the middle of a religious service.  The whole story is not forthcoming and that video helped, but is in no way an accurate portrayal of the entire incident.  It was heavily edited.

    1. this proves tomblair’s incisive thesis. these so-called feminist punks were just shills, planted but then callously abandoned by lower east-side new wave types, who are all in bed with the western media. 

      now all we need is a motive.  

      1. heeeeyy – mods deleted tomblair’s post about me liking big dick and pussy riot being western media invention. now my post makes no sense!

      2. I think they just want to sell their new line of fempunk balaclavas to the disaffected teens of the neo-Orthodox/KGB power axis.

        God forbid these kids get political.

  4. Damn. Another generation drinks from the Magic Samovar of Russian Dissent, which grants to the imbiber the power to reveal oligarchs at the cost of exile.

  5. I hope they make it clear. And i wait for the Russian Spring, despite the feeling that it might end in a nuclear mushroom.

  6. A lame punk  band vs a punk state, punk government and punk court…

    Russia is ruled by postmodernist artists.

    Why all the punks of the world are so serious?

    Nobody seems to get the double metaphor.

    And now even boing boing is falling into the trap set by dramaturges from Kremlin.

    Girls trolled the judicial system, now the judicial system is trolling them.

    LOL

  7. Its pretty clear to me, a person with a passing familiarity with political science (ie: practically none) that Putin is Czar of Russia in all but name. That the Russian  government would rise to the bait and prosecute these activists was a mistake. Better for them if the government had paid them the greater insult of just ignoring them. But now the girls are caught in the gears of justice and now they have to make the best of it before they are crushed.

  8. While Pussy Riot deserves a world of respect for having the courage to make a stand for their convictions, unfortunately, psychopaths have no respect for anything but their own narcissistic agendas, and Putin definitely has invested in his agenda to the detriment of the people of Russia.

  9. My love for you is like a truck BerZer Kerrrrr!Would you like some making fvck BerZer Kerrrr!
    My love for you is ticking clock BerZer Kerrrrr!Would you like to …. you get the idea.

  10. I’m sorry, but Stalinist justice? Are you serious? Josef Stalin was a brutal authoritarian who was responsible for millions of deaths and many more lives destroyed and brutalized. Show trials ended with shots in the head, not three years of prison. Stalin’s victims didn’t get grandstands from Madonna and Western media. Stalin’s victims didn’t get airtime, period. Simply put, Putin, for all his faults, is no Stalin. He’s not even close.

    Putin is not the devil; Russia is not some disguised Soviet Union secretly longing to dominate the planet and send everyone to the gulags. Nor is the Orthodox Church in Russia simply an extension of the Russian state. Look, as an Orthodox Christian and as a left-libertarian, I don’t particularly care for Vladmir Putin, the Russian state, or the Russian Church’s too-close relationship with the state. The proper course for the Church would have been to graciously forgive Pussy Riot for their political stunt and to use the situation as an opportunity to critically think through the Church’s place in wider society and especially vis-a-vis the state. That said, what has transpired is in no way equivalent with the actions of, say, the Soviet state, nor is it particularly exceptional in the world of modern late-capitalist nation states. Is Russia an oligarchy? Of course it is. So are most ‘democratic’ states in the rest of the planet. And let’s not pretend that the ‘opposition’ in Russia or elsewhere are blameless angels; as with many of the much-vaunted ‘color revolutions’ of the last decade, the replacement of one oligarchy with another is just as likely in the case of Russia as elsewhere.

    I hope that Russians, like people elsewhere, will in time shake off statist domination and forge a more just, more liberatory society. However, the brou-ha-ha over Pussy Riot has tended towards an unfair singling out of Russia and Putin as somehow exceptionally evil and terrible, and plays all too well into a general tendency in the West to demonize and marginalize Russia as the ‘bad guys’ on the world stage, standing in the way of the US and friends spreading friendly democracy and liberal values, etc. Surely there must be a way of critiquing Russian state policy without veering off into such demonization and exceptionalizing.

    1. Thank you for writing that. It restores my faith in humanity to read commenters who actually think rather than knee-jerk.

      That said, the Church in question as an institution is exactly where it was for the last 400 years, a leech on the government’s body. It had ample opportunity to rethink itself, and it’s just not happening. Not while there are money to be had.

    2. “Nor is the Orthodox Church in Russia simply an extension of the Russian state. ”
      It was always an arm of the Russian state, teaching people to think of the czar as “the little father”, as opposed to god, “the great father”, and Putin’s clique clearly wants the old role restored. Why else does it get to import and resell cigarettes duty-free? Why else did the former mayor of Moscow – Luzhkov – tell all the leading Moscow gangsters that they had to contribute funds towards the rebuilding of the Christ the Savior Cathedral, or else face arrest?

  11. At what point has Russia (or any country with a large population) been a “vigilant and critically minded society.” I would love to live in one of those.

  12. “Putin is not the devil; Russia is not some disguised Soviet Union secretly longing to dominate the planet and send everyone to the gulags.”
    Neither Doctorow nor Samutsevich made these claims.  You did.

    “Nor is the Orthodox Church in Russia simply an extension of the Russian state.”

    Samutsevich reminds us that Putin’s former KGB colleague Kirill Gundyaev is now head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that with the advent of his tenure, Christ the Savior Cathedral is now a regular site for political theater featuring Russian security services.  Explain.

    “Is Russia an oligarchy?  Of course it is.  So are most ‘democratic’ states on the rest of the planet.”

    And your point is what?

    “And let’s not pretend that the ‘opposition’ in Russia or elsewhere are blameless angels…”

    Again — your point?  What is the bearing on the Pussy Riot trial?

    “The brou-ha-ha over Pussy Riot…”

    Oh yes — that’s *really* neutral language.  When they get out in seven years, say to the faces of these women, their children, and their families that it was just a brou-ha-ha.

    You’re barking up the wrong tree throughout.

  13. Just wanted to add that Ekaterina is a coder who participated in creation of soft for Russian submarine “Nerpa”. How cool is that. And here’s what Putin’s regime has for Russian geek youngsters. 

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