This past February, three women from the band Pussy Riot entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia. They issued a “punk prayer” in the form of their song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out”. After the incident, the women were jailed on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.
Their actions were controversial, no doubt, but what has erupted is a political battle and what some have even deemed a “show trial”. The charges can carry a punishment of up to seven years imprisonment, but prosecutors in the case are asking for three. The past five months of detainment alone are shocking and appear extreme to all those across the world who take their freedom of speech for granted.
The statement made by the band was intended to protest against the presidency of Vladimir Putin and what they see as an alarmingly close relationship between church and state. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has even stated that Putin’s presidency is a “miracle of God”. Protests have manifested intermittently since last December with calls for democratic and free elections.
Many think that elections in the country have been fraudulent and when Putin retook the presidency in May of this year, more protests broke out in the streets of Moscow. Protestors were met harshly by the police and hundreds were arrested.
Despite no violent history or reason to believe the women from Pussy Riot are physically dangerous, they are kept inside a cage while in the courtroom. But, like many other oppressive regimes, the biggest danger lies not in violence but in an idea—something that no physical structure can suppress.
Supporters are heading to the streets with increased resolve and protests are scheduled in more than two dozen countries for Friday, preceding the verdict. The additional members of Pussy Riot who were not imprisoned are calling for people to come to the streets sporting their balaclavas. Despite knowing the potential consequences women are flocking to the streets, perhaps less fearful than before.
Musicians performing in Russia have made public statements in support of the group. After Madonna called for their release, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted something along the lines of “With age, every former whore tries to lecture everyone on morality”. Other pro-Russian websites have also called the women sluts– an all too familiar attack when controversial women are in the headlines.
It is unclear what will happen on Friday, but whatever the decision, there will be significant implications. If the members of Pussy Riot are released, then it will be a victory of sorts. If they are sentenced to prison, the movement of supporters will continue to grow and there will be more and more people just like the bands’ members, willing to sacrifice their autonomy, if need be, in pursuit of an ideal.
Change is to come either way, as it usually does when an injustice like this is brought to the surface. In which form, we know not, but we stand by those who are courageously joining the battle for freedom in all its forms.