In an age in which punk is a Vogue-sanctioned, ball-devoted endeavor, it’s easy to forget that the movement was once an intensely physical, joyously rebellious cry. Today, most would agree that punk is long dead –whether you define the scene within the realm of the early Vivienne Westwood Sex regular or her crusty, Lower East Side, scuffed-up counterpoint.
In Moscow, Russia, however, there are true punk originals. Pussy Riot, the 10+-member all-female feminist riot grrl group founded in August 2011 is carrying on both the scream and aesthetic of the subculture’s founders. They engage in colorful, public performance acts, calling attention to Russia’s current political climate. In their most well-known, three of the girls wore candy bright balaclavas and sung the outspoken, Putin-decrying anthem “Punk Prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012—an act which landed two of the three girls in Siberian labor camps for an indefinite period of time. It was an unusually harsh sentence for such an act, one that lit a fire amongst global activists (including the likes of Madonna, Patti Smith & Kathleen Hanna) calling for their release. On Monday, the two women – Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova— were set free. They’ve built a loud – and quite young – call around them; a sort of global conversation and fight for action. And their members continue to speak out:
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Here’s an early gift: Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been released from prison. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova served two years in prison for staging a “a punk prayer” protest performance against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral. Their release was two months earlier than their sentence was scheduled to end.
Tolokonnikova shouted “Russia without Putin” following her release from a Siberian prison. Meanwhile, President Putin appears to be on his continuing PR extravaganza leading up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Just last week, oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky was also granted an early release early from prison for his role in criticizing Putin. Holy PR spin! All Putin has to do now is retract his statements/policies on gays and human rights abuse and we can all enjoy watching the bobsled team careen their way to the gold, guilt-free.
Which brings us to Duck Dynasty: The arrest of Pussy Riot had drawn international denunciation of Russia’s human rights record; the band members prosecution and relatively stiff sentences represented a brutal repression of free speech. Sure we’re outraged (but are we really surprised?) by the anti-gay comments from Duck Dynasty reality star Phil Robertson. (It’s a reality show and he was giving us a real taste of his reality.) Should we take the side of American’s right to the First Amendment or should we wish he were locked up in a Siberian Gulag? We should be happy that we live in a country were complete fucking idiots have the right to speak their minds rather than be imprisoned. (Though in America, a hell of a lot of people are being fired from jobs for asinine things they post on Twitter.)
The members of Pussy Riot might think their release was a PR stunt, but hell, they should be very happy for this PR stunt rather, otherwise they’d be slaving away in a prison camp for expressing their views.
So, again, enjoy the Olympics.
Main image: masked supporters
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