Today the announcement was made that the ladies of the feministic punk rock band Pussy Riot will not ask President Putin for pardon. After their rally in February, 5 months of imprisonment and global media attention, the trio’s attorney proclaimed that “Putin and his comrades could go to hell with a pardon”.
Not much of a differentiated statement. Although such a reaction is to be expected considering the unrelenting image of the band, it certainly does not aid a workable solution for this conflict which is more and more becoming a smear campaign against Russia than a discussion about the freedom of speech.
Retrospective of Ocurrences
Let’s have a short retrospective of occurrences. February 21, 2012 Pussy Riot’s band members made themselves heard during a Russian Orthodox mass at the Christ Savior Cathedral in Moscow. They protested against Putin’s reelection by yelling insults and praying loudly for the Russian Head of State's salvation while making cross gestures in front of their chest. Members of the congregation were in shock and the loud screaming ladies were quickly removed from the stage by the safety guards.
Quiet an intense event for the still mainly Christian orthodox Russians. But that was not all. The ladies decided to throw some oil on the fire and used the footage of their Church Riot in a video clip. The clip went viral on Youtube and the mood was set.
In March 2012, the band members were arrested on accusation of Hooliganism. Quiet a severe felony in Russia, for which it is not uncommon to be sentenced 2 years confinement in a labor camp. Something the Pussy Riot ladies were fully aware of at the time of their protest.
The severe punishment for their act has been disapproved by many renowned artists and international dignitary. Two years of labor camp for making your own opinion known is of such preposterous proportion that many petitions, among others by Amnesty International, were globally signed.
Matters of State and Church
It is nothing but obvious why freedom of speech is protected by Constitutional Law in many countries. Therefore, disapproving of Putin’s reelection should absolutely be possible at all times. But according to our modern society, matters of the State and Church should always be separated as well. And that is where Pussy Riot crossed the line when intefering a religious gathering with their provocative act.
According to Russia expert Marie Thérèse ter Haar, Russia is to be compared with developed countries in the sixties. A nation and a society heavily depending on the religious structure of the church, and greatly valuing the rules and behavior that comes along with it.
Besides this, many Russians do consider Putin to be the right man for the job, an opinion that is to be respected as well.
The conviction of these punk rock ladies will certainly stir up things further. Attorneys look into the possibility for an appeal and the international community is trying to apply some judiciousness to the Russian legal system. Even leaders of the Russian Orthodox church urges the state for mercy on the ladies' behalf.
Hopefully, the punk rock ladies of Pussy Riot will be free to walk the streets again anytime soon. However aware of the fact that there are 2 sides to the freedom of speech.
Photo by Denis Bochkarev/Creative Commons.