Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer Answered?

NEWPOOOSAH

This week it has been reported that Putin may grant amnesty to the two remaining Pussy Riot members still incarcerated. Maria “Masha” Vladimirovana Alyokhina and Nadezhda “Nadia” Tolokonnnikova, may be freed from a two year “religious hatred” sentence. And it’s about time, right? The Russian Government has been a bit too power-happy and, let’s face it, they have been in a fluster over the band’s actions. However, Pussy Riot has stuck to their guns and kept cool, to the extent of eye-rolling at their prosecutor’s accusations.

Pussy Riot is a Feminist Punk-Rock band, who formed in response to Vladimir Putin being re-elected in 2012. They’re known for wearing bright clothes and balaclavas, and turning up in public places to do protest performances. Most of these performances are campaigns for women’s rights—as sexism is still a massive issue in Russia. They’ve performed in clothing stores and most notably they’ve performed in Red Square.

Their most famous gig to date was in February 2012, where Pussy Riot stormed the altar in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and sang their ‘Punk Prayer’ called Holy Shit; a punk prayer that calls on the Virgin Mary to kick Putin out of power because of the corruption in the Orthodox Church.

After pressure from celebrities such as Madonna, who took her top off to a stadium audience to show the words “FREE PUSSY RIOT”, to Yoko Ono, who personally pleaded for the release of the band members. And nobody should say no to Yoko. Yet, authorities still proceeded with charging the three members of the feminist punk band. Even after the mass media gave Pussy Riot their support and multiple protests were held throughout the world, did the court budge under pressure?

Pussy-Riot-A-Punk-Prayer

The news of the possible release of the two remaining members, Masha and Nadya (Katia, the third member, was set free after she appealed in October 2012) came at the same time as the documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer was shortlisted for an Academy Award. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the documentary has everything to do with the remaining members’ possible freedom, yet it definitely has played its part. Over the past three months, pressure has mounted for the two women to be freed. In September, reports were leaked to the press about Nadia’s hunger strike, which wasn’t anything to do with her sentence, but to do with the prison conditions she lived in. It was claimed that the penal institution she was sentenced to punished the inmates if they complained about the conditions or about another inmate’s health. In a penal institution in Russia, an inmate will work a 14-16 hour day of hard labour and live off four hours of sleep. Nobody can live like this. It is inhumane.

It wasn’t just Nadia’s hunger strike that caused a stir in the media, putting pressure on the Russian government. In September, thirty members of Greenpeace—who were peacefully protesting against the Russian company, Gazprom, for drilling in the Arctic for oil—were arrested on the grounds of piracy. For Greenpeace to be arrested for piracy is insane. This meant that they could face a 10 to 15 year sentence. Not only were they faced with piracy charges, but the foreign members were held in St. Petersburg, unlike the four Russian activists who were allowed home. Luckily, (yet, this doesn’t have anything to do with luck…) the charges were reduced to a Hooliganism sentence—the same Pussy Riot faced—and slowly the members have been released, however they still have a legal battle hanging over their heads.  If Putin lets the amnesty grant go through, this would also mean that the Greenpeace members could avoid jail.

As all these travesties of justice happen before our eyes, the members of Pussy Riot keep it cool under pressure within their time in prison, and, also in Masha’s case, having her child threatened to be taken away by the social services. To go back to the documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer sheds light on the case, giving the world a detailed insight of the bravery of these women and their beliefs. In one scene, the members are surrounded by a media frenzy. One journalist tells member, Katia, that they are releasing an album with all of the Pussy Riot protests songs. ‘What are they calling it?’ she asks. The reporter replies, ‘Occupying Red Square.’ Katia smirks. ‘It should be called “Kill the Sexists.”’

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