Who the F— Are Pussy Riot and Why Are People Talking About Them?

Pussy Riot Protests

Posted by on 08/17/2012 at 12:02 PM News

The Popdust Files: pussy riot

We don’t generally devote a ton of webspace on this blog to Russian feminist anarchic punk collectives, because their crossover with American pop culture tends to skew towards the minimal. Yet in the last few weeks, Pussy Riot—a more extreme, more explicitly revolutionary sort of equivalent to American riot grrrl heroes Bikini Kill, have become one of the most discussed musical acts on the planet.

No, it’s not because they’re joining Drake’s Club Paradise II tour, and they’re not featured on a track on Justin Bieber’s Believe reissue, and Kanye didn’t tweet about them (as far as we know). Rather, they’ve been making headlines for political reasons. A recent impromptu concert of theirs (filmed for the “Punk Prayer” music video, below) in a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow—which included a line about asking the Virgin Mary to “drive Putin away” (Vladimir Putin was then up for re-election as President of Russia)—resulted in the group being arrested for “hooliganism.”

Pussy Riot Protests

Photo: Ksenia Kolesnikova

 

The group’s arrest, and their further abuse and mistreatment while in detention, resulted in them becoming something of a cause celebre. international pop figures ranging from Madonna to Paul McCartney to the Red Hot Chili Peppers have come out in support of the group, making it an international freedom-of-speech issue.

The trial, which the group protested being given inappropriate time to prepare for, went on for about two and a half weeks, and included “witnesses” who claimed the group “spat in my face, in my soul, in my Lord’s soul,” while journalists were allegedly refused entry. (The Stranger breaks down the timeline of the group’s case in much greater detail.)

Pussy Riot Protests

Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

 

Today, the group—which allegedly includes 24-year-old mother Maria Alyokhina, 30-year-old programmer Yekaterina Samutsevich and 22-year-old philosophy student Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, though the group performs anonymously and refuses membership—was found guilty of “premeditated hooliganism performed by organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility,” and sentenced to two years in prison. As expected, the group’s fans protested the verdict outside.

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Pussy Riot Protests

Photo: YouTube

 

The band’s music is not easily accessible to American audiences—both in figurative terms, in that the music is certainly not geared towards pop audiences, and in literal terms, as Pussy Riot’s music is not available on Spotify, not being sold on Amazon, and not particularly easy to find on YouTube. If some record label ever wanted to put out an Anarchy in the (Former) U.S.S.R.: The Best of Pussy Riot compilation, though, now would probably be the time. (At the very least, you can visit their Live Journal page, and contribute to the Free Pussy Riot cause.)

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