Free Pussy Riot

Three members of the anti-Putin Russian group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison yesterday on charges of “hooliganism” for this act of defiance:

There’s not much to add that hasn’t already been said. But I’ll add to the growing number of voices who are calling it shameful that anyone could be arrested for what basically amounts to “blasphemy” and dissent.

Members of Pussy Riot (Natalia Kolesnikova – AFP/Getty Images)

Mother Jones has an excellent summary of what this story is all about from start to finish.

One of the group members, Yekaterina Samutsevich, also issued this statement that speaks truth to power:

… we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

We often complain about a growing theocracy in America. It’s easy to forget how much worse the problem is in other countries.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Guest

    America is a theocracy?  I’ve heard religious people say that’s what atheists are yelling about.  I actually got into arguments saying that not even a jack-ass would argue that America is anything but hell and gone from being a theocracy, so nobody in their right minds would even think of calling America a country heading toward a theocracy.  Want a theocracy?  Go to Saudi Arabia.  I don’t think it’s heading for an atheist tyranny either, but what it is heading toward is a country where everyone - regardless of ideological stripes - looks as though they are tired of letting those they disagree with enjoy the rights they want.  That appears to cut across all philosophical and theological aisles. 

  • Guest

    By the way, though I certainly think this two year sentence was beyond harsh, and makes me thankful to be in America, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the young girl’s statement.  Any intersection between religion and our political spheres should be dealt with ‘severely’?  Wow.  What’s that even mean?  Dealt with severely? Thinking people right there would have to say just a second young lady, just what are you suggesting?

    • SwedishSJ

      Given the situation in Russia, I can’t bring myself to “chuckle” at her statement.  “Thinking people right there” would have questioned the entire case and released these ladies, not chuckled condescendingly at their statements.  

    • Greisha

       It means to deal as with a crime of violating a constitutional low.

      • Greisha

         Correcting misspelling.
        It means to deal as with a crime of violating a constitutional law.

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “We often complain about a growing theocracy in America. It’s easy to forget how much worse the problem is in other countries.”

    Russia is not one of those countries however. Had someone staged a pro-Putin demo in the church, they’d have had no trouble at all.

  • http://anonatheist.wordpress.com/ Mike Hunt

    My favorite quote about “speaking truth to power” comes from Noam Chomsky.  He said something to the effect, “Truth doesn’t need to be spoken to those in power.  Those in power know the truth already.  It’s the people who aren’t in power that need to know the truth.”  I remember that quote every time I think of the ignorant Tea Party.

  • Renshia

     So maybe, they were jailed because they suck. There isn’t a law against that, so someone just desperately grabbed at the first thing that came to mind.

     Really, all I heard was some chicks yelling at the top of their lungs. I don’t think the musicians were playing the same song for most of it.

    Maybe this is just what happens when you piss off the most powerful man in your country and you suck. From what hollywood has taught me about Russia, I would have thought they would be grateful they just didn’t disappear.
    Sucks to be put in jail for two years for something so stupid. I hope they think it was worth the price.

    • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    • Greisha

       Do not learn anything from Hollywood – go to school.

    • Pseudonym

      They were arrested because they caused a mild nuisance in public, and fully deserve a stern slap on the wrist for it. The problem is that they face three years’ jail, because they made a political statement which the authorities don’t like.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RIKNE2EM6LUGW43IN5LQ6RZDZ4 Clementine

    I think Hemant should change the title of this blog post.

  • BenofSoCal

    As an man of limited financial means, I was totally bummed out to discover just how badly I had misinterpreted the story headline.

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    Not that anyone hear is saying they are, but from my reading of their statements they aren’t atheists. They do seem to be a believers, but they are believers who fight oppression which puts them squarely on our side. At least if we care about justice and the like.

  • Margaret Whitestone

    This is an actual example of people being “silenced” and denied the right of Free Speech.  I doubt, however, our usual rabid defenders of Free Speech and Freedom of Religion will be here crying for the rights of these women. 

    • Rwlawoffice

      I for one will defend them and their right to free speech. It does not exist apparently in Russia as it does here. For all our griping and complaining at least we still get to gripe and complain. Preserving that right as well as the right to freely practice religion, mine and others of different faiths is something I take seriously.

      • Margaret Whitestone

         “Preserving that right as well as the right to freely practice religion,
        mine and others of different faiths is something I take seriously.”

        Did you type that with a straight face? You are, after all, the one who claims your “religious liberty” is being denied any time you encounter someone who dares to say LGBT people deserve the same rights and freedoms as anybody else. 

    • Renshia

      Maybe be they just see no point in it. It is Russia after all. Not a lot they can do. I doubt that there are many that will want to go surround the Russian embassy and beat up mail clerks over this.
      If it was Edith instead of Yekaterina and Obama instead of Putin, if it was CIA instead of Russian police, then they would be howling like the rabid defenders they are. 

      So maybe they are just picking there fights a little  more carefully. Kinda like not responding to some bitch with a stick in her hand trying to pick a fight.

      • Margaret Whitestone

         I don’t think there’s anything we can do but that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore it or say nothing about it.  I don’t think the petition I signed will do anything to aid Alexander Aan but I signed it anyway.  I haven’t yet been browbeaten into apathy. BTW, if you thought calling me a bitch would insult me you obviously don’t know me.

        • Renshia

          ” I haven’t yet been browbeaten into apathy.”

          Way to go for you. But just because those rabid defenders out there don’t snark off at everything that comes down the pipe, doesn’t mean they have been browbeaten into apathy. Maybe, they’re a little wiser is their energy expenditures.

          I think it is marvelous you have been such a rabid defender of free speech. Your better than everyone. Kudo’s to you.  If you feel the need to beat that drum to every pedestrian on the way, you go girl. It is people like you who make the true differences in the world. 

          “if you thought calling me a bitch would insult me”

          I never thought that at all, I really meant it in the kindest possible way. 

          But on the other hand, You right, I don’t know you at all. You got fire, your obviously passionate about your views. I have to say I think it would be good fun to be able to know you. I think we would have some long crazy conversations. Hell, that would be great fun. We could solve all the worlds problems together.

          That being said though, There are lots of people that will have a civil discussion with you,  If you come in here all bitchy with a stick like, your only going to get the odd hapless victim that hasn’t really contemplated what he’s in for to respond to you. Well, and me. What’s the gain in that? It sounds to me like you really need a hug.

          So maybe we can get together sometime, pass a joint around, have a beer, solve the worlds problems and I’ll even give you a hug. Sound like a good idea?

          It’ll have to be a side hug like the christians do, I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea.  LOL

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Jesus; errrm, the Russian Orthodox Church forgives Pusy Riot.

  • pagansister

    Though it had didn’t take place in a church, the Dixie Chick’s singer Natalie Maines mentioned in a concert in London that she was ashamed that President Bush was from Texas.  That was not taken well in the US but at least they weren’t put on trial.  Maines at the time the controversy  broke out said she meant no disrespect—a comment she had the good sense to take back in an interview in 2006, saying words to the affect that Bush wasn’t owed any respect.   Unfortunately the Russian government still has no tolerance for those that disagree with it—after all Putin is former KGB.    Sentencing the group to 2 years in jail was ridiculous.  But it is Russia, after all.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    In addition to the harsh sentence (well, it could have been seven years, so…) the entire trial was a kangaroo court.  And the main thing they were protesting was the Orthodox Church’s open endorsement of Putin.


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