In February of last year, the Russian punk band Pussy Riot staged an impromptu performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video entitled “Punk Prayer — Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader’s support for [Russian president Vladimir] Putin during his election campaign.
In Putin’s ever-more autocratic Russia, where nationalism mixes with increased religiosity, this was a provocation that couldn’t stand. In August of 2012, three members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years behind bars for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.” Yekaterina Samutsevich was released within months, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina had to wait until yesterday to walk free again (some sources are reporting that, although the pardon is official, the pair haven’t actually been let out of prison just yet).