North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Putin vs a Rock Band vs the Russian Orthodox Church

Pussy Riot - the name of a Russian rock band that has shaken both the Russian political establishment and the Russian Orthodox church during the summer.

The story found its way to the world's media particularly in the past two weeks, with a trial charging three members of the Moscow-based Russian feminist punk-rock band with "hooliganism." Founded just one year ago in August 2011, this band of seven young women stages politically provocative performances about Russian political life in unusual locations - on Red Square, on top of a trolleybus, on a scaffold in the Moscow Metro, or in the most recent and notorious instance, in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior

The performance, according to reports, occurred in February this year. It was a reciting of what is titled, Punk Prayer, in consecrated space within this famous church, along with dance choreography. The group's targeting of President Putin in church space was motivated by their opposition to the Russian President Vladimir Putin and questions regarding the political connections of the Russian Orthodox Church. At the time, the group's actions were stopped by church security officials.

A few weeks later, in early March after a video of the performance appeared online (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALS92big4TY), three of the group members were arrested, leading to their trial five months later.

A sympathetic translation of the Punk Prayer lyrics read and shouted back in February can be read in full here ...http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/20/pussy-riot-punk-prayer-lyrics?newsfeed=true but two lines are sufficient to show how the performance and words offended both the church and the Russian president.

"Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish him, we pray thee!"

Much of the Western media began to pick up on the story as the trial got underway, as the three women charged appeared in demure clothing and behavior, yet surrounded by serious Russian guards. The political theatre of the trail cage and state charges put the power of the Putin machinery on display.

The three punk band members charged are Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, left; Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 center; and Maria Alekhina, 24 right.

It comes across as poor PR when heavy duty Russian guards stand intimidatingly over three slim, young women on trial; two of whom have small toddlers ...

The upshot to date is that the three have received sentences up to two years in jail for their disturbing the church and protesting the President. During and after the trial, significant protests have taken place in Moscow, elsewhere in Russia and in other European countries. President Putin has been put on the defensive, and the Russian Orthodox Church has been called into question for its ties to the political leadership.

Celebrities around the world, both respected and not so much, have jumped on the bandwagon. Gary Kasparov, Russian chess-playing icon has been arrested in Russia, and lo, even world-citizen, NY-based Madonna has cried out regarding the injustice of it all.

Kasparov, heading here to jail, may be soon on trial himself on charges of biting a police officer while protesting on behalf the the band

Madonna, wearing a jacket style often worn by Pussy Riot, is outraged over fellow pop stars in trouble.

From the Washington Post, we can read with some eyeball-rolling commentary regarding Madonna's outrage, but also a glimpse into the larger implications. "When the human rights activist Natalia Estimerova was murdered three years ago in Chechnya, she [Madonna] was silent. Nor did her Web site register the death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006. The fate of three fellow pop stars, however, is clearly different — and it is precisely that difference that poses an unusual challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Although it is often assumed otherwise, Putin’s regime has long permitted political dissent — so long as it appeals only to a small elite. Although most television stations are controlled in one way or another by the Kremlin, a few low-circulation newspapers have long been allowed to keep up some criticism. Although anyone with real potential to oppose Putin was put under financial or judicial pressure — or, in some cases, arrested or murdered — other critics have been allowed to keep talking, as long as too many people aren’t listening. The Internet is controlled in Russia, as it is in China, Iran and other authoritarian states, but with a relatively light hand: Confident that not many Russians read human rights Web sites anyway, the regime never bothered to block all of them.

At least until now, this formula has worked. Indeed, the genius of Putinism has always been its ability to keep the apolitical masses ignorant of or apathetic about the regime’s opponents, while at the same time eschewing mass arrests. Putin understood this very well: The modern elite Russian doesn’t want to live in a pariah state, and he doesn’t want to be cut off from the outside world. He might not care if his foreign friends think Russia unpleasant, but he isn’t keen to be compared to North Korea either. Putin’s solution was to keep the pressure on serious opponents while studiously ignoring those he deemed un-serious. Political speech is controlled, but entertainment media are free. "

All this has worked up till now. And while the Washington Post and most Western media has focused on the embarrassment of Putin, a few commentators have noted that the Russian Orthodox Church has been caught up in this as well. Two articles that focus on the church will be posted in "Comments."

2 comments:

Teatree said...

Two articles referencing the Russian Orthodox church can be found here. One by Peter Jenkins, Professor at the US Baylor University is titled, "Pussy Riot and the Militant Godless"

http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4212934.html

The other is from Reuters, titled "Pussy Riot reveals rift in Russian Orthodox Church"

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/15/russia-pussyriot-church-idINL6E8JD8V820120815

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