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Who Is Pussy Riot?

Russian punk rock activists take on Putin's government

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Who Is Pussy Riot?

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot
Depending on who you ask, Pussy Riot is something different. The Russian government views them as criminals. The Russian Orthodox Christian church views them as heretics and blasphemers. The internet views them as a Youtube phenom, and the punk scene views them as something exciting, an angry energetic female machine that could quite possibly be the second coming of Riot Grrrl.

Perhaps the women known as Pussy Riot are all of those. A feminist political collective formed of friends that found they held similar ideals at anti-Putin protests in Moscow, they formed a group based on punk ethics and political activism. The identities of the group's members, said to number 10 permanent members, is kept secret, and they wear brightly colored outfits and balaclavas to their protests, inviting others to join in wearing disguises as well.

The group got their start staging miniature flash protests in locations like the Moscow Metro, performing short, fast politically charged punk songs that are harshly critical of Vladimir Putin's government, specifically its restrictive stance on women's issues. From that point, the scale of the venues chosen for their unsanctioned performances grew in scale, including a concert from the roof of a detention center where protest leader and blogger Alexei Navalny was being held in police custody on December 14, 2011. There, the band was able to catch authorities off guard, staging their performance before making a hasty escape.

But it was the group's next performance - in Moscow's Red Square on January 20, 2012 - that launched the band to international news outlets as well as landing eight of the group's members in police custody. After being released after paying a fine, the collective was not ready to stop. On February 21, 2012, they took their protest to Christ the Savior Cathedral, where four members played at protest set that lasted less than five minutes, and included the song "Holy Shit", before it was halted. While church officials made demands of lawmakers that blasphemy should be declared a crime, the local law enforcement is exploring charges of hooliganism, which could carry a penalty of up to eight years with conviction, and local Cossack groups are staging patrols around churches to prevent similar events from taking place.

It's probably a given that we have yet to see the end of Pussy Riot or their political agenda, which bodes well for the state of punk in the world and its potential as a vehicle for change. While many groups enjoy the freedom to criticize their governments freely in their home countries, bands like Pussy Riot are the true punks, using their music to proclaim their voice of dissent.

We'll continue to keep an eye on the women of Pussy Riot as they continue to enact change through the power of punk.

Pussy Riot in the News - A Timeline

Never Mind the Kremlin, Here's Pussy Riot - After powering their way through a minute of music in Moscow's Red Square, eight members of Pussy Riot end up in police custody, with four members later charged with non-criminal public order offences and disobeying police, which could could carry a maximum punishment of 15 days behind bars.

Pussy Riot Strikes Again - The band caught the attention of local religious leaders after their performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Political Groups Announce Patrols to Keep Pussy Riot Out of Russia's Churches - As religious leaders demand that the government make blasphemy a criminal offense and lawmakers pursue charges of hooliganism against Pussy Riot, activists from the Cossack society Southwest in Moscow announce that they will be standing guard outside all Orthodox Christian churches within the city.

Russian Authorities Arrest Six Members of Pussy Riot - Six members of the Russian feminist punk collective were arrested and are being charged with hooliganism charges in connection with their February 21 protest performance at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Incarcerated Members of Pussy Riot Declare Hunger Strike - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina,two members of Pussy Riot and mothers of small children, declare a hunger strike after courts refuse them bail.

Incarcerated Members of Pussy Riot Recognized as Political Prisoners - As many as 15,000 anti-Putin protesters gathered in Moscow's city center for a rally where signs were evident professing support for Pussy Riot, and their names were included in a list of political prisoners currently being held by Putin's government.

Russian Religious Official Issues a Decree that Pussy Riot is not Punk - In a statement published on Interfax, Russian Orthodox missionary Hegumen Sergy Rybko expressed disbelief that the members of the band and feminist collective can't be punks, based on the idea that they are expressing political opinions.

Russian Church Officials Call for Harsh Sentences for Pussy Riot - It's being reported that the Russian Orthodox church is circulating a petition through its priests, asking them to circulate it through their congregations, collecting signatures calling for the incarcerated members of Pussy Riot, their associates and even the media that provided coverage to the bands to be sentenced to severe and harsh sentences that would serve as an example to anyone who would openly defy the church in such a way.

The Russian Church and Pussy Riot have words for one another... - While they haven't been face to face, members of Pussy Riot and heads of the Russian Orthodox Church are having a dialogue... of sorts.

Amnesty International recognizes jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot as prisoners of conscience - Yesterday, the group issued a statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the three women, recognizing them as prisoners of conscience.

Free Pussy Riot - How you can get involved - The worldwide punk community begins to take action.

Court extends the pretrial sentence of Russian punks Pussy Riot - A court in Moscow has made the decision to extend the detention of members of Pussy Riot until June 24.

Pussy Riot as Poster Girls - The Russian government seeks to make all protest illegal - As the trial continues, the Russian Parliament passes laws outlawing public protest.

Pussy Riot Goes international - While the non incarcerated members of Pussy Riot take their show internationally with a protest performance in Prague, Russian demand that the three incarcerated members remain there until trial.

Extended Sentences in the Midst of Increasing Support - From Anti-Flag to Ad-Rock, musicians speak out and perform benefits for the release of the three women. An exhibition opens up in Paris giving exposure to their plight, and Russian celebrities get on board demanding their release. Meanwhile, the Russian decide to extend their pretrial detention, a move that is criticized as being against Russian law.

Imprisoned Suspects to Remain in Jail - The courts in Moscow refuse to free the three imprisoned members of Pussy Riot from pre-trial detention. Arguing that the three are flight risks, the women will continue to remain in jail until their July 24 trial date.

Pre-trial detention extended for the imprisoned punks of Pussy Riot extended into 2013 - In a move that presents how harshly the Russian courts are treating the three imprisoned members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot, decisions have been issued to extend the women's pretrial detention until January of 2013, meaning they will have been held in jail for almost a year without being sentenced.

Artist sews mouth shut as a show of solidarity - One of the most drastic shows of support for Pussy Riot takes place in St. Petersburg, where painter Pyotr Pavlensky holds a one-man protest where he stitches his mouth shut.

Allegations Of Mistreatment Are Raised After Pussy Riot Punk Activist Collapses In Court - At the start of day three of the Pussy Riot trial, one of the three punk activists collapses in the court room, raising allegations the women are being denied food and sleep in conditions that could be considered tortuous.

Putin's call for leniency may result in a harsher sentence for the imprisoned punk activists - Russian President Vladimir Putin called for leniency for the three imprisoned punk activists, commenting to Russian reporters that "I don't think that a verdict should be very severe." But is this intended to have an opposite effect?

Prosecutors call for three-year sentence for Russian punks, declare that "Feminism is a mortal sin" - Disturbing arguments from the prosecutors suggest that they frown on feminism, along with everything else.

Pussy Riot Online

The Pussy Riot Youtube Channel - Because of their role as activists, the band documents their performances, uploading them to Youtube, where they continue to spread their music and their message.

The Music of Pussy Riot

At the core of Pussy Riot is their music - fast, abrasive, delivered in one- to two-minute bursts, making them perfect for short fast, political protests. Despite the Russian lyrics, the emotion of the band is clear, so heavily dripping with vitriol that there's no need to speak the language - it's angry and it works. Like Riot Grrrl before it, it's being created and performed by a politically charged, motivated group of activist women. It's necessary, and it's about time.

The band has a handful of MP3s available for free download, and I'll post the links below, but don't ask me to read the titles:

Free MP3s From Pussy Riot
"Освободи брусчатку" (Listen/Download MP3)
"Кропоткин-водка" (Listen/Download MP3)
"Путин зассал" (Listen/Download MP3)
"Убей сексиста" (Listen/Download MP3)

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