Pussy Riot: Martyrs for Secularism

Graffiti in support of Pussy Riot in Central Moscow

Anyone who has ever followed Russia’s foreign policy knows that Vladimir Putin is known for shrewd political manoeuvring. This was perhaps best conveyed when, in 2003, he attended a conference in Asia. “Only days after listening to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathirʼs anti-semitic tirades .. Putin welcomed Ariel Sharon [former Israeli PM] to Moscow.” (Andrei Grachev). This was all whilst playing the ʻChina Chessboardʼ – selling weapons and negotiating increases in trade.

It, however, might not be so well known that this is reflected domestically too. Potentially conflicting images of a “modern, politician & democratic reformer of a Western type” and a “mildly nationalist & paternalist leader” have meant gain in the middle ground whilst retaining loyal support. In the past this worked fine, and voters were happy; Pussy Riot created something dangerous – a direct conflict between the Conservative church and the liberal public.

Sibiryova (of Sova Human Rights) claimed that “Russia is no longer a secular state”. Whilst there is not an official relgion, nearly three quarters of the population identify themselves as Orthodox. However, only seven percent actually attend services – one of the lowest rates in Europe. The Church has refused to denounce the trial, and it’s influence in the judiciary might be related to that.

Supporters of the Church are outnumbered in the polls, with the majority believing that Pussy Riot’s crimes are too harsh for the crime. This is a good sign, as analyst Alexei Beglov says, “the church’s problems have entered the daily discourse of society and are likely to stay there.” The Church is utterly dependent on the Kremlin, ever since Yeltsin spent hundreds of millions of rubles rebuilding the Church of Christ the Savior; if it keeps on making unpopular and inflammatory calls then it will lose this.

Vedomosti called this the Church’s biggest mistake since excommunicating the ever popular Tolstoy. It is more than possible that the punk band will suffer, and face false justice due to outside influences. However, in the long term this is something that has stirred the public up and the government will listen or else cease to be relevant.


4 Comments on “Pussy Riot: Martyrs for Secularism”

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  2. […] As I said before, Pussy Riot’s trial hinged on Church influence and Putin’s populist tendencies left him as if he were a paper tiger throughout the trial. Putin gains support from both the liberal and conservative electorate, and when he said that they shouldn’t be punished too harshly he was making an attempt to appease both sides. This, as the latest polls show, did not work. […]

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