Two Years


Today the three women belonging to the band Pussy Riot were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” a charge that resulted from a brief protest they staged in a Moscow cathedral last winter. They were sentenced to two years in prison.

The women, who have been held by the authorities since their arrest last March, will now disappear into the bowels of the Russian prison system. A few hundred Russians held a protest outside the courtroom. The crowd, which included former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, was quickly broken up by police, and Kasparov was arrested. As this is written, there are unconfirmed reports of beatings.

According to a New York Times dispatch from Moscow, defendant Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said the following in her closing statement:

To my deepest regret, this mock trial is close to the standards of the Stalinist troikas. . . . Who is to blame for the performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and for our being put on trial after the concert? The authoritarian political system is to blame. What Pussy Riot does is oppositionist art or politics. . . . In any event, it is a form of civil action in circumstances where basic human rights, civil and political freedoms are suppressed.

Two years. A severe blow to liberty was struck in Moscow today.

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Rodney Choate

Notice and condemn unjust and unequal treatment under the law everywhere we find it!

I'm under the impression that things never really got very good after the fall of the U.S.S.R. anyway. Is there some reason why this episode marks a special milestone?

Jon Harrison

Well, I wanted to mention it given Putin's obvious desire to remain in power forever, and the Orthodox Church's willingness to help him in any and every way it can. I also thought it deserved mention in that the Soviet (sorry, I mean Russian) authorities undertook to kill a butterfly with an elephant gun -- the charge of "hooliganism inspired by religious hatred" and the punishment of two years' imprisonment are absurd and in no way fit the "crime". Also, I found the women sympathetic. Particularly admirable was their refusal to break down and beg for mercy or leniency. Such moral courage should be highlighted.

Rodney Choate

Right now I'm just plain scared of what might be coming for me/us. And knowing I won't deserve it, it'll hurt that much more. I'm scared.

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