Friday, August 17, 2012

Russian Punk Band Gets 2 Years In Prison

A Russian judge on Friday found three members of a feminist punk band guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and sentenced them each to two years in prison after they staged an anti-Kremlin protest in a church.

Supporters of the members of the band Pussy Riot, who stormed the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts to hold a "punk prayer" for Russia to get rid of President Vladimir Putin, have portrayed the case as a test of the tolerance of dissent in today’s Russia.
Read the rest here.

Two years seems a bit stiff to my mind. But I think it is important to recall that what they did was deliberate sacrilege in a church. In any jurisdiction that I know of they would have been arrested and thrown in the clink. This blog has been, and remains a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian regime. But these women are not the angelic martyrs that the left is making them out to be.

Should the Russian Orthodox Church have forgiven them? Yes, and shame on them for failing to do so. But a court of law is not a church. Their job is to maintain some element of order in society. My approach would have been to sentence them to time served and some particularly unpleasant form of community service coupled with a reminder that it gets very cold in Siberia in case they were ever tempted to re-offend. But Russia has always been a bit more of a law and order country. My understanding of things suggests that this sentence, while a tad harsh by our reckoning, is not exceptional for the offense by Russian standards.

It is also worth recalling that Russians are very sensitive to attacks on the church. Millions of Russians were sent to slave labor camps or just murdered outright for their religious beliefs under the Communist regime. This is something that we have no concept of in our enlightened liberal world. There are mass graves all over Russia filled with people whose only crime was their faith. Incitement to religious hatred has a very different meaning for these people.


CJ said...

I'm not sure it's all that harsh, even by our standards. I probably would've just charged them with misdemeanor trespass and disorderly conduct. However, several years ago here in Cincinnati, a photographer got 2 1/2 years for going into a morgue after hours, posing corpses, and then photographing them. I think that there is still a sense of the sacred that comes out in these types of cases.

Eurasleep said...

I agree with the posting comments, however I also don't believe the sentence was particularly harsh. The US is infamous for massively imbalanced sentences, as are some other countries. For example, the Norway killer got 21 years for killing dozens of innocent people. The MegaUpload guy got sentenced to 20 years for promoting/enabling file-sharing piracy. Many in the US go to prison for more than 2 years for carrying a dime-bag of pot. If the US manages to get its claws on Assange (albeit on squirrely/possibly trumped-up charges), you can be guaranteed he'll never set foot outside a prison again in his life. The US prison system is a racket, hyper-vindictive, and seeks to make examples of people, just like in the past (our wonderful Calvinist heritage). To your point about the US having no concept of what Russians have dealt with spiritually and religiously over the last 100 years is spot on. We should not judge this too harshly. I think they showed great restraint, given their recent history.

Chris Jones said...

I would agree with your characterization: "a tad harsh." Not outrageously harsh, but a bit harsh.

To be honest, I feared that the sentences would be a lot longer than this. It would appear that Russia takes the sanctity of houses of worship very seriously. I don't think there is anything wrong with that, nor do I think that it is inconsistent with religious pluralism. I would like to think that Russia would also punish sacrilege against a Protestant Church or a mosque harshly.

Of course the Left will frame this as "suppression of dissent" or some such nonsense; but I for one should not care to live in a society where sacrilege and blasphemy pass with impunity.

Jason said...

Not only is this being pushed by the Left as suppression, Right wing outlets are using it to reinforce their efforts of framing Russia as a land under government oppression.

Anonymous said...

It is a land under government oppression.

Visibilium said...

Three to six months' imprisonment would have been sufficient, like Lindsay Lohan's official sentence for petty theft.

Dn Paul said...

I was thinking about this all evening (most of which was spent in a traffic jam). It seems to me that the group (which it seems is not a "punk band" as so often repeated by Western media, but rather a political protest group), was either stupendously naive, poorly advised, or has been set up.

There are many active, practising, faithful Orthodox in Russia who are gravely concerned about the relationship between Church and State. These people are at worst neutral and at best sympathetic to some of the group's points. However, by "performing" where they did, they managed to offend two intersecting sets of people:

1) the Orthodox who are justifiably horrified by what happened.

2) those (Orthodox and otherwise) who see the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour as a symbol of the defeat of Stalinism.

Sure, they have received a lot of favourable Western coverage, but among the people who actually matter - the citizens of Russia - they have alienated many (most?) of those who they could have courted for support.

A Russian friend of mine, a geologist (and an atheist) commented in an email this evening that in his opinion the actions of this group have actually harmed the movement to clearly delineate the separation of Church and State, rather than assisting it.

I can't help but feel that the trial was probably politically motivated, but it seems to me that the women received harsher sentences than perhaps they deserved largely because the anger they stirred up against them meant that the judge could get away with it.

Anonymous said...

The Church will seek mercy, their sentences will be lessened, and life will go on.

Jason said...

If you think Russia is a land under oppression you are sadly mistaken. I'd advise to read a little more, perhaps travel a bit more (maybe even to Russia herself!) and maybe question the conditions in your own country before making such an ignorant assessment.