Posts Tagged ‘finacianl times’

August 2012

Pussy Riot can rock the Kremlin to its foundations

Financial Times

Congratulations Vladimir Putin. Just four months back in the Kremlin and you have inflicted the worst blow to Russia’s international image in more than a decade.

Few can doubt that the Kremlin had a hand in the decision to sentence Pussy Riot to two years in prison. The punishment is grossly disproportionate to the band’s “crime” – singing a raucous anti-Putin ditty in a Moscow cathedral.

Still, professional Russia watchers know that there have been far worse human rights violations in the Putin years. The difference is that Sergei Magnitsky, a murdered lawyer, Anna Politkovskaya, a murdered journalist, and even Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a jailed oligarch, have never really become household names in the outside world. Pussy Riot members, by contrast, are all set to become global celebrities.

Writers and musicians can be far more dangerous opponents for authoritarians than mere politicians or controversial businessmen such as Mr Khodorkovsky. They often have a wit, panache and integrity that makes rulers look ridiculous. Václav Havel, a playwright, became the rallying figure for the opposition in Czechoslovakia. Around the world, Ai Weiwei, an artist, has become the flamboyant face of opposition to the identical apparatchiks of the Chinese Communist party.

Pussy Riot has only just released its first single. But it has courage and a gift for performance art. Its name deftly combines two of the major preoccupations of teenage boys. And, as outspoken women, its members embody the idea of “girl power” – as lauded by the Spice Girls. The band’s trademark balaclavas also provide an easily imitated “look” that has already been emulated in demonstrations from Berlin to New York.

Yet those tempted to dismiss the three imprisoned members of Pussy Riot as simply clever marketeers should read their statements from the dock, which are intelligent, articulate and moving.

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