Sunday, August 19, 2012

Joan Smith: Putin has lost this game of cat and mouse

Joan Smith: Putin has lost this game of cat and mouse

Repressive regimes commonly mistake power for omnipotence. No one doubts that they can arrest their opponents, isolate them, deny them fair trials and put them in prison. What's much harder to do, in the modern world, is bury critical ideas under a suffocating blanket of censorship. Even if the regime gets the result it wants, its leaders risk appearing petty and vindictive, if not actually stupid. So the Russian government has little to celebrate in the wake of the trial of three members of the punk band, Pussy Riot.
On Friday, a judge in Moscow sentenced Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich to two years each in prison. They were arrested in March after performing a "punk prayer" in the city's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, where they pleaded with the Virgin Mary to drive out Vladimir Putin. At the time, few people had heard of Pussy Riot, but they've become an international symbol of the rigidity and intolerance of the Russian state. Half a million people have viewed a shaky video of the women's protest in the cathedral, spreading their message to an audience far beyond the Russian Federation. Their slender figures in colourful balaclavas represent a kind of modernity that the regime simply cannot handle.
Maria, Nadezhda and Yekaterina are smart, outspoken and feminist. What could be more scary for President Vladimir Putin, a politician whose masculinity is so fragile that it is reasserted in a comical series of public performances? Listening to actors read the women's closing speeches at the Royal Court Theatre in London on Friday, I was impressed by their cool appraisal of the prosecution's attempts to distort their arguments. I don't think it's an accident that some of Putin's most significant critics are feminists; another woman who challenged him was the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was assassinated on Putin's birthday in 2006.
The charge on which the Pussy Riot three were convicted, hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, sounds like a modern version of an offence dreamed up by Soviet bureaucrats. It's a delicious irony that the head of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is a Putin supporter who recently presented the President with an icon of Our Lady of Tenderness. In her summing-up, the judge accused the women of showing disrespect to the clergy, people in the church, and people who share Orthodox traditions. But Yekaterina had already asked Putin why he felt it necessary to "exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic".
The answer, I suspect, is that the regime doesn't feel as solid as it makes out. "Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost," Yekaterina said in her closing speech. So why did the regime go to such (ineffectual) lengths to marginalise the three? The band won a bigger battle, as Yekaterina also pointed out.
Now we all know the regime is terrified of pussy power.

PussyPut i Pop Gundyay

Litsemer i negodyay:
PussyPut i Pop Gundyay
Arkhivrun i akhiplut:
Pop Gundyay i PussyPut

Vishla parochka na slavu
Vsemu miru na zabavu!


I announce that I intend to register a trademark "PUSSYPUTINKA" as a new brand name for Russian vodka. It will be on sale everywhere very soon.

Pop Gundyay

Kak na vsekh parakh tramvai
Razosholsya Pop Gundyay:
"Ya im, Puskam, pokazhu
I v tyurmu ikh posazhu!"
Vot predel tvoikh idey,
Patri - arkhi - prokhindey!



On sovsem ne liliput:
Ves v srazhenyakh tam i tut
Nesprosta yego zovut
Neputyoviy PUSSYPUT!

Vipusti devchonok, Vova, a to budu pisat chastushki kazhdiy den.


Photo: In Russian theater, during the mass scenes on stage ("massovki"), the actors comprising those background crowds and purported to conduct the lively conversations between themselves, traditionally toss back and forth to each other one and the same phrase, spoken quickly or pensively and with varying degrees of emotional intensity: "What's there to talk about when there's nothing to talk about."

This seems to be the way one happens to feel concerning the whole, phenomenally amplified, Pussy Riot situation: everything that could be said with regards to it has been said already, apparently, and yet millions of new words dissecting it from every conceivable new angle are being uttered every hour on the hour of each passing day; and it is impossible, somehow, not to follow the random loose strands of this ever-widening global discourse -- or rather, to step away from the rumbling avalanche of this (frequently inane, but such is the nature of the avalanche, which, after all, is a force of nature, and nature doesn't have to be a sentient being) world-wide cyber-discourse.

This is like in early childhood: you keep stuffing your face with spoonfuls of homemade strawberry jam, even though you've already passed the point of feeling vaguely nauseous; you hate yourself for not being able to stop, and you know mother or grandmother will scold you severely soon enough, when they find out, and likely even ground you for a week -- and yet, there's nothing you can do, you just keep spooning out from the bottom of the nearly empty jar that sugary viscous stuff and pushing it in your mouth, gagging, you head swimming...

This seems to have been blown completely out of all proportions: this, admittedly medieval of nature, state-ordered trial of the three young girls who had rushed into the country's main orthodox cathedral and, once there, had proceeded to dance around to loud, discordant music, mouthing the pre-recorded words of a brazenly impolite prayer (for that's what it was) to Virgin Mary, asking for her divine intervention to help rid the country of Vladimir Put's rule. Predictably, they were arrested. Predictably -- given the obnoxious character of Putin's authoritarian regime and the small, vengeful nature of Mr. Putin himself, as well as the free-floating confused anger which seems to be the dominant of the societal atmosphere in present-day Russia -- they were put on trial. Predictably, too, they were found guilty of malicious hooliganism and willfully offending the religious feelings of the handful of the cathedral's personnel present at the scene -- and subsequently convicted, the overlapping and endlessly multiplied entreaties from the mega-stars of Western rock music notwithstanding (it is not in Putin's nature, shaped as it had been in keeping with the prison-bound logic of fear, among the small hoodlums of the dangerous Leningrad inner courtyards, to yield to public pressure, consequences be damned; kindness is a sign of weakness, clemency is for pussies, et al.). 

Someone whose frame of reference still to a large extent is planted with the Russian paradigm, may have a bit of a difficult time comprehending the suddenness and the sheer keenness of the Western world's fascination with this particular morsel of Putinland injustice: why this particular trial, these specific three girls? Why now, why this? Why not the Khodorkovsky or Magnitsky, no less and more egregious as the corruption-steeped political affairs, or... or...

But the avalanche has its logic, and its logic lies in the absence of the kind of logic we can comprehend. It starts on its own time, and in accordance with the laws of physics, not human fairness and justice. It sets off when the moment is right, when the critical mass of snow has accumulated, when the saturation point of immobility has been reached.

So now this saturation point has been reached by the Western world, apparently, with regards to Putin's Russia -- after 13 years of his, progressively less enlightened, rule. The point's been reached, and now there's no stopping the avalanche. It just has to run its course, burying in its passage both the recent set notions and illusions the West might have harbored with regards to Putin's Russia -- and perhaps, Mr. Putin himself, who finally, in his apparent growing derangement, might have made the fatal mistake of global overreach.

All of sudden, millions of people who, until a few days ago, knew nothing and cared even less about Russia, are all aglow with the Pussy Riot passion. That's the difference between the megaphones wielded by the politicians -- from the US Congress to the German Chancellor -- and those held in the hands of the likes of Madonna and Sting and Sir Paul McCartney.

One knows the saturation point has been reached when Rupert Murdoch's lovely NY Post gets involved in an international affair. This means it has the certainty of mind that the majority of its readership are aware of why Mr. Putin is bad, and what he has done to warrant calling him a pussy. 

I may have reached my personal saturation point the other night, too, when I had a dream in which I was hanging out with Putin in his private residence and asking him all kinds of questions for the purported interview with some unspecified publication of a suitably global readership. In a way, I was an H.G. Wells to his, um, Lenin (I'd been rereading, for a writing project, the former's "Russian in the Shadows") -- except that, of course, I ain't no H.G.Wells, to put it mildly; and he's no Lenin, in more ways than one.

Our conversation -- which, inexplicably enough, was conducted in a mixture of Russian and English (that is, I addressed him in Russian, and he responded in Brooklyn-accented English) -- was marked by an uncommonly high degree of frankness. Thus, I told him I considered him to be one of the worst specimens of human race alive today -- and he only shrugged and told me, looking sad, like a rain soaked spaniel puppy, that he fully respected my right to hold an opinion different from his.

I reminded him of that traditional Russian-theater background-crowd's "What's there to talk about when there's nothing to talk about" -- and he agreed with me that indeed, by and large, the two of us, he and I, had nothing to talk about. He was smiling amicably while saying this.

I meant specifically this whole Pussy Riot affair, I told him -- not anything broader than that. The readers of our publications, whose name I'm not at liberty to divulge, are positively inflamed about this whole Pussy Riot affair, right now, and they can't have enough of it, Vladim Vladimych. Sure, there probably is nothing to talk about for the two of us; but still -- do you perchance have anything to say about it? Your personal perspective would be greatly appreciated... you little lying, vengeful, small-minded, greedy, thieving, murderous, no-good son of a bitch?

Hmm. He fell silent for a spell, lost in contemplation, seemingly confounded by the sheer depth of my question. No, come to think of it, I cannot, he replied at length.
I cannot tell you what it is really about, he added -- this whole international rigamarole. Sorry, pal. I just don't get it. Nor can I tell you what this whole dratted Pussy Riot thing really about, from the standpoint of the current political moment in my, and perhaps our, beloved Russia. I can tell you, however, what it is NOT about:

This is not about me as a vengeful, small-minded little worm, onetime low-to-midlevel secret police operative cum mega-billionaire and tsar of Russia, he went on. This is not about my raging insecurity, my fear of dying, my ridiculous botoxed-up mug, my bid to hold on to the supreme power in Russia forever.
This is not about my attempt to split the Russian society along the class and educational lines, in a desperate and potentially fatal bid to hold on to power relying exclusively on the less educated, the ignorant, the mythologically and conspiratorially minded segment of the country's populace -- my own version, if you will, of Richard Nixon's "silent majority." This is not about my not being aware that this supposed "silent majority," in the case of present-day Russia, is a distinct minority and is anything but silent. This is not about me being out of touch with reality -- although yes, indeed, out of touch with reality I probably am. This is not about me having, you know, kind of lost my mind and divorced myself fully and completely from reality. This is not about the fact that there's a great surfeit of anger and confusion abroad in Russia at this time. This is not about the fact that Russian people, by and large, are not religious, but rather superstitious. This is not about the stunning fact, either, that according to a recent survey, the full 30% of Russian people can not not name one single deadly sin: not one, just imagine! This not about... oh well, this is not about this, or that, or the other. This is not about anything at all! This is not about me! This is about...

At that point, lowering his voice, he dipped his head towards me and admitted to suffering from a milder form of lactose intolerance. What's the deal with this cold borscht they, you know, serve in Lithuania? he said, rounding his tiny, pewter eyes. It's so excessively creamy! They put so much sour cream in it! Why? Why??

That's when I knew, while still asleep and being fully cognizant of the fact of my functioning inside a dream, that I had reached my saturation point with regards to being away from home, too. For the last 40 days I've been in Lithuania -- the place I like very much and love and find extremely complex and interesting. Today, in point of fact, is my last day here.

I know! I know! I concurred heartily. I'm with you on this! I don't particularly like that cold "barsciai" either! I also have mild lactose intolerance! Vladim Vladimych! I'm so glad to have discovered at least one relatable, human weakness in you! But you know what, also? If you have lactose intolerance, however mild, that means you're mortal. No one lives forever with lactose intolerance! You too will die! I'm sorry to break this to you, you lowly worm!

On the other hand, he continued, ignoring my meek outburst of sympathy, I like their cepelinai... Mmm, yummy!
I opened my mouth to register my disagreement with him on that one -- I'm sorry, the connoisseurs of Lithuanian cuisine, but I cannot tell a lie -- but at that point, conveniently and mercifully enough, I woke up.

It was sunny outside. I was hoping, half-hoping for a rainy last weekend it Vilnius, to put me in an appropriately ruminative, lightly wistful frame of mind -- but that didn't come about. Oh well. So be it. I'll have to leave feeling lucid and content.

That's all I have to say on the matter.

It's time to start packing.

   Mike Nova shared Lida Yusupova's photo.

Pussy Riot release new single Putin Lights Up the Fires

Pussy Riot release new single Putin Lights Up the Fires

Published on Aug 17, 2012 by
(The Guardian) Pussy Riot, the feminist Russian punk band from which three members were found guilty of hooliganism driven by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in jail, have released a new single called Putin Lights Up the Fires. The Guardian has edited the new song to a montage of Pussy Riot members and their supporters

Google translation of the lyrics into English.

'Putin Lit Fires'

State more time in prison
The more arrests - more happiness
And every arrest - with a love of sexist
After swinging his cheeks, as the chest and abdomen

But we can not be resealed in the box
Security officers overthrew the better and more

Putin ignites the fires of revolution
He was bored and frightened people in the silence
Whatever punishment he had - that rotten ash,
With no time in many years - the subject for wet dreams

The country is, the country goes to the streets with audacity
The country is, the country is going to say goodbye to the regime,
The country is, the country is a wedge of feminist
And Putin is Putin goes, leave cattle

Arrested on May 6 the whole city
7 years we have little, give me 18
The ban yelling, slander, and walk,
Take his wife's dad Lukashenko

Chorus 2 times.



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Top Comments

  • Church is no holier of a place than my living-room.
  • Putin, you're just a useless DICK!!! Where's FUCKING freedom of speech in Russia???
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All Comments (149)

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  • i hope they do to.
    That would be sexy.
  • The song was cool, the pussys were hot, the debate is warming up
  • My point is to challenge your idea that a place of worship is not holy. I couldn't care less about what they were protesting about.
  • best band name ever! lol
  • yes hope they come to you country and have a group orgy in you capitals main library like they did in moscow. they are not activists but huligans
  • lol you dont know shit about putin or russia,these girls deserve to be arrested and thrown in jail. this is not their first time where they do dumb shit like this, its not that they where protesting against putin that jot them in jail but where and how they where doing it, these ladies are known for there stupid acts all over moscow,did you know they had a group orgy in moscows main library?those ladies just enjoy rebeling and provoking people. its not a matter of free speach but order in public
  • Perhaps you should read up on why they were there and what they were demonstrating against before you comment on anything I say about it.
  • Who exactly is the russian orthodox church oppressing?. If you think you can walk into a place of worship and act like an idiot, well, you're wrong.
  • Am I doing something to oppress the rights of you and your people? If so, come on in and protest.
  • Huligans.