Essays PUSSY RIOT: REFLECTIONS ON RECEPTIONS Some Questions Concerning Public Reactions in Russia to the Pussy Riot’s Intervention and Trial
Here it is suggested that the greatest crisis of social consensus that the Pussy Riot action produced, and the deepest collective anxiety that surfaced in the discussion, was the fear of the active and politically conscious woman, a woman who does not hesitate to use violence in claiming her subjectivity from the authority of the church, the family, the establishment, or the state. Concerning one principal issue, the public opinion was especially dramatically polarized, and that is what the three authors want to look closer at, namely, Pussy Riot’s feminist agenda.
Published on balticworlds.com on februari 20, 2013
This text is not an analytical article, nor a proper academic paper, but rather a conversation, a dialogue for three voices. It was originally presented at a seminar at Södertörn university and it has no intention of summing up things in any definitive way. On the contrary, we were writing about our observations in a free manner, discussing with each other in the process, reflecting on the critique from our colleagues, and commenting on each other contributions, supporting or questioning each other’s points of view in an informal manner. These mutual comments are linked to the text below in suitable places and marked with our initials. We are also including some pictures that we thought we needed for our presentations and that were very difficult to select in the ocean of visual images illustrating the case of Pussy Riot and the public’s reaction to it. After having produced about forty pages, we realized we have to stop if we do not want this conversation to continue indefinitely. But we do not consider that it is over. We hope that it will be continued by our readers.
* * *
In this material, we are offering some fragments reflecting on the impact on the Russian public opinion of Pussy Riot’s actions. We decided not to discuss Pussy Riot’s critique of the Putin regime: a problem that has been so far widely discussed both by the public and by the journalist community. Nor do we consider in detail those public attitudes that have been voiced relating to the trial, the legal procedure, and the punishment. What people thought about matters of justice, legality, and law enforcement in Russia, the terms of prosecution, the legal procedure, the definition of their crime, and the (in)adequacy of the criminal punishment to the offence, is more or less known from the media, and the negative response of the public in these matters opinion was unanimous. Instead, we would like to explore, in what points this unanimity collapsed. Our suggestion is that, even though Pussy Riot succeeded in hitting multiple places where it hurts, the greatest crisis of social consensus that they produced, and the deepest collective anxiety that surfaced in the discussion, was the fear of the active and politically conscious woman, a woman who does not hesitate to use violence in claiming her subjectivity from the authority of the church, the family, the establishment, or the state. This fear can be read throughout the various strata, groups, or classes and is expressed, as we hope to demonstrate, in a great variety of manners. Concerning one principal issue, the public opinion was especially dramatically polarized, and that is what we want to look closer at, namely, Pussy Riot’s feminist agenda. Very widely formulated, it concerns the issues of the church, religion, and faith, patriarchal family values, and feminist critique in political art. It was also these three issues that produced most conflictual reactions in the public.
In doing this, we pursue a double aim. One of our questions is, How was Pussy Riot’s radicalism received by those who describe themselves as the intelligentsia, the post-intelligentsia, or the creative class, by the intellectuals, the civil society, and representatives of the expert community. How was it interpreted in terms of politics, ethics, and aesthetics? What was the role of the media: the internet, TV, radio? How did they construct their respective narratives and what kind of reception generated? The second aim is to place the Pussy Riot episode in a historical perspective looking for continuities and discontinuities both in the long term of Russia’s 19th and 20th century political history and within the shorter term of the recent history of artistic and social movements in the USSR and Russia. The search for historical analogies constituted a considerable part of the Pussy Riot debate in the public discussion. As a result, there seems to have opened up an alternative historical perspective in which feminism, political activism, and radical avant-garde play a central role. Is the Russian society prepared to accept its own history in such a non-canonical version?
Some General Facts About Pussy Riot
Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk-rock collective that stages unannounced provocative performances about Russian political life in unusual and unauthorized locations. The band became world famous after five members of the group staged an illegal performance on the soleas of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21, 2012. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, Pussy Riot had turned it into a music video which they entitled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” On March 3, two of the group members, Nadezda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested and charged with hooliganism. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was arrested on March 16. Denied bail, they were held in custody until their trial began in late July. Charged with “premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility”, each was sentenced to two years imprisonment on August 17, 2012. On October 10, following an appeal, Samutsevich was freed on probabation, her sentence suspended. The convictions and sentences of the other two women were upheld.
How does the reception of Pussy Riot look in statistics? According to a study by the Levada Centre, the most detailed attitudes survey in connection with the Pussy Riot case, in summer 2012, 42% believed that the women were prosecuted for “abusing sacred values and worshippers’ feelings”, 29%, for “hooliganism and breach of public order”, 17%, for “appealing for Putin’s departure from power”. In September, 13% were closely following the events (as compared to 4% in March), and 55% said they were informed about them. Also in September 2012, 41% of respondents qualified the action as “simple hooliganism”, 29% as a political action against Putin, 19% as an action against the church, and 5% as an artistic action. Responding to the survey’s question of whether they thought that Pussy Riot had been given an “adequate” punishment, 35% answered positively, 43% considered the punishment was ”insufficient”, 14% believed it to be ”excessive”, and 2% did not believe that such actions should be punishable.
For the best source of information about Pussy Riot’s activities and their intentions, including all necessary links and a detailed documentation of all of their interventions, with videos, texts, and comments by Pussy Riot themselves, see their own Livejournal http://pussy-riot.livejournal.com/8459.html (in Russian). Given above are some general data that one can use as a starting point, as the general consensus on what has happened and how people think about it. It is not our purpose to verify or to interpret these, and the question about the reliability of the statistics above should be a subject of a special study.
Punk Prayer Politicizing Social Life: Faith, Religion, and the Church.
Women and God
The choice of location for the performance – the Cathedral of the Christ the Savior at the center of Moscow – made many people in Russia start seriously considering, probably for the first time after Perestroika, what place religion occupies in social, personal, and political life in contemporary Russia.
As is known, Soviet propaganda declared religion a vestige of the backward past. Except for a short period during WW2, when Stalin used the church to mobilize resistance, political and ideological repressions against religion never stopped and involved not only the clergy but also ordinary churchgoers, so that anyone who openly declared herself a believer automatically became one of the opposition. The freedom of conscience was therefore one of the central demands in the Soviet dissident movement claiming the right to practice religion irrespective of confession.
A special place in the dissident protest should be given to Russian Orthodox feminists in the late 1970s. This was a group of women including the philosopher Tatiana Goricheva, the artist and author Tatiana Mamonova, the dissident activist Iuliia Voznesenskaia, the writers Natalia Malakhovskaia, Kari Unskova and others who took part in the dissident movement but were dissatisfied with secondary roles given to women. They started a feminist group and published a samizdat magazine, Maria and an almanac Woman and Russia. Though they defined themselves as feminists, many in the group were skeptical about the possibility of changing the patriarchal order through political and social reforms. They also insisted that they were different from Western feminism too influenced by Marxist ideas. Instead, Russian feminism should be oriented towards spiritual and religious values:
In Russia, because of its experience that is full of blood, at the price of many millions of sacrificed lives, we no longer have illusions as to the possibility of changing society through revolutionary violence. We have come to an understanding that no external social or political reforms can change the situation of women. Only a great spiritual metamorphosis, only a religious transformation of life can change her.
One of the leaders of the group, Tatiana Goricheva, wrote a program article in which she severely criticized the Soviet version of women’s emancipation from the position of Orthodox Christianity, exposing not only women’s subjugated position in the Soviet regime, but also their participation in the subjugation of others:
One is not born a woman, one becomes a woman, which is incredibly difficult in our society, because it is not a society of men and women. It is a society of hermaphrodites. … In the Soviet society, existential paralysis is not the doom of women alone. It is the normal condition of the average Soviet subject … in the context of those patriarchal monstrosities that crush not only women but also men. …The new type of femina sovetica who looks at you from the cover of the Soviet Woman magazine: a coarse face full of beastly smugness, straw instead of hair, glass beads instead of eyes, a woman judge, a woman administrator, a woman prison guard, cruel and fanatical, blindly executing somebody else’s will, and trampling on the weaker ones.
According to Goricheva, the future of feminism in Russia is in the recuperation of human and feminine spirituality: “it is only possible to return to what is natural by appealing to the spiritual, by seeking to be God’s image … only when man turns to his transcendental origins of existence can he find a way to history and to the self” (Ibid., p. 12). Woman has a special messianic role in Soviet Russia: due to all the suffering she experiences in her position dominated by the man who is in his turn dominated by the system, in her capacity of a “slave of the slave” of the Soviet regime, she is able to show the way towards liberation, to the salvation of spiritual values and to the redemption of the human being as such.
Thus, these dissident feminists believed that the new subjectivity and emancipation of woman could only be reached through an internal freedom, not through the “superficial” emancipation in society and politics. These claims, controversial and radical as they are, now reverberate in the discourses and images surrounding Pussy Riot but without direct references to Maria and in a new context: now the church itself became a hindrance for the freedom of thinking. According to Maria Alyokhina, “Supporting Putin’s decisions on the official level and being well-paid for it, the Church justifies authoritarianism and deprives dissident thinkers of freedom of speech [with respect to the issues of religion]. The politics of the Orthodox Church today, unfortunately is such that what most important [in religion] is forgotten: personality and its immanent freedom. Christianity is not a static doctrine, but a religion of free spirit and free choice. The person in Christianity is not a slave, but a participant of God’s mission, a creator.”
Indeed, starting from the mid-1990s the church has transformed into a corrupt and powerful institution of domination imposing its rules on the society and enjoying an almost unlimited support from the Russian state. Starting with Yeltsin, Russian presidents are shown by TV attending Orthodox services and in 2011 the Duma passed a new law including religion in school curricula. The Orthodox Church also dictates norms to all the social institutions according to its dogmatic interpretation of Christian ethics especially in what concerns gender roles, education, and parenting. Thus, the current situation in Russia appears more and more as a reproduction of the merger between the central power and a state religion so well-known from historical precedents in spite of the fact that according to the Constitution, the Russian Federation continues to be a secular state.
Reclaiming its “traditional” role in the society (and yearning nostalgically after the privileges that the Orthodox Church and religion had before the Bolshevik revolution of 1917), the Church returns to the situation from one hundred years ago when the Russian society started questioning its authority. In the Russian empire, the Orthodox Church supported the government in its reactionary politics against civil freedoms, including the rights of women, the rights of minorities, and the freedom of speech. During the 2000s, the church pursues a politics of requital provoking open conflicts with the institutions of individual freedoms, using moral and even physical violence in confrontations with artists, and interfering in science. Orthodox activists’ attack against the exhibition “Careful, Religion!” was not an isolated event, but just one among many other aggressive actions that, starting from the late 1990s, were opposing sexual education in schools, demanding a ban on abortions, and obstructing scientific lectures held on university premises. This happened, for example, during the lecture by the late professor Igor Kon (a well-known Russian sociologist who was the first to publish on issues of sexuality and homosexuality in the USSR) at Moscow State University in 2001. Kon was lecturing on the issues of men and masculinity when a group of militant Orthodox Church supporters exploded self-made gas bombs and threw pastry at him forcing to stop his lecture.
A Precedent of the Pussy Riot Trial: the Trial and Suicide of Anna Al’chuk (2003-2008) comment by IS here.>>
The Meaning and Forms of Feminism.
Strategies Confronting Patriarchy.
While the numbers of people in Russia who declare themselves to be believers and especially Orthodox believers rapidly increase, the performance at the Moscow Cathedral could be also interpreted from another perspective: as a critical reflection on strategies for fighting patriarchy. From this viewpoint, it would be interesting to compare Pussy Riot performance with strategies suggested by post-colonial feminism. Indeed, in contemporary society religion is not only a factor of local domination but also an important identity marker, a symbol of a dominated local identity in the global world order. For example, according to the feminist writer Madina Tlostanova, in Muslim societies, women usually have to deal with “the combination of often conflicting religious, gender, political and personal elements of Muslim women’s identity” that “allows them to build not less conflicting coalitions to protest against globalization, local nationalism, Islamism and patriarchal order.” Thus, “when contemporary Muslim women question epistemology they do it not as radical rejection of Islam but as a way of its improvement.” Indeed, Muslim women frequently find themselves in a situation when they are excluded not just from the historical processes and not only from the collective process of making sense, but also from decisions on the matters of religion. That is why for many Muslim feminists it is important to be able to speak from the position of a believer and, at the same time, from the position of a person that is free and equal to men. Even though the post-Communist condition in Russia, including the dominance of the Orthodox Church, is only partly comparable to the post-colonial situation, the Pussy Riot performance could still be seen as a version of post-colonial strategy (combining belief with emancipation) adapted to the Russian post- socialist social realities.
So, what are the political consequences of this action? In spite of the significant fact that it was staged during the electoral campaign in Russia, it seems to have received more political acknowledgment abroad. Inside Russia, the social implications of the performance are more in the center of discussions. Indeed, after the performance in the main Moscow Cathedral, different groups of population became more aware of the social order and social normativity that had been evolving in Russia during the last 15 years. In particular, it posed question about the role of religion and religious institutions in every area: in the state, in the family, and in individual life. Another important question concerned the roles and power that believers command within the church and about how far the individual is allowed to interpret sacred texts and holy rituals.
It is also worthwhile to remember that feminist actions in different periods of history were often experienced by contemporaries as too radical a challenge to the public regulations and gender norms. Early 20th century suffragettes in the Britain destroyed paintings in London galleries that mainly displayed male artists. The idea was to demand voting rights for women and to challenge the order that made women invisible in history and art. One could continue with examples from the history of radical feminism in Western Europe and North America (1960-70s) when women demonstrated to challenge norms of public behavior burning bras in public in protest against the cult of beauty objectifying the woman in consumer society. Already classical nowadays are radical actions by the anonymous group Guerilla Girls in the 70-80s that is an example still inspiring new generations of feminist artists, including Russia. All these were very radical for their time – but how do they, with all their radicalism, look to us from a historical distance?
History Repeating Itself?
Some Notes about Female Radicalism in Pre-Revolutionary Russia
In the present-day debate in the Russian media about Pussy Riot they are remarkably often discussed in the context of the history of Russian pre-revolutionary radicalism: their action is framed in the tradition of Russian nihilism; they are compared to Vera Zasulich, the first woman in Russian history who committed a political murder in 1878, their performance is put side by side with the Union of Militant Atheists from 1920s and the atheistic Komsomol on the assumption that these latter were a continuation of pre-revolutionary radicalism. The members of Pussy Riot themselves are also aware of their connection to the history of Russian radicalism. In their interview to Art Ukraine they named female members of the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries among their predecessors. The lack of civic and political freedoms in the Russian Empire at the 19th-early 20th century radicalized protest, and, as its extreme expression, women joined left revolutionary radicalism and terrorism. The most known case is Sophia Perovskaia who participates in the assassination of czar Alexander II in 1881. It is generally agreed that revolutionary terror originated from the ideologies of peasant socialism and anarchism, but it is equally true that radical action was also motivated by the revolutionary image of the “new woman”. The relation of women radicals from that time to feminism is not direct. According to Amy Knight, although “by the [eighteen] nineties most radical women were vehement opponents of feminism, their memoirs and biographies attest to the fact that they were strongly influenced by feminist ideas”
In the 1860s, the Nihilist movement developed in Russia, which united free-thinking individuals towards the destruction of institutions and laws as artificial and corrupt. The Nihilists questioned both traditional and cultural values against the authority of the church and the monarchy, which deeply shocked the Russian establishment. Women joined the movement mostly because it declared gender equality: the Nihilists were the first social movement in Russia that was enthusiastic welcoming women in its ranks. Nihilism was not only ideas and attitudes, but also everyday life: a manner of dress and communication, and a lifestyle in general. Nihilist women invented a look and a manner for themselves as a means of expressing their radicalism. They preferred unassuming dress styles, cut their hair short, and wore glasses; they also started smoking cigarettes to challenge the social patterns of femininity and feminine behavior. The Nihilist woman thus announced that she was a “new woman” who wanted to be valued for her knowledge and worth and not for her appealing looks. The shocked contemporaries castigated their unfeminine behavior as immorality and atheism, and made a direct connection to the Nihilists’ antigovernment activities: all of these were equally repulsive. Defenders of traditions loathed female Nihilists for ruining the ideals of the Russian family and the Russian woman.
The next stage in the development of the radical women movement in Russia develops during the 1870-80s. That was a generation of female intellectuals, who managed to get the only education available to women at that time and after that realized their limited social and career possibilities. They were also political idealists yearning for social justice and change, which they hoped to attain by political conspiracy and revolution. This new generation of women did not practice public performance as their Nihilist predecessors did trying to produce an aesthetic shock in the society by their look and conduct. Instead, they helped prepare terrorist attacks against government officials side by side with men. In late 19th century, it was quite rare for the woman to be taken to action, but at the beginning of the 20th century, in quite a lot of terrorist acts it was women who acted as executioners.
It seems that indeed a lot of parallels with Pussy Riot and their activities can be drawn from this brief account about female radicalism in the pre-revolutionary Russia, and such parallels were often alluded to in comments. Like the female Nihilists, Pussy Riot insist that they are proponents of sexual equality, revolt against traditional femininity and family stereotypes, and create public performances paying a special attention to dress and manners (the public was especially piqued by the way they danced and sang their “bad music”, and the balaclavas they wore on their heads became a hit in public branding). Pussy Riot create a look that is intended to shock : tight bright clothes that, to use Oksana Kis’s terminology, signify the Barbie model of femininity (“Beautiful and sexy, provided with a proper entourage and attributes, a woman-Barbie is designed to be a pleasant man’s toy”), combining them with a guerilla style to create gender confusion. Just like the radical revolutionary Russian women of the past, Pussy Riot are university students, thus, intellectual and educated women, which also shocked the public who would expect a cultivated blue-stocking behavior in a learned woman.
What Did the Performance Mean for Feminism in Russia?
Due to the fact that the group participants were openly presenting themselves as feminists, questions and fantasies about feminism suddenly moved into the center of public attention. Before that, if any feminist discussion had circulated at all, it was confined to gender research among a small group of historians and sociologists. According to gender researchers from St.Petersburg Elena Zdravomyslova and Anna Temkina, feminism started to attract much more public attention now. Even if this means various attitudes, including extremely negative, terrifyingly uninformed, and intolerant ones, still the action in the Cathedral made it important for many people to define their attitude to feminism publicly, or at least to ask themselves about their own position vis-à-vis very broadly defined notions of “feminism” and “equal rights”, or, again at least, to check feminism on Wikipedia.
The feminist performance of Pussy Riot provoked many discussions among the small but still important group of gender researchers and several internet communities that have words like feminism and gender equality among their tags. The support these women seemed to be giving Pussy Riot was extremely careful and even so, far from unanimous. Like many other Russian citizens, the community of gender researchers and activists seems to be first of all concerned about the legality of the Pussy Riot trial, especially the disproportionate inadequacy between “the crime” (performance in the Cathedral) and “the punishment” (two years in prison). They thus preferred to lead their discussion in the spirit of the liberal ideas of human rights and avoid talking about the feminist intention and the significance of the action itself focusing instead on the general lawlessness of the Russian judiciary system. During the trial and, particularly after the verdict, many among the public were expressing their disagreement, and when questioned by public opinion polls if they considered the verdict to Pussy Riot to be just, they were answering in the negative.
At the same time, in their few internet-discussions, people were discussing matters that had hardly anything to do with gender equality and feminism but were instead mostly concentrated on other issues that circulated elsewhere and were actively supported by all the media. Commercial boulevard sites as well as serious analytical ones, radio and television were asking questions if Pussy Riot had indeed caused offence to the believers or not, if their music was good or bad, if they had received a fair punishment or a “too cruel” one, and so on, including personal questions about the women’s personal and family histories – and still not discussing their action in the context of feminism. During March-December 2012, on feministki , probably, the best-known and the most long-lived Livejournal.ru feminist community, the participants were unanimous about the last point: the final verdict definitely was not adequate to what Pussy Riot had accomplished. Some participants of the discussions were trying to place the group’s “hooliganism” in the broader context of violence against women in Russia: “I am have total solidarity [with Pussy Riot]. When the punishment for violence and rape is softer than punishment for two minutes dance and screaming – that is BARBARITY and fanaticism”, –one of the participants wrote in the blog. In order to support her opinion she also quoted a report from the Amur region (in March 2012) when a prison camp employee was taken to court for having beaten female prisoners and sentenced conditionally to three years eight month released in the courtroom.
Furthermore, some few threads in this blog also discussed strategies of actions to oppose the injustice like petitions or production of little solidarity stickers that could be distributed to a wider public. There were, however, few voices suggesting to expand the agenda and use agitation in favor of Pussy Riot to bring together “political, social and gender questions”.
Paradoxically, however, it is precisely Pussy Riot’s feminist message that is practically absent from the discussions on the feminist sites, including feministki. Even in the text of the verdict, there are a couple of paragraphs on feminism (see quotes below), but not in the feminist discussion, nor in general in the discussion among the artists, as Ekaterina Samutsevich, the one who had been released from prison, recently complained during a public debate. Liberal political parties, through their “gender fractions”, could not either come to any consensus concerning the feminist intention in the action. They restricted themselves to declaration of protest against “women discrimination and the misogynistic hysteria in the media.” St. Petersburg researchers Tatiana Barandova and Marina Konstantinova give a possible explanation: it is the fragile status of women’s organizations and women’s activism in Russia. “After Pussy Riot, the feminist community would have to survive a prolonged fight for separate itself from Pussy Riot”. The gender research community and activists who during the latest twenty years had been struggling to establish themselves as part civil society, or even a partner of the state in solving transitional problems, now risked to be accused of hooliganism and provoking social tensions. Or, as expressed by one of the feministki internet-community: ”We are now forced to defend the pussies [pusek] because we did not manage to inform the society well in advance that they do not belong to us [oni ne s nami].
Thus, Pussy Riot’s radical gesture confronted Russia’s very small circle of gender researchers and equality activists with difficult questions about their own programs and discourses. What is the difference, if any, between studying gender and feminism and acting towards a change of the gender order; what are the relationship and borderlines between radical and “moderate” feminism, and, finally, what is the generational conflict that has arisen in Russia’s women’s activism and thinking?
The Pussy Riot Trial:
Quotes from Court Verdict Concerning Feminism and Contemporary Art
What Was the Civil Society’s Response to Pussy Riot’s Intervention?
(Listening to Radio Liberty Russian Service)
The word “feminist” in the Pussy Riot debate (as I could register it following the discussions through Radio Liberty Russian Service programs) first appeared in a comment provided by a Russian Orthodox Priest. A freethinking cleric and blog activist, the host of a weekly program on ethics and religion on Radio Liberty was the first to identify the Pussy Riot action at the Cathedral as a (correctly conceptualized and carried out) feminist one. He invited his listeners (almost exclusively men) to discuss its relation to religion. More than unexpectedly, it was thus an Orthodox priest who turned out most informed in feminist matters and most resolute in repudiating sexism as a fundamentalist superstition. He tried to encourage his listeners (the more democratically enlightened sector of the Russian radio audience) to discuss it in precisely these terms. The audience did not react and continued to debate the matter in the more accustomed context of hooliganism, the undermining of the foundations, and (artistic) provocation; some of them more sympathetic, some less, but most openly aggressive.
Was it possible for Holy Mary to become a feminist, and how could such an idea arise at all? Pussy Riot’s action in the Christ the Savior Cathedral was certainly an act of faith – but was it, and could it be, an act of religion? The Church was outraged, and so were the absolute majority of bona fide churchgoers joined by the pious non-churchgoers and plainly superstitious individuals who believe in anything from next life to evil eye.
In spite of the fact that the trial with its absurd verdict became such a pronounced anti-feminist, anti-art counter-manifestation, the issue of Pussy Riot’s feminism failed to transpire from the very beginning. Even though their Livejournal page declares their actions as feminist starting with the very first happening in the deluxe boutiques of Stoleshnikov pereulok on November 2011, neither their supporters, nor their critics, who made no mistake identifying the action as punk anarchism or artistic provocation, knew how to relate to their self-description as feminists. Music, poetry, and performance as genre thus became, in the eyes of the enlightened contemporary art community, more recognizable than feminist ideology, and it was easier for the public and the media to understand their “hooliganism” as a form of counter-cultural behavior than as a radical feminist action.
Thus, Radio Liberty Russian service was reporting the developments of the trial in each of its news program (every 15 or 30 minutes on the air) and each time quoted Pussy Riot’s scandalous address to Holy Mary “Mother of God, Drive Putin Away”. The meaning of the action as an anti-Putin gesture became dominating and considerably simplified the matters. (In a comparable way, the Western media called Al’chuk a Putin-Kritikerin thus positioning her on the political map but grossly oversimplifying the goals and the significance of her position as a feminist artist and theorist). Also, Radio Liberty insisted on calling Pussy Riot a punk group ignoring the openly feminist appeal in the refrain of their song, “Holy Mother, be a feminist”. Other media too were only mildly interested in the feminist message, and Pussy Riot’s answers to the interviewers’ few questions concerning their feminist convictions sound pale and amount mostly to banalities about gender equality and the “deconstruction” of the difference between men and women. This vagueness is probably explained by how their stories were listened to and reported by journalists in the media accounts, the interviewers not being interested in feminist matters and not possessing a language to receive and broadcast the message.
In the reception by the public, the undermining anti-phallocratic concept in the ideological program of the project was thus obscured giving way to that colorful, dramatic countercultural intervention that characterizes any anarchic revolt in general and against any authority. Why it was precisely a feminist and not a punk or an art activist that Holy Mary was invited to become, remained unclear.
Domesticating Pussy Riot: Expert Opinions
We have already said that it was an opinion supported by the absolute majority among the civil society that Pussy Riot’s criticism of the regime, the state, the family, and the church hierarchies was seen as justified, even though it was much more difficult to also agree to their methods. In the discussion around the episode, strongly critical voices condemned corruption, police violence, manipulation of legal procedures, and the triple merger between the state, the church, and illegal business supporting each other. Throughout the period of legal investigation, while the three women were kept in prison and their preliminary confinement, against all laws, was repeatedly prolonged by court order, and then during the trial itself, a heated discussion was waged in the society concerning the problems of justice and legality.
At the same time, it was Pussy Riot’s form of protest that put off even those who supported their message, even on the radical left. As we have already said, what seems to have been especially offending was their open iconoclasm, the symbolic violence in their gesture. During the mass protests of the winter 2011-2012, a special emphasis had been made on the peaceful character of public manifestations (though verbal and performative abuse against the regime and politicians was very prominent notwithstanding). Political manifestations were then organized as public feasts, and hundreds of thousands attended them enthusiastically reclaiming the city and getting to know each other in a spirit of friendliness and humor. Even protest against the manipulated parliamentary election expressed itself in irony rather than in wrath. Anger and hostility, as well as physical force, were left to the Russian nationalists and associated with the persona of the white-trash fascist: violence-obsessed, trigger-itchy, confused, low class, and – importantly — male. Many protesters of the winter 2011-1012 were thus quite class-conscious, dividing themselves, as “creative class”, from bydlo: the inert mass of the low class; drawing the line of class division according to preferential media consumption: the white-ribbon bearing progressives using the internet, the rest of the nation, retarded and brain washed as they are supposed to be, watching Putin’s television.
From the very beginning of the winter protests, critical voices both from the left and from the left-liberal wing were objecting to the organizers’ attempt to exclude social inequality from the agenda. Thus protest started becoming fashionable, and no one knew how to relate to this fact. Entertainment magazines were publishing information about the next public manifestation in their leisure sections, together with recommendations of choice restaurants and fashion shows. The protest prioritized enjoyment in order to achieve unity among the widely scattered groups of the discontented.
In Pussy Riot’s actions, the repressed social erupted like a volcano. It was a great shock for the enlightened public, those wearing white ribbons to symbolize the moral and cultural purity of the winter campaign, to hear their own program screamed out — in shrill voices, in a “holy place”, accompanied by bad guitar playing and indecent gestures and formulated in a cascade of deeply abusing profane language – by higher-educated “girls” (devushki), defying their origin in “good families” and the assumptions concerning the propriety of a woman’s artistic inclinations. This breach of the “clean” public’s expectations became a veritable class-and-gender trouble for the progressives. Those who had harbored hopes of an enjoyable revolution were flabbergasted watching their hopes collapse. Revolution made a step forward and split the collective body of its proponents.
Attempts to legitimize Pussy Riot’s outbreak were made, for which the public opinion mobilized the expert community. One strategy was inscribing their performance into the Russian age-old spiritual tradition of iurodstvo (the institution of holy fools). This “Slavophilic” strategy was represented by a woman kulturolog who justified her defense of Pussy Riot by identifying herself as a Russian Orthodox believer and a long-time churchgoer (as opposed to the “official” believers who do not practice) and declared her motherly understanding of the younger generation’s expressions of faith. Also, a seminar dedicated to Pussy Riot’s iurodstvo was held at the Sakharov centre in a series of discussions entitled “Pussy Riot’s Conceptosphere (kontseptosfera)”. Thus, an act of “hooliganism” received a tradition and a universe of discourse.
The “westernizing” wing was busy finding Pussy Riot a precedent in the history of contemporary art. A prominent female art critic and historian nominated Pussy Riot for the prestigious Kandinsky prize (awarded yearly for the greatest achievements in contemporary art) and argued that “artistic quality of the punk prayer is undeniable”. Again, in evasion of any feminist statements, she qualified it as a masterpiece of performance and compared Pussy Riot to the world’s best-established performance artist Marina Abramovich. The idea probably was to elevate the significance of their action by placing it in the domain of international art (and bypassing the social and political messages). Comparisons to Soviet underground art and their repression by the Soviet system (the Siniavskii/Daniel trial, the Joseph Brodsky trial in the 60s, the destruction of the “bulldozer art show” in the 70s) were used, too, also by the Pussy Riot themselves in their defense speeches – as we already mentioned, without noticing the precedent in the case of Maria.
In the emotional general discussion, comparison with repressions of the Soviet times became a commonplace. Defining the trial as a repetition of Stalin’s “1937” was popular but often rejected by serious commentators. Comparisons between the current situation and the more recent KGB repressions against the arts under Khruschev and Brezhnev were in favor of the KGB: the Soviet regime was unanimously proclaimed “softer” than the current Putin one. “Brezhnev was a kind-hearted person, he never wished anybody harm”, said a writer with a history of dissent under Brezhnev, in an interview.
A popular cultural observer of Radio Liberty dedicated a special program to the pre-history of Pussy Riot. In his conversation with an art historian there also appeared quite a lot of solidly forgotten facts from the recent history of Russian actionism: they returned as issues when the conversation partners were recollecting them through the lens of the Pussy Riot debate. Thus, for example, the very recent history of Moscow actionism surfaced from oblivion in connection with iconoclasm, especially the activities of the 1990s art group “E.T.I”, including their action “Prick” on Red Square in April 1991 (when they used their own bodies to write a popular obscene word in front of the Lenin Mausoleum) for which they were fined as hooligans.
Other examples included the performance artist Alexander Brenner’s masturbating in public during an exhibition mounted in the swimming pool Moskva immideately prior to its disassembly and reconstruction into the Christ the Saviour Cathedral and, most relevant, Avdei Ter-Oganyan’s 1998 action “A Young Atheist” (“defiling icons” – actually, axing copies of icons — in public), the first ever case when a legal prosecution was started against an artist for “abusing the feelings of the worshippers”, on the initiative of the Patriarch. Ter-Oganyan had to apply for a political refugee status abroad. 
A prominent intellectual strategy of explanation, legitimation, and domestication was evaluating the Pussy Riot performance as an international career opportunity. In a private conversation with an institutional figure, IS heard an opinion that Pussy Riot (at that moment incarcerated) were making a successful career as contemporary artists, especially given the media storm that had followed their 30 second long performance. Their actions were correct professional and media strategy, and one member of the collective was an especially valuable asset, since she was “a babe (krasotka)”. Apart from this professional cynicism, the difference between a “real” artistic provocation and a constructed provocation in search of promotion and publicity was also looked for in serious discussions: everybody wondered, if “they mean it of is it just PR”. In a discussion with a European curator, one Russian artist and curator asked her how to differentiate between these two, since Pussy Riot were often accused of having staged their event to attract attention in press. “This means”, she observed to sum up, that nowadays “the artist cannot attract attention by just doing her artwork. She must become a symbol, a political one at best. She must behave in a certain way, allowing herself to be instrumentalized by no matter what forces”.
It should be noted that in a message from the courtroom as well as in their interviews, the Pussy Riot participants firmly refused to accept such an instrumentalized role. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova acknowledged “an ethical mistake” in having chosen the cathedral as the location for the performance and said she was prepared to apologize to the worshippers. She refused, however, to repent for the artistic action, to ask for pardon, or to be seen as a victim. Incidentally, this stance makes it difficult for human rights organizations to cite the Pussy Riot case in the context of human rights violation: Pussy Riot do not claim any of their rights abused. This makes it only possible for European Council to criticize Russia from the position of human rights by pointing out the inadequacy of the punishment to the crime and by appealing to tolerance, that is, to goodwill rather than to law, in negotiating the Pussy Riot affair with Russia.
Another version of representing the artist as a self-instrumentalizing puppet was a “politics as chessboard” approach found among think tank analysts specializing in “political technologies”. Here, Pussy Riot’s message was of no value whatsoever, nor the essential content of opinions expressed across all frontlines of discussion in the society. The episode of the performance and the epic of the trial – both of them reasons behind extreme emotional and intellectual agitation in public opinion — were assessed as a factor representing no problem at all except for a technical difficulty (for both the Kremlin and the protest movement) to plan their future electoral strategies. Here, the Pussy Riot action was described as a “prank” (vykhodka), and, in spite of the overwhelmingly critical public reaction to the legal procedure and the manner of the implementation of law, the trial only played a role because of its capacity to preserve or to tip the existing “balance” inside power structures, depending on how much, and what kind of “fear” of “consequences” among the ranks of “power” would prevail in the process.
What Was the Reaction of the Pro-Putin Media? Counter-Intervention on TV.
The Disturbing Matters of Motherhood, Family, and Femininity.
What is remarkable in the Russian context of reception of the Pussy Riot action, and specifically, arising in almost all the discussions about Pussy Riot, is the obsession with the fact that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are mothers of small children (Tolokonnikova’s daughter Gera was 4 years old when her mother was arrested, Alyokhina’s son Filipp is 5). Tolokonnikova’s and Alyokhina’s lawyers tried to convince the court to postpone their sentences until their children become 14 years old, a lot of common people in Russia considered that the women should not get harsh sentences precisely because they had young children. Moreover, the motherhood issue spread over even further to involve Ekaterina Samutsevich who doesn’t have children. In general, it can be believed that the case of Pussy Riot as it is developed in the Russian discussion is elaborated on the ground of a peculiar myth of motherhood, a meta-discourse disciplining representations of female agency, political activity, and especially violence.
Motherhood is considered to be woman’s primary obligation towards her nation within the framework of patriarchy. The reason for it is that woman is considered to be nation’s social and biological womb, responsible for reproduction. Thus, this patriarchal discourse divides all the women into Mothers and Potential Mothers (Wombs). Since gendered bodies are homogenized and because of the “natural” link between femininity and sexual reproduction, a childless woman who denies her definitional gendered “essence” is a deemed deviant “other” and denied the status of an adult. In this case the boundary of “natural”/”unnatural” femininity is negotiated through the reference to her as a womb: the Vacant Womb or the Deviant Womb. The Vacant Womb, thus, refers to a woman who is not mother yet, but is planning to become one and thus, as Åhäll puts it, reproduces normal and appropriate femininity as long as it does not transgress boundaries of appropriate gender behavior. The monstrous woman is produced “at the border which separates those who take up their proper gender roles from those who do not”. Thus, a female that by choice does not assume maternity challenges traditional ideas about the capacities of, and expectations for, female bodies; it challenges the boundary of “natural” femininity. This is how the empty womb in monster stories signifies “deviant” or “unnatural” and inappropriate femininity, the Deviant Womb.
In traditional war and peace mythologies, women and femininities are associated with peace and giving life, while men and masculinities represent war, or taking life. Thus motherhood is understood in a juxtaposition to violence. In such a context a violent woman appears to be an abberation, is demonized and represented as a negative persona of Bad Mother, or Deviant Womb, in order to create a distance between her, the mainstream cultural narratives, and the body politics of the nation.
I am going to analyze how those narratives of Bad Mother and Deviant Womb were employed in Arkadii Mamontov’s TV documentary about Pussy Riot, The Provocateurs (Provokatory). It is important to note that Mamontov’s television production represents a sample of that very “TV for the bydlo” that provides scandal, patriotic horror, and infotainment “for the masses” and actively seeks to widen the gap between the “political class” in front of a computer screen and the “apolitical classes” in front of a TV. For the first time, this 30-minute long film was broadcast as part of Mamontov’s political TV-show Spetsialnyi correspondent (Special Correspondent) on April, 24 2012 on Channel Rossiia 1. Mamontov is famous for his “sensational political investigations” and a strong pro-governmental position. The Provocateurs was screened and then discussed with guests attending the show. All guests however had opinions fully coinciding with Mamontov’s, and their comments failed to enrich the discourse.
The participants of the show discussed Pussy Riot only in terms of religion: the performance was proclaimed to have had exclusively anti-religious motivations and directed against the Russian Orthodox church. The guests of the show referred to it as “an act of war”. The spokesman of the church quoted from Dostoevsky: “God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man”. The language used in connection to Pussy Riot in the film and during the show includes words like “possessed”, “blasphemy”, “provocateurs” (the film explains that the word “provocateur” comes from Greek and means “the Devil”). Thus Pussy Riot were framed as a group of female warriors of evil fighting against the church and Christianity on the side of the antichrist. One guest, a journalist, compares Pussy Riot to the League of Militant Atheists from early Soviet Russia, also they representing the antichrist’s fighters against religion and church.
One of the participants of Mamontov’s show was the journalist who had interviewed the members of Pussy Riot in jail. He mentioned that on the way to the interviews he knew that those were three young women and two of them had children (two Mothers and one Vacant Womb), he started doubting if there had not occurred some mistake about their deed and identity. Moreover, the journalist said that knowing Tolokonnikova’s and Alyokhina’s backgrounds (and assuming that they were Good Mothers) he was expecting to hear words of repentance from them and was quite surprised that it didn’t happen. In other words, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina did not behave as Good Mothers; nor Samutsevich appeared to be a Vacant Womb. The only way for him to explain the political agency of Pussy Riot was to employ the narratives of the “Bad Mother” and “Deviant Womb”.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is definitely the central character of the film: her life and deeds prior to Pussy Riot are discussed in detail; the interview with her is the longest one and she is the only one who is actually talking about politics and art. By giving such attention to Tolokonnikova the authors of the film represent her as the leader and, thus, find it important to frame her as Bad Mother.
At the beginning of the film it is mentioned that Tolokonnikova came to the performance in the Yelokhovo Cathedral on February, 18 (Pussy Riot’s first attempt to perform in the church, which failed) together with her daughter. It is highlighted later that the child, who was only 4 years old, was filming the performance that the program described as an “orgy”. The film includes an interview with Tolokonnikova, where she is asked about Gera’s attitude towards her mother’s performances. Tolokonnikova replies that the child knows about actionism and is capable of understanding it despite her young age because art is easier than books and language. The authors of the film imply that Tolokonnikova is bringing up her child in the wrong way, exposing her to “bad” art instead of reading her “good” books, “forcing” her to be an active participant in “the orgy”.
To make things worse, the film reminds the audience about Tolokonnikova’s participation in the “pornographic” performance Fuck for the Heir Puppy Bear! The fact that Tolokonnikova was nine months pregnant when she took part in it and gave birth four days later is stressed. In the interview, she is asked whether she realized that the performance was dangerous for the life of the unborn child. Tolokonnikova explains that according to medical literature sex is good for pregnant women especially before delivery because it makes childbirth easier. In the film, she appears as a promiscuous, sex-hungry woman who would not hesitate to risk her own child to take part in an obscene performance.
The reaction to the film which the audience expressed during the show proves that the authors quite succeeded in presenting Tolokonnikova as the Bad Mother: one of the woman guests was furious about the fact that “mindless manipulated machines” like Tolokonnikova are allowed to give birth to children and raise them to be just as they are themselves. Tolokonnikova is represented as an unnatural woman who defiled the purity of the fair sex, and that is the reason behind her violent act as part of Pussy Riot. The fact that she is a grown-up woman with a right to determine over her own body and capable of bearing responsibility for her way of giving child care is completely overshadowed by hysteria concerning her bad morals as a mother. The Bad Mother narrative helps overcome the fear: the tension between the myth of motherhood and the politically determined position.
The other young mother Alyokhina is not discussed as a mother in the film and during the show at all. Moreover, in general, the film gives very little place to the representations of Alyokhina, concentrating on Tolokonnikova as the leader. It is indeed difficult to accuse Alyokhina of bad motherhood: a Wikipedia entry about her includes a link to her blog, which she almost entirely dedicates to her little son. Alyokhina’s friends describe her as an excellent mother who spends a lot of time with her child. However, some commenters doubt it maintaining that a good mother should spend all her free time at home with her child and not take part in political performances. Being unable to represent her as a Bad Mother, the authors of the film edited Alyokhina’s interview so that she sounded like she did not have any political agenda at all. She was instead represented as a powerless pawn in the hands of Tolokonnikova, the leader.
Samutsevich does not have children. The film stresses that she is (already) 29, (still) not married and she is asked only personal questions, to imply something abnormal in her. When the interviewer asks her whether she wants to get married and become a mother, Samutsevich says no. The society puts hard pressure on young women convincing them to get married and raise children, but, in spite of that, many people simply do not want to. Those words of hers help the authors of the film to frame Samutsevich as a Deviant Womb, an unnatural woman who is refusing to fulfill her maternal destiny, which is supposed to explain her unfeminine behavior. That is the reason why the authors do not take her seriously: as Deviant Womb, she is denied the status of an adult person, and her political agenda is not considered to be important. In general, Samutsevich is shown in the film as dependent and manipulable, since she is not speaking about politics at all.
To sum up, both Alyokhina and Samutsevich are represented as women who still have a chance to return to the normalcy of good motherhood: Alyokhina was a good mother but then she was badly influenced by Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich can become one if she overcome that bad influence. As for Tolokonnikova, she is unredeemable.
What Did the Father Say?
What is Pro-Vocation?
Officially, the Pussy Riot case is closed. But the story is far from over, and especially because, in spite of almost a year long passionate discussion, condemnation or praise, expression of solidarity or disgust, reasoning or dirt casting, campaigns of support or counter-actions of blame, the public opinion still has not agreed upon, and is still looking for, a meaningful answer to one simple question: “What was it?” — and another one: “What was it for us?”
Instead of seeking a suitable rubric to subsume the Pussy Riot episode as an event (political protest, artistic action, a carnivalesque gesture, an act of hooliganism, blasphemy, or any other), we decided to look for “eventness” not in the fact of intervention as such but in how this fact was received by the Russian public opinion. Making a gesture is the responsibility of the producer, while making sense – the production of the “eventness” of the event, i.e., the constitution of an event as event – is the responsibility of the addressee. Assuming that the addressee of the Pussy Riot intervention was Russian public opinion in general (and in making this assumption we have to disregard the fact that it was in fact a prayer appealing to Holy Virgin), we have, therefore, in a necessarily fragmented manner, concentrated on receptions their intervention produced in the Russian society and the deep ideological conflicts and anxiety, especially in connection with women activism.
In provocation, whether artistic, intellectual, or political, whether as a form of political action, a carnivalesque performance, or a blasphemous obscene gesture, what matters is an act of “speaking, calling, summoning forth” (Lat. pro- ‘forward’ and vocare ‘to call’ or ‘to summon’). Importantly, it is not the task of the one who “calls forth” to answer questions, and not even to formulate them. “Summoning forth” is different from critical questioning in theory or resolving questions in politics. It means preparing ground for questioning by making visible questionability itself. Pussy Riot achieved an unprecedented measure of making-visible by disclosing, in one gesture, the questionability of Russia’s most fundamental social, political, and cultural institutions, of the public space at large. All of a sudden, the pillars such as the media, the parliament, political authority, church, family, ethical and aesthetic values, and even the law itself revealed themselves as mere conventions.
The Russian public opinion responded by asking questions as to the legitimacy of such conventions. The political establishment predictably responded by tightening the screws to stop the questioning , while the law giver fell prey to massive attacks of male hysteria exploding in spectacular fireworks of spiteful “anti-American” legislative acts , – as if confirming its own illegitimacy as a law giver. All this became especially visible against the dark and impenetrable background of the society’s profound fear of women’s initiative. Either theoretically or politically, the situation is still far from being resolved. How, and if at all, it will be resolved, depends on how society will be making sense of it. We are therefore offering here our by necessity disparate and fragmented reflections on receptions of Pussy Riot in order for ourselves to be able to make sense of Pussy Riot and of all other issues that thanks to their act of “summoning forth” arose and became visible as issues.
Furthermore, the punk prayer in the Cathedral reminds us about its multi-layered historical context. In the almost 150 years long historical perspective, women have been resorting to radicalism for the sake of freedom and justice for all. They were severely punished by law and rejected by the society that sought to protect itself against women’s violent lawlessness in the destruction of conventions. Pussy Riot also returned us to the very recent, but surprisingly almost forgotten history of the 1990s, especially that of radical artistic activism. The public discussion on Pussy Riot, confused and conflicted as it was, drew attention to the periphery of Russian history that suddenly became important and recognizable in a powerful way in the re-actualization of memory.
Finally, it drew the public’s attention to the language in which the society speaks about God and freedom, women and revolution, justice and law, the “then “ and the “now”. It also demonstrated how these languages – narratives, metaphors, and attitudes – are exploited by the media, and how the media, in the operation of its discourses, constructs their audiences into classes in conflict with each other, maintaining and solidifying divisions between classes, ostracizing “wrong” genders and sexualities. Pussy Riot broke through all linguistic defenses and urged the society to become aware of the existence of the defenses, of the all-pervading collective fear, on all social levels and in all contexts, of the active, politically conscious woman, the one who breaks through and calls forth.
- See, for instance, a publication by Caroline van Galle in Russian Analytical Digest, http://www.css.ethz.ch/publications/DetailansichtPubDB_EN?rec_id=2415. Thomas Bremer’s contribution in this issue of RDA about Pussy Riot and the Russian orthodox church is especially relevant to our reflections presented here.
- See Elena Gapova, Pussy Riot: feministskii protest v kontekste klassovoi bor’by, http://www.nlobooks.ru/node/2794. According to Gapova, feminism in Russia undermines class formation; besides, in the context of Russan political radicalism, feminism always appeared too ”bourgeois”. Our analysis below seems to show, on the contrary, that in the case of Pussy Riot, it was the feminist message that appeared too radical in the eyes of the too class-conscious politicized mainstream.
- "Pussy Riot trial over Putin altar protest begins". The Guardian. Reuters. 30 July 2012, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/pussy-riot-trial-putin-russia-church?newsfeed=true. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- “Pussy Riot”, Wikipedia, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pussy_Riot#cite_note-origvideo-1, accessed 2012-10-26.
- On the symbolism of the cathedral and the story of its erection, destruction, and re-erection, see Dmitri Sidorov, National Monumentalization and the Politics of Scale: The Resurrections of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 90, No. 3 (Sep., 2000), pp.548-572 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1515528).
- Otvety na anketu zhurnla ”Alternativy”, Maria – zhurnal nezavisimogo rossiskogo zhenskogo religioznogo kluba ”Maria”, Leningrad-Frankfurt-na-Maine, 1981, N 1, p.23.
- Tatiana Goricheva, Ved’my v kosmose, Maria, N1, pp.9-13, see also http://www.a-z.ru/women/texts/gorichr.htm
- Otvety na anketu zhurnala “Alternativy”, ibid., p.28.
- Maria Alyokhina, ”Ya v tiurme za slova” (Interview to Novaia Gazeta by Elena Masiuk) http://www.novayagazeta.ru/politics/54073.html
- Filatov C.B., Lunkin R.N.Statistika rossiskoi religioznosti: magiia tsifr i neodnoznachnaia real’nost. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniia, 2005, № 6.
- Madina Tlostanova, Gender Epistemologies and European Borderland, Routledge, 2011, p. 46.
- Miriam Cooke, Multiple Critique: Islamic Feminist Rhetorical Strategies, Nepantla: Views from South 1.1 (2000) 91-110).
- See more in Kerstin Olofsson, From Orientalism to Postcoloniality, Södertörn University, 2008.
- See http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Explore-online/Pocket-histories/suffragette/page4.htm
- See guerillagirls.com.
- See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeT0dZbGkzc,.
- See http://tvrain.ru/articles/protodiakon_kuraev_o_pussy_riot_zachem_tserkov_svoimi_rukami_sozdaet_novuyu_veru_zasulich-236499/.
- See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeT0dZbGkzc; Novodvorskaya, Valeria (2012), Uznitsy bez sovesti, available at http://grani.ru/opinion/novodvorskaya/m.197025.html, accessed 2012-10-27.
- Парфан Н. (2012), Pussy Riot: «У нас господствуют равные права без понтов», in ART UKRAINE, № 2, available at http://www.artukraine.com.ua/articles/862.html, accessed 2012-10-25.
- Knight, Amy (1979), Female Terrorists in the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party, in The Russian Review, 2, 140-141.
- Riasanovsky N. (1993), A History of Russia (fifth ed.), New York : Oxford Univ. P., 381–2, 447–8.
- Yukina, I.I. 2007. Russkii feminizm kak vyzov sovremennosti. Saint-Peterburg: ALETEJA: 131; 133.
- Richard Stites (1978), Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism 1860–1930 (Princeton: PUP), 103; Yukina 2007, 132.
- Stites 1978, 104; Susan K. Morrissey (1998), Heralds of Revolution: Russian Students and the Mythologies of Radicalism (New York; Oxford: OUP), 156; Yukina 2007, 133-134.
- Stites 1978, 104. The phenomenon of a ”new woman” was not typically Russian: in England in the mid-1890s a new woman was a young woman who rebelled against Victorian notions of separate spheres and womanhood as passive and sexless (see more about it in Witt-Brattström, Ebba (2004), The New Woman and the Aethetic Opening: Unlocking Gender inTwentieth-Century Texts, (Huddinge: Södertörns högskola).
- Yukina 2007: 133.
- Ibid: 135.
- Yukina 2007: 149.
- Ibid: 140-141.
- Kis, Oksana (2005), Choosing Without Choice: Dominant Models of Femininity in Contemporary Ukraine, in Asztalos Morell, Ildikó, Carlbäck, Helene, Hurd, Madeleine, Rastbäck, Sara, Gender Transitions in Russia and Eastern Europe, Eslöv: Förlags ab Gondolin: 119.
- See more about connections between female radicalism and female higher education in pre-revolutionary Russia in Morrissey 1998, 81.
- Elena Zdravomyslova & Anna Temkina, “Pussy Riot” i dr.: novoe staroe litso feminizma” - Presentation at the yearly conference of Russian gender historians, Tver, 5.10.2012.
- See the comment below on how feminism and contemporary art were interpreted by the judge in the Pussy Riot verdict.
- The community was started in 2005 and in 2009 had about 1500 participants (frau_derrida, isya, myjj Polza ot razgovorov. Iz opyta odnogo prosvetitel’skogo proekta v blogosfere. Gendernaia diskriminatsiia – praktiki peodoleniia, Ivanovo: Ivanovskii tsentr gendernykh issledivanii, 2009, pp.107-114). The community exchanges information about important feminist thinkers and activists, cases of discrimination against women in Russia and other countries, and discusses private life through a feminist optics. During 2012, among the topics that were repeatedly discussed by this community were the threat of limiting women’s right to abortion, the law “against homosexuality” in St. Petersburg, and issues of domestic and sexual violence. http://feministki.livejournal.com/
- ”’Pussy Riot’ my stone into the vortex” 7.03.2012, http://feministki.livejournal.com/ (from one of 125 comments).
- ”Vtoroi universalnyi plakat v podderzhku Pussy Riot”, 18.09.2012. http://feministki.livejournal.com/ (from one of 15 comments).
- Barandova, Tatiana and Konstantinova, Maria “Kasus Pussy Riot i miry argumentatsii), Gefter, 13.07.2012 //http://gefter.ru/archive/5368
- “The persecution of Pussy Riot”, 6.03.2012, http://feministki.livejournal.com/. (from one of 123 comments).
- Extracts from the Pussy Riot court verdict. Translated from the Russian, see http://www.bg.ru/stories/11662/ and http://slon.ru/russia/prigovor_pussy_riot-821705.xhtml
- http://archive.svoboda.org/programs/christ/2001/christ.052001.asp. This is the only attempt I know of by a church representative to understand the conflict as a feminist one and to denounce sexism both in and outside the church.
- In the meantime, issues of feminism and God were first formulated by radical feminists in the 1970s. Mary Daly, a radical lesbian feminist and a theologian, “published a number of works, and is perhaps best known for her second book, Beyond God the Father (1973). …Often regarded as a foundational work in feminist theology, Beyond God the Father is her attempt to explain and overcome androcentrism in Western religion, and it is notable for its playful writing style and its attempt to rehabilitate "God-talk" for the women's liberation movement…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Daly. In art, theological questions were also radicalized. Another predecessor, Sister Corita Kent (1918 –1986), was a Catholic nun and a feminist artist whose interactive art work sought to undermine church, social, and artworld hierarchies (a documentary about her can be found at http://www.nowness.com/day/2010/6/5/685/breaking-a-habit-sister-corita, and some work was presented at the recent art show Doing What You Want at Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm) http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/archives/002315.html
- Sociological surveys estimate the share of Russian Orthodox believers in Russia in the by far too broad statistic specter between 6 and 80 per cent (interesting and amazingly contradictory data can be found at http://www.sova-center.ru/religion/discussions/how-many/). The criteria to evaluate the population’s religiosity and faith are not clear either to the scholars, or to the respondents. Thus, according to one study, 67 per cent of internet users in Russia define themselves as believers but only a third of them thinks that belief in God is the essence of religion.
- http://ww.sakharov-center.ru/discussions/?id=1663, see also the defender Violetta Volkova’s theses presented at a discussion at the Carnegie Center in Moscow http://www.carnegie.ru/events/?fa=3917
- http://www.businessinsider.com/pussy-riot-trial-nadezhda-tolokonnikovas-closing-statement-2012-8, see also Nadezjda Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot: Slutplädering. Stockholm : Norstedts, 2012.
- We thank Anders Nordström for making this point clear to us.
- See about it http://gb.ru/archives/7425.
- See, for example, a discussion about it: http://forum.cofe.ru/showthread.php?t=136992.
- See, for example, interview with Samutsevich in Arkadii Mamontov’s film Provokatory (The Provocateurs): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeT0dZbGkzc.
- Yuval-Davis, Nira (1997), Gender and Nation, (London: Sage), 2; Mayer, Tamar (2000), ‘Gender Ironies of Nationalism: Setting the Stage’, in Tamar Mayer (ed.), Gender Ironies of Nationalism: sexing the Nation, (London: Routledge), 10.
- Hird M.J. (2003), Vacant Wombs: Feminist Challenges to Psychoanalytic Theories of Childless Women, in Feminist Review, 75: 8.
- Åhäll, Linda (2012), Motherhood, Myth and Gendered Agency in Political Violence, in International Feminist Journal of Politics, 14 (1): 110.
- Creed B. (1999), Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection, in Thornham S. (ed.), Feminist Film Theory: A Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press: 253.
- Åhäll 2012: 112.
- See about it Elshtain J.B. (1995), Women and War, New York: Basic Books; Skjelsbæk I. (2001), Sexual Violence and War: Mapping Out a Complex Relationship, in European Journal of International Relations, 7(2): 220.
- Åhäll 2012, 109-110.
- Bielby, Claire (2010), ‘Remembering the Red Army Faction’, in Memory Studies, 3: 2, 141.
- See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeT0dZbGkzc.
- Surganova, Elizaveta (2012), Rasserzhennyj prikhozhanin, http://lenta.ru/articles/2012/09/13/mamontov/.
- See http://lirain.livejournal.com/.
- E.g. http://yaroslavn.livejournal.com/88751.html; http://www.vokrug.tv/person/show/Maria_Alekhina/.
- Attempts to frame Alyokhina as a Bad Mother were made in January 2013 when the court denied her petition to postpone the rest of her imprisonment because she has a little child. The denial was based on the indication of the prison administration that she wasn’t a good mother because while in prison Alyokhina had not been observed to show any interest in her son and wrote only two letters home ( see http://www.kp.ru/daily/26016.4/2938716/).
- We thank Marcia Sa Cavalcane Schuback for drawing our attention to this important etymology.
- Summing up the increase in securitization during 2012, it is introduction of censorship on the Internet (under the pretext of protecting children against harmful content), 100 per cent growth of legal communication traffic interception, reformulation of the concept of state treason to include consultancy for a foreign enterprise and activities “detrimental to the external security of the Russian Federation”; prohibition for American citizens to work in non-governmental organizations, and the obligation for NGOs receiving grants from abroad to register as “foreign agents”. http://www.ej.ru/?a=note&id=12524
- During the Duma hearings of the legislative proposals concerning public manifestations, more than 400 amendments were proposed by the opponents. The discussion and rejection of each amendment took the Duma first 3 minutes, then 45 seconds. http://top.rbc.ru/society/04/01/2013/839371.shtml. On the scandalous “Dima Iakovle”v (“anti-Magnitsky”) law, see http://www.bsr-russia.com/en/politics/item/2558-the-dima-yakovlev-bill.html, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/world/europe/04adopt.html?_r=0 and many others.