The latest sensation on the Russian underground music scene talks about its songs.
Published: February 1, 2012 (Issue # 1693)
Pussy Riot, a feminist punk collective from Moscow whose members hide their faces behind colored balaclavas, creates waves of protest through its dissident songs and unsanctioned performances — which culminated late last month in a brief unauthorized concert on Moscow’s strictly guarded Red Square.
The group, which performed a freshly penned anti-Kremlin song called “Putin Got Scared” (Putin Zassal) — complete with colored smoke bombs and a purple feminist flag — was arrested and, after being held for about five hours in a police precinct, two members were fined 500 rubles (around $17) each. The members were charged with holding an unauthorized rally.
“Red Square is symbolically the main place of the country; we believe that it is the place that should be occupied to achieve a real political change, it’s the equivalent of Tahrir for Russia,” Pussy Riot said in an email interview this week.
In an email, a member who calls herself Garadzha Matveyeva said that the group answered the questions collectively — just as it writes its songs.
For the Red Square performance, the group chose as its stage Lobnoye Mesto — a 13-meter-long stone platform previously used for announcing the tsar’s ukases — as a reference to the historic demonstration of seven Soviet dissidents who came to the site with the slogan “For our freedom and yours” to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 25, 1968. The dissidents subsequently spent years in prisons, psychiatric asylums and in exile.
“We believe that the Soviet Union’s aggressive imperial politics are similar in many ways to Putin’s course,” Pussy Riot said.
“The way the state treats its citizens hasn’t changed much since the times of the U.S.S.R.; there is still paternalist supervision and police control over people. Secondly, we always try to choose elevated platforms — similar to a concert stage — so Lobnoye Mesto met our needs in this sense.”
“Putin Got Scared” was inspired by the spontaneous, unsanctioned protests against the rigged State Duma elections in December.
“The song was written in the aftermath of the Dec. 5 events and is permeated with the radical mood of protest of that day, when after a 10,000-strong rally on Chistiye Prudy a number of protesters managed to break through the OMON police cordons and around 1,000 marched almost to the Kremlin itself,” the group said.
“The police were at a loss, they didn’t know what to do; they were waiting for orders in astonishment and didn’t dare touch the protesters. The orders to detain the demonstrators didn’t come until the people had already reached the Kremlin, half an hour after the march had begun. The authorities were frightened.
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