Pussy Riot’s Pyrrhic Victory

The trial was closely watched at home and internationally not only by liberals, but also by people of other political viewpoints: nationalists, fascists, and extremists of all colors. In this case, the authorities could not show themselves to be weak, and not because they wanted to bestow vengeance on those women or scare off the opposition. The issue here is far more serious, and those pleading for forgiveness for Pussy Riot have no idea what dangers lurk in such an action. If the group could desecrate a Christian temple with impunity, thereby insulting the dignity of tens of millions of believers, and get away with this, then why is it not permissible to do so in a synagogue or a mosque? The government cannot allow such permissiveness to take place, especially in a multi-cultural and a multi-confessional country, where the offending of national or religious feelings can provoke mass disorder and inflame conflicts on nationalist or religious grounds. This is why the primitive argument that the band is facing punishment as retribution for going against Putin or Patriarch Kiril is utterly groundless. The same is true for the argument that failure to punish Pussy Riot would embolden anti-government protesters even more. The problem is much more serious: if Pussy Riot is not punished, that would open the door for others to also commit what in America is called “a hate crime”; in other words, a crime based on intolerance towards Jews, Muslims, people from the Caucasus, and so on. A responsible government and responsible authorities cannot allow themselves to be blackmailed; they need to demonstrate adherence to principles and strongly punish crimes to send a clear unequivocal message to all who might consider infringing on other people’s religious feelings or places of worship.

And finally, I cannot ignore the international campaign in support of Pussy Riot that tried to pressure the court to exculpate them. It is my belief, though it is unprovable, that the sentence might have been more lenient had it not been for the international pressure. No authority and no court can succumb to such pressure, allowing people who had not even expressed regret for their actions to walk out unpunished after having committed sacrilege and desecrated the sacred sensibilities of the overwhelming majority of Russians. Surveys show the vast majority of Russians decry the actions of the punk group and demand harsh punishment. In this case, the opinions of the majority of Russians is infinitely more important to the authorities than the squeals of a few old and aging celebrities. I am confident that this verdict showcases the strength of the judiciary and the government. By bestowing this verdict, they proved that their judgments are determined by their own ideas of right and wrong and not outside pressure. In this sense, even though the girls became famous, international support probably did Pussy Riot a disservice, for without it the punishment could have been more lenient.

Finally, it’s easy to argue that Pussy Riot was merely exercising its right of self-expression. But what really is this freedom of self-expression of people who try to make foul in public places? What society simply accepts not only the assault on public sensibilities through the most horrendous actions designed to shock, but also actions designed to block traffic in busy downtown areas, disrupt citizens in the normal course of their lives and generally cause havoc in society? It’s difficult to see an outcome in any country much different from the one meted out last week in Russia.
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Andranik Migranyan is the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York. He is also a professor at the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, a former member of the Public Chamber and a former member of the Russian Presidential Council.

Source: National Interest

3 Comments

  1. jesualdo correia

    Those who manipulated these young girls in order to attract the kind international attention and judicial outcome, perhaps even suggesting the place and the wording of their ” performance ” are happy to see their plans going according to script. Now they have two years to spin as they have doing with khodorkovsky for so many already. Meanwhile those innocent post-modern warriors will have to pay the price for their profanation and short-sighted view of political affairs.

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