Putin and the Russian Government have grabbed the world's spotlight with the conviction and verdict of 3 members of the Russian punk rock group called p*ssy Riot. This group has been convicted of "hooliganism" motivated by "religious hatred" and has been called "blasphemers" for performing a punk rock prayer/protest in Moscow's Cathedral of the Christ. And though there is strong international reaction by both governments and artists of all kinds against the treatment these three women, reaction by Russians themselves somewhat leans the other way.
The Christian Science Monitor states that Russian public opinion tends to go against p*ssy Riot . But that does not imply that all Russians are thrilled with the treatment the group is receiving from both the Church and the government. It's just that overall, there is a lack of sufficient support that would move Russian officials to feel pressured into changing the sentence and even reverse the verdict.
International support has only confirmed to some Russians, especially government officials, that p*ssy Riot and its supporters are nothing more than Western plot to overthrow their system. The potential for rich irony is here as these views mirror the views of American Southerners who thought civil rights workers were agitators from the North and beyond. All we need now is for government officials to start calling p*ssy Riot and their fans Communists.
But Russian support for this group is inconsequential. What we should be noting is the popular acceptance of, and even longing for, the prominence of authoritarian structures such as the Orthodox Church and the State. It is the siding with these authority structures that should concern us. For Russia, despite its reforms and the fall of the Iron Curtain, is not a free country.
Of course, officials from the government and the Church will describe their use of power euphemistically, something that would never be tolerated here. That is why, despite the separation of church and state in the Russian Constitution, the motivation of religious hatred, when the only object of animosity was abusive power, officials framed p*ssy Riot's actions as an attack on Russian values and orthodoxy. Though to be fair, there are Russian laws that prohibit offending the feelings of religious people in certain places
Aside from that, we have already had a glimpse of authoritarian rule in Russia by looking at its actions taken in Chechnya and its possible involvement in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya in order to silence her views . And if this is our view from afar, imagine what Russians on the ground experience up close and personal. It is here that we come to the real issue of p*ssy Riot vs the Russian government. For if you read the words of the song they performed at the Cathedral in conjunction with their other lyrics , you will understand both their name and what they are promoting. p*ssy Riot is pushing for anarchism via a female led confrontational overthrow of the current system of male dominating behavior. Unlike in America, their intentions and words have put them on their government's radar.
Of course, to those who are both overly concrete in their thinking and morally proud, the explicit references in the name and lyrics will move them to put on their all-or-nothing thinking caps and determine that p*ssy Riot has no redeeming qualities. Such people prefer the security of silent obedience in the face of atrocities to our human responsibility of speaking out. Their faith is small and so are their rewards.
All others, however, will at least be alarmed. They know that sexual references pale in comparison to economic atrocities and brutal state terrorism. They know that the Russian Government has reached its own Konkordat (see here for America's Konkordat ) with the Orthodox Church to use religion as a spiritual shield for its policies. They know that the Russian Government uses its Constitution as a legal shield for its practices. And they know that the Russian Government uses the public fear of terrorism and the outside as a permission slip to act with impunity.
Fortunately none of the above misuses of institutions and emotions have occurred in America. But these things could possibly happen here if we let it. If we too prefer the security of silent obedience and give preference to authorityphiles, whether religious or political, we could experience a similar top-down government in America that they suffer under Russia. And all of this will occur in the name of God and country. It is a government that assumes the right to detain and even murder its own civilians. And it is a government that shops at Euphemisms R Us to find palatable explanations for its behavior to feed the public if it bothers to inform us in the first place.