Daily Archives: April 20, 2012

All You Need to Know about the Pussy Riot Case, But Were Afraid to Ask

Lev Rubinstein
My Verdict: “Bitches”
April 20, 2012

I’m unhappy with myself when strong, negative emotions begin to prevail over reason, when instead of describing and analyzing events as calmly and disinterestedly as possible, I simply shout an obscene idiom into dead space. So yesterday, when I learned of the court’s decision to extend the jail terms of the three girls from Pussy Riot, I couldn’t think of anything better to do than say the word “bitches” fairly loudly, with at least three exclamation marks.

Of course this wasn’t directed at the girls, or even at the judges. What judges? Are you kidding?

I’ve just written about oxymoron as one of the basic techniques of today’s agitprop. But there is one other linguistic peculiarity of Russian public and political life: homonymy, when identical words denote different things. If, for example, you hear or read the word luk out of context, you won’t be able to tell whether it’s the kind used for shooting [“bow”] or the edible kind [“onion”].

Homonyms, whose meanings aren’t entirely clear, are often misleading. And it’s only when you realize that in our country “parties,” “parliament” and “elections” don’t in any way denote parties, parliament and elections, but something else altogether (although they’re written and pronounced the same), that life becomes if not easier and more fun, then at least easier to grasp.

The same goes for “court.” Under our current imitative system, the word “court” can mean anything whatsoever except for [a real] court. And therefore to evaluate the performance of judges in terms of the reasonable and fairness of their verdicts is no more appropriate than to assess the performance of a printing pressing in terms of the form and content of the texts [printed on it].

No, my “verdict” was not addressed to the judges, but to those who poison a social climate already far from germ free with the miasma of obtuse malice, ancient superstitions, salacious shamelessness and nauseating, brazen hypocrisy. It was addressed to those who poison the air and pit people against each other. Indeed, it’s clear that only in this noxious fog can they remain at the feeding troughs of power, wheeling and dealing, kicking around their kickbacks, taking their cuts, raking in the dough and doing all their other great deeds for the glory of Mighty Russia. What young Nadya said as she left the courtroom was on the mark.

“Our best wishes to those who put us here: I want you to have it like we have it now. Since they think we are fine and can be kept in custody, this is not a curse but a wish,” said Tolokonnikova. ”I think we did everything the right way,” she added. As reported on the Twitter account gruppa_voina, when guards led Tolokonnikova out of the courtroom, she said, “And do not blame anyone but Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin for our situation.”

I especially like the fact that against the backdrop of all this rage (which in terms of form and content resembles the delirium brought on by a severe flu), the pretentious debates about whether what the girls did was good or bad continue as if nothing has happened. Was it a pretty thing to do or was it shabby? Should they have or shouldn’t they have? It’s bad, of course, that a girl was raped and murdered, but she was wrong to have worn such a short skirt. Or, say, a reporter deems it not superfluous, in his report on a road accident, to note that the hit-and-run pedestrian victim was dressed quite tastelessly.

A story like this one, which has provoked such stormy passions and such inappropriate excitement on the part of the clerical-punitive mechanism, would have been newsworthy no longer than two or three days in any civilized country. So I ask again for the umpteenth time: where is that we live? And, most important, in what century?

Just recently I was in Austria and Germany, where virtually everyone with whom I spoke, including former compatriots, asked me the same thing: “What is going on in your country? Is such a thing really possible today?” “As you see, it’s possible,” I was forced to reply, “In Russia anything is possible.” And the refrain of a playful, perky (as was said back then) song from the sixties would resurface in my memory: “It’s possible, it’s possible, of course it’s possible. In our country nothing is impossible.” And then, of course, the refrain continued, “La-la-la! La-la-la! La-la-la! La-la-la!” All in all, it’s a fun little ditty.


To get updates about the case, find out about solidarity events in your part of the world, and contribute to the legal defense of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, who face up to seven years in prison and have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, go to freepussyriot.org.

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Moscow Police: Prose Is Allowed (But Not Blank Verse?)

Welcome to Moscow, where it is illegal to sing a couple songs outside a courthouse in defense of people (in this case, the three arrested alleged members of Pussy Riot, whose pretrial detention was extended for another two months yesterday by the Tagansky court) you think have been unjustly accused and imprisoned.

Slon.Ru’s reporter on the scene relates this interesting exchange with one of the arresting police officers:

When I asked the officer supervising the arrests on what grounds the musicians [Nikolay Oleynikov and Kirill Medvedev, two members of the revolutionary folk ensemble Arkady Kots] were being detained, he explained that any organized actions are interpreted as [unsanctioned protests], and that outside a court house they are prohibited by law.

So you’d detain [people for reciting] poems?”
“For [reciting] poems as well — for any unsanctioned actions.”
Is it permitted to converse in prose?”
“Prose is allowed.”
 “What about unrhymed blank verse?”

The officer thought hard but gave no reply. But some activists standing nearby suggested that, given the political situation, blank verse was doubly forbidden.


P.S. Arkady Kots continued their performance as they were being transported to a police station along with other lovers of blank verse:

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Filed under activism, censorship, feminism, gay rights, film and video, political repression, protests, Russian society