The official Twitter account for the Russian punk band Pussy Riot announced that two of their members have left Russia to avoid further persecution from Russian authorities.
Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, were sentenced to two years in jail for their role in the “Punk Prayer” video that sparked the whole controversy. Despite receiving worldwide criticism for persecuting the band members, Russian police announced earlier this week that they were pursuing more band members on more criminal charges.
Goodness! You mean all those heartfelt posts and tweets from longtime fans (some of them having followed the band for as long as a month!) amounted to nothing but ineffectual posturing? Sacrificing limbs for the cause was all for naught? Must be due to that mysterious Russian soul:
Which brings me to the part of the Pussy Riot story that the Western won’t touch: A huge number of Russians, many of them decent Russians, many of them the type we consider “our” Russians — want to get medieval on the Pussy Riot girls, string them up in Red Square, and make it hurt. Like I said, this anger comes not just from the reactionary peasant caricatures or KGB Putin goons or crusty Commies — but from “our” Russians too, educated yuppie-Russians, indie-rock/hipster Russians, student Russians, anti-Putin Russians …
Hell, even a sizable portion of the hundreds of thousands who protested Putin earlier this year would be found in a lynch mob against the Pussy Riot girls. You thought what those Russians were protesting was the chance to become just like freedom-loving Nebraskans? (Wait, are there freedom-loving Nebraskans?) If you got that impression from the anti-Putin protests, you don’t know Russians very well.
…Part of the hostility to Pussy Riot is that they’ve become a cause-célèbre in the West. Russians have not had a very good historical experience with things the West think Russia should do, going back a few centuries — the memory of America’s support for that drunken buffoon Yeltsin while he let the country and its people sink into misery is still raw — “a painful memory” like John Turturro’s character says in “Miller’s Crossing,” a memory woven tightly into the Russian RNA’s spool of historical grievances. And nothing triggers that reactionary Russian live-wire gene like an earful of Westerners moralizing about any topic, even the most obvious topic, even the topic where it’s 100% clear we’re on the right side for once.
So when they hear us finally paying attention again to Russia because a punk band with an English name using Latin script falls under the Kremlin’s gun, they don’t necessarily see “injustice” the way we do from our far-away vantage point — they see another dastardly plot by the West to humiliate Mother Russia and bring her to her knees.