Pussy Riot: A beacon of hope in Russia’s dark days

The saga sums up the crass stupidity of authoritarian regimes, whose fear of even mild challenges leads them to endlessly create martyrs

The Pussy Riot 3 will hopefully not be staring at prison walls for much longer. Along with the Arctic 30, an amnesty covering up to 20,000 prisoners could soon end their nightmare.

It sounds generous, but bear in mind that it covers less than 3 per cent of the 680,000 Russians languishing in jails. That’s an imprisonment rate lower than the United States, but still over four times higher than Britain’s justice system.

The Pussy Riot saga sums up the crass stupidity of authoritarian regimes, whose fear of even mild challenges leads them to endlessly create martyrs. The band’s performance in a cathedral in defiance of the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Putin led to a two-year sentence for hooliganism, from a judge who damned them for having “crudely undermined the social order”.

But they’re also a rare chink of light in the bleakness of Putin’s Russia. Their support for LGBT rights is frighteningly rare: polls show that 1 in 20 Russians want gay people “exterminated”, just over a fifth want them to receive compulsory psychological treatment, and just 5 per cent support same-sex marriage. The band’s courageous stance against Putinism is notable in a country where the chaos and collapse in living standards that followed the fall of Communism led to a widespread acquiescence to authoritarianism.

Pussy Riot’s stance is courageous indeed, and a future Russia will look back in shame at their treatment, undoubtedly regarding them as pioneering fighters for democracy and human rights. It seems like a depressingly distant place.


For more Owen Jones this week, go here: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/anachronistic-and-iniquitous-grammar-schools-area-blot-on-the-british-education-system-9013626.html

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