Pussy Rioters checkmated

The three Pussy Rioters have been sentenced to two years each, for hooliganism and blasphemy.

The ensuing protests outside the Moscow courthouse featured the great chess player Garry Kasparov carried by four policemen through the crowd, with each cop assuming responsibility for one limb. The BBC video shows the ex-champion of the world repeating non-stop ‘Why? Why? Why are you arresting me? Why?…’ By way of reply, the police later claimed Kasparov had bitten one officer during the scuffle. Perhaps he felt that was a legitimate from of political expression. Or else he was feeling peckish. Anyway, he’s in trouble for asking rhetorical questions.

The three women were found guilty of desecrating the Moscow cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which came as a huge shock to me. What’s wrong with desecrating cathedrals? We do it all the time. For example, the last time I visited Winchester Cathedral, preparations were under way to hold a rave there that night. All sorts of revolting posters were being strung across the nave, although none of them featured what the Russians call ‘non-normative’ vocabulary.

And barely two days ago I saw sublime 13th-century stained glass sharing the cavernous interior of Bourges Cathedral with poster-like flags in psychedelic colours. Again, no swearwords appeared, but contextually the abstract ‘art’ was nothing short of sacrilegious.

I shan’t repeat what I said on the same subject a few days ago, focusing instead on a few developments on the margins. In a show of hypocrisy seldom equalled in recent years, Putin had asked the judges ‘not to be too strict’. That’s like Stalin asking Beria to take it easy on those Polish officers at Katyn. And immediately after the verdict was announced, the Vice-Chairman of Putin’s party said he had hoped for a suspended sentence. That’s like Beria saying that he hoped the Polish officers would be shot with blanks.

The whole comedy was staged like the show trials of the 30s, with the verdicts reflecting not justice but political expediency, as seen by the bosses who had ordered the trials in the first place. Putin’s gang of thieves and money launderers wanted to be all things to all men.

On the one hand, they are tossing a bone to those Russians who genuinely think that desecrating cathedrals isn’t nice. Putin hopes, probably forlornly, that they’ll see him as an upholder of ‘the spiritual foundations of the Russian state’, as the prosecutor put it. Presumably, the venerable jurist was referring to Orthodoxy and not to thievery and money laundering, which both answer that description much more accurately.

On the other hand, Putin and Co. show to the Russians and the world that they aren’t exactly Beria’s heirs, even though they (along with the hierarchy of the Russian Church) gained their work experience in the same secret police Beria used to serve with so much distinction. The maximum sentence for the Pussy Rioters’ crime was seven years. Did the prosecutor ask for seven? Did he ask for five? Did he emulate his role model Vyshinsky, Stalin’s prosecutor, by screaming, ‘Shoot them like rabid dogs!!!’?

Vyshinsky’s heir did none of the above. He – are you ready for this? – asked for merely three years in a mildish concentration camp. And the judges saw fit – were allowed! –  to give him a year less than he had requested. Moreover, Putin may yet prove that he’s in touch with his feminine side by reducing the sentence by another few months. Even if he doesn’t, he comes across as a strict but benevolent father, just the ticket the Russians crave for their slow journey towards democracy with a clerical dimension.

I must say I’d gladly see the three unsavoury samples of femininity in prison even if they hadn’t committed their blasphemous act. Their previous behaviour, featuring public sexual intercourse among other niceties, not to mention their so-called music, would for me constitute sufficient grounds for indefinite incarceration.

It would also be poetic justice if they shared the cell with some of their Western defenders. Most notably, one would mention Madonna, whose very stage name is as egregious a blasphemy as anything the Rioters had done, while what she does on stage is a capital crime against our civilisation. A senior Russian politician has described Madonna as ‘a slag who wants to teach us morals’, and I’d agree with his assessment – if he weren’t a senior Russian politician.

This proviso is the key point. For this spectacle of a trial evokes another historical parallel, with those Nazi murderers being judged at Nuremberg by even worse Soviet murderers. Madonna teaching morality is indeed risible – but not half as much as this lot passing judgment on blasphemy. 

 

 

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