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Closing Statements of the
Vicitms of the So-Called Trial of Pussy Riot in Russia

Written by Ross Teasley, 5 years ago, Comments
  • Maria Alyokhina of the band Pussy Riot in Russia Мария Алехина
  • Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the band Pussy Riot in Russia, Надежда Толоконникова
  • Yekaterina Samutsevich of the band Pussy Riot ЕКАТЕРИНА САМУЦЕВИЧ
  • Pussy Riot performs on the alter, Feb. 21, 2012

Introduction: The Pussy Riot Scandal

If the title of this post seems impossibly awkward, you’re on to something. Read on….

On Feb. 21, 2012, five women from the group Pussy Riot went to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow.

Pussy Riot performs on the alter, Feb. 21, 2012

Pussy Riot performs on the alter, Feb. 21, 2012. Click to view full image. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

As an act of protest against the impending re-election of Vladimir Putin, the women of Pussy Riot covertly masked their identities, walked up on the platform area in front of the alter, crossed themselves, bowed to the altar and promptly launched into their punk-prayer song of protest called “Mother of God, Chase Putin Away.”

The song implores the Mother of God/Virgin Mother to drive Putin away and decries Kirill the First, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, for shamelessly supporting Putin’s re-election campaign in early 2012. The Patriarch referred to Putin as a “miracle from God”, who had “rectified the crooked path of history.”

Three of the women were arrested, and after a short trial, convicted of “hooliganism.” On Aug. 17 each was sentenced to 2 years in prison. All three women are officially considered either Political Prisoners or Prisoners of Conscience by various international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

To describe these women as members of a “Punk Band” is reductive in the extreme; especially a “girl punk band called Pussy Riot.” You’re looking at the face of Russian civic activism; Russian artists.

Each woman read their own “Last Word,” (a sort of closing statement). Here are a few selected excerpts from those powerful statements. You are encouraged to read the full texts, which can be found in excellent English translation by clicking here: “Pussy Riot Closing Statements” http://goo.gl/CHvXe


Yekaterina Samutsevich
Екатерина Самуцевич

Yekaterina Samutsevich of the band Pussy Riot

Yekaterina Samutsevich of the band Pussy Riot ЕКАТЕРИНА САМУЦЕВИЧ


Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of political power in Russia.

Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic?

In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to unite the visual imagery of Orthodox culture with that of protest culture, thus suggesting that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, and Putin, but that it could also ally itself with civic rebellion and the spirit of protest in Russia.

The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently than the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings. Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law has been taken. And his statement that this court will be objective and hand down a fair verdict is yet another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

Full English translation: http://goo.gl/CHvXe
Original Russian version available here: http://goo.gl/FAm2V


Maria Alyokhina
Мария Алехина

Maria Alekhina of the band Pussy Riot

Maria Alyokhina of the band Pussy Riot in Russia Мария Алехина


Russia, as a state, has long resembled an organism sick to the core. And the sickness explodes out into the open when you rub up against its inflamed abscesses.

Our schooling, which is where the personality begins to form in a social context, effectively ignores any particularities of the individual.

They inculcate cruelty and intolerance of nonconformity. Beginning in childhood, we forget our freedom.

And all of these things I’ve been talking about, all of these processes—they acquire meaning in art and in philosophy. Including contemporary art. An artistic situation can and, in my opinion, must contain its own internal conflict. And what really irritates me is how the prosecution uses the words “so-called” in reference to contemporary art.

But for me this trial is a “so-called” trial. And I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of falsehood and fictitiousness, of sloppily disguised deception, in the verdict of the so-called court.

Full English translation: http://goo.gl/CHvXe
Original Russian version available here: http://goo.gl/DgL6j


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Надежда Толоконникова

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the band Pussy Riot

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the band Pussy Riot in Russia, Надежда Толоконникова


By and large, the three members of Pussy Riot are not the ones on trial here. If we were, this event would hardly be so significant. This is a trial of the entire political system of the Russian Federation, which, to its great misfortune, enjoys quoting its own cruelty toward the individual, its indifference toward human honor and dignity, repeating all of the worst moments of Russian history.

Passion, total honesty, and naïveté are superior to the hypocrisy, mendacity, and false modesty that are used to disguise crime.

It [the Russian government] is so clearly invested in serving only narrow corporate interests, it makes us sick just to breathe the Russian air.

[T]he most important political institutions are the disciplinary structures of the state: the security agencies (the army, police, and secret services)….

The paths of truth always triumph over the paths of cunning, guile, and deception.

The prosecution can only say what they are permitted to [say] by political censorship. They can’t say “punk prayer,” “Our Lady, Chase Putin Out,” they can’t utter a single line of our punk prayer that deals with the political system.

It was our search for truth that led us to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. I think that Christianity, as I understood it while studying the Old and especially the New Testament, supports the search for truth and a constant overcoming of oneself, the overcoming of what you were earlier.

It also seems to me that prosecution attorneys are being influenced by some higher power, because time after time, they slip up and call us “the injured party [or victim].” Almost all of the lawyers have accidentally said this, and even prosecution attorney Larisa Pavlova, who is very negatively disposed toward us, nonetheless appears to be moved by some higher power when she refers to us as “the [victims] injured party.”

Pussy Riot are [Alexander] Vvedensky’s students and heirs. His principle of the bad rhyme is dear to us. He wrote, “Occasionally, I think of two different rhymes, a good one and a bad one, and I always choose the bad one because it is always the right one.”

The price of participation in the creation of history is immeasurably great for the individual. But the essence of human existence lies precisely in this participation. To be a beggar, and yet to enrich others. To have nothing, but to possess all. One considers the OBERIU dissidents dead, but they are alive. They are punished, but they do not die.

Full English translation: http://goo.gl/CHvXe
Original Russian version available here: http://goo.gl/2TR9V


From the Translators of “Pussy Riot Closing Statements”

Russian history makes us remember that conscience is rarely welcomed and easily digestible; rather it is embarrassing and inconvenient, but it rings out clear as a bell.
—Elena Glazov-Corrigan and Maria Corrigan


Video of the Feb. 21, 2012 performance by Pussy Riot in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior: