Two Years in the Gulag for Russia’s Riot Chicks


This was Christ the Savior Cathedral in 1905, a couple of decades before Stalin razed it to the ground and more than a century after Pussy Riot tried to desecrated with their foolish politicking that just cost them two years in the gulag.

Russian punk chicks Pussy Riot got hit with two years in the clink on hooliganism charges. I had predicted a lenient sentence of possibly three years. Many were afraid the girls were going to get seven, which has been cited by some alarmists as mandatory on Russian hooliganism statutes.

Bottom line is, while to an outside, non-Orthodox, non-Russian observer kind of severe to throw some kind of mousey looking girl-next-door types in the gulag for pulling a “hey, let’s try to shock the babushkas out of their bonnets and play a gig in church,” it’s really practically a slap on the wrist. One, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They had to. They played their protest “gig” at Christ the Savior Cathedral, practically on the doorstep of the Kremlin, where all the key religious ceremonies are held where the country’s chief heads of state, including the religious Putin and Medvedev, congregate. Sure, the girls got support outside of Russia. Stars like Sting and Madonna (not a Christian) supported them. But a small minority of Russians do. The vast majority of Russians wanted them punished. When in Russia, do as the Russians do. These chicks should have known better.

Apparently, they can still appeal the verdict within a matter of days from sentencing and they could be pardoned by Russia’s President, Tsar Vladimir Vladimirovich, who has said he hopes their punishment won’t be too great. The Orthodox Church has also said it won’t be too upset if the girls receive leniency, so still, at this juncture, anything could happen.

There are those who say that the Church and the State in this case overreacted and by judging too harshly created too much publicity for the group, but most of those voicing that opinion are outside of Russia.

Anyone who knows anything about Orthodoxy and has watched the video of the group’s performance inside the church knows that they knowingly offended church mores on so many fronts it’s a wonder they were not mauled to death by a mob of angry church babushkas on the spot. First, they performed what they called, a “punk moleben.” A moleben is a special prayer. It’s a sacred devotion. It should not be taken lightly nor in mockery. Strike one. Second, the girls performed in front of the holy doors. Strike number two. No girls allowed up there. Period. That rule has been in place for 2,000 years. Break it at your own peril. Number three, they did mock prostrations. I hope the guards and their prison buddies up in the gulag have them doing similar mock prostrations daily up there in Siberia. Bad taste, I know, but I couldn’t resist. The list goes on and on. These chicks knew what they were doing. They knew what they were up against and the perils of getting caught. If they had done this at a lesser Russian church somewhere further away from the Kremlin, it may have been been a little less publicity, but a little less gulag time. So, they get pay for what they get. Enjoy the vacation, devushki!


About Pete Mladineo

42 responses to “Two Years in the Gulag for Russia’s Riot Chicks

  • The Riot Saga Continueth… as Femen Aligns with Josef Stalin « Tents of Sinners

    […] to previous articles, the decision can be appealed and the girls can be released early by appealing directly to Russian […]

  • rami ungar the writer

    So if the rest of the country’s against you, you shouldn’t voice your opinions no matter what? If that’s the case, then it’s a wonder that there were even assassination attempts on Hitler!

    • Pete

      That’s not the point, Rami. P. Riot should be free to express their views. But they also should have known that at the end of the day hijacking the space in front of the holy doors of the Christ the Savior Cathedral to play that particular song with those particular lyrics in that particular Orthodox country at that particular time in political history was going to garner a pretty stiff punishment. It ain’t the west. Believe you me, if some third-rate punk band tried to hijack certain institutions in the U.S to blare out defamatory music, they might actually get shot while doing it at this point in time.

      • Jack Colby

        Obviously the youth of Russia is tired of being stuck in the ancient past. The first of many such acts, I’m guessing. They want to move forward, and who can blame them?

  • Nul Kom Eerste

    Hmm, supposedly if you care about your country and your culture, you tend to use your native language. Pussy Riot? A gift for dying cable news networks in the west. Nothing more, sorry.

    Madonna could try and do the same in the Vatican for instance, I’d like to see what happens next. Sting assaulting St Paul’s Cathedral in London – why not? The only problem is they won’t do it. Yet another case of modern hysteria, I mean people are functioning on the McDonald’s level, plastic brains, very easy – good guys vs bad guys. Normally it’s a bit more complex than that.

    PS The girls look slightly schizophrenic by the way, not sure they’re on the same level as everybody else.

    • Pete

      Agreed on the psychological profiling. Definitely something not right there with them. And I believe the justice system there is taking this into account. They could have gotten seven years on those charges. They could also get sprung for prison at any moment (at Putin’s behest at this point). The Russian Orthodox Church has made a plea for mercy on the three. But upon reading through the lyrics of the song that they actually sung in the cathedral, it was pretty offensive to anyone of religious sensibilities, so kudos to the church for that. Pussy Riot was daring the state not to take action and it took action. Remember, this is Russia. Very different history than the west. If the authorities didn’t punish the girls, than someone else would use that cathedral for a protest. To Russian Orthodox, the church space is sacred, so using it for a political protest is simply unthinkable.

  • The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

    Two years for “knowingly offending”? Your post just saddens me.

    • nigeil

      Why does it sadden you, may I ask? In a culture such as that of the Russians, which holds the Orthodox Church in high esteem (as a country), why is it wrong to punish those who offend such sacred places? Just because we westerners have secularized our societies and given everyone the so-called ‘freedom of speech’ does not mean that we are any ‘better’ than other cultures who hold other, more traditional values at heart. I would not judge posts such as this without greater support.

      • The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

        You would not, I would.
        Not every believes what you believe, and that is a human right, specifically when your alliance is with child rapists (Priests). Where is this punishment?
        Thank you for sharing your “support”.

      • nigeil

        Your support lies in societies’ ‘rapists’ my friend, which far outnumber the Church’s. Furthermore, no one asked you to believe what I believe. But as much as you have a right to believe what you will, I have a right to speak what I believe, regardless of whether society likes it.

      • The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

        My support does not lie in society’s rapists. But you expect such things of society, in the fallen world. But no of the Church. Why does it happen then, by your Priests? Can you answer that?

      • nigeil

        You would of course have to expect such things of the Church. The Church aims at bringing in all people, both the righteous and the sinners, just as Jesus accepted both those who needed and did not need his saving grace. Sinners are omnipresent both within churches and without–that is a direct consequence of our fallen nature. No one has made the claim, EVER, that priests, bishops, cardinals, popes even, are less flawed than the rest of humanity. What matters is how we deal with our faults, and in the end we may all have to answer for our crimes, priest, protester, or politician.

      • The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

        Thank you for answering my question, Nigeil. Hope you have a good evening.

      • jadeddrifter

        Even in a nation where freedom of speech is held in high esteem, you couldn’t do something like this to any church in the United States. Churches here are private entities and this kind of “disturbance of the peace” and/or “trespassing” is punishable by law. If woman like this did this at my local parish I would demand justice as well. Churches are sacred spaces.

      • The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

        Then I would “demand” churches start paying taxes.

      • nigeil

        I know the Catholic Church does pay some taxes on anything that doesn’t have to do with ‘church’. Also, everyone who works for the church (priests, deacons, etc.) is required to pay regular income taxes, like the rest of us.

  • Two Years in the Gulag for Russia’s Riot Chicks « Look on the Bright Side

    […] Two Years in the Gulag for Russia’s Riot Chicks. -A win for Orthodox Catholics everywhere. Rate this:Share this:ShareLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  • andreimoto

    Russia does not have the Gulag. It was closed in 1955.

    • Pete

      We’re not speaking literally here when we say “gulag.” I kinda wish they would go there. The cathedral that the girls desecrated was knocked down by Stalin’s orders in 1930. He built gulags. They should go see something he built instead….

  • gentlemenbrown

    Issues of freedom of speech aside, I wonder how it would work if some fanatic muslim imam set up a loud hailer on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and started belting out the Stars and Stripes in falsetto? And in Pashto, to boot. I can guess he would be arrested and tried for terorrism in a heart beat. At the end of the day, the girls from Pussy Riot got nothing less. In other words, don’t touch a Russion on his Orthodoxy…and Eff freedom of speech at the same time.

  • thegreatgodpan1

    i dont give a damn about any religion….but allow the people to believe as they wish…..what the girls did was silly and aking for trouble….now if they did it ontop of the train station or tehlocal butchery they would have got away with it…if you deliberately go out of your way to annoy people who take this religion seriously,which appears to be a large part of the population.. well then dont be suprized when they are annoyed and retaliate …… preist go into punk clubs and try to piss everyone off?….i doubt it

  • ChangeTheWorld

    While I don’t know enough to decide if I entirely agree yet, this is thought provoking and well written. Thank you for sharing!

  • lecomer

    I just want to say that I have followed this case a bit and have felt conflicted. I lived in Russia for one year and got to know the culture quite a bit. For my thesis, I’ve read a lot about how politics/business operates in Russia and while, I don’t always agree with the tactics of the elite, there are two sides to every story. Since I’ve been home, I’ve realized how repressed my own culture is, despite the fact that we have all of the so-called Western liberties. While I believe that the sentence is a bit harsh considering the offense, I think it was a choice they made to speak out, knowing there may be harsh consequences. If it were myself, I would not have made that choice if I were still living in Russia. Not because I don’t believe in freedom of speech, but because I think sometimes quiet peaceful tactics are more effective.

  • kthorpe

    SimpleLife, do you really believe that all Catholic and/or Orthodox priests are child rapists? That makes me sad… for you. *cough* your ignorance is showing.

    As for this post, it does and does not sadden me. On one hand, I do believe the girls were aware of the cost of their actions. They had to be. They aren’t us, guys– they’re FROM Russia, they understand the culture, the politics, and the repercussions for their stunt.

    On the other hand, as a U.S. citizen, I sympathize for any people, anywhere, struggling for freedom. Maybe these girls made a stupid choice in offending the Church. Maybe the Church over there is largely corrupt in its alliance with the government and coercion of the people. It’s happened before. I don’t know.

    One other thought, though, to all you guys who think desecrating “holy” ground is no big deal: what if this had happened in a mosque? Would that change your perception? Probably. We are accustomed to the idea of being veeerrry careful not to offend ethnic and religious minorities, but the good ol’ Catholic/Orthodox church is different, no? Yep, it’s a double standard.

  • bespectacledape

    I am not a fan of the “you knew what you were getting into” line of reasoning. There’s something seriously dangerous about letting people who “feel offended” pressure a State into a criminal prosecution of artists. You say things like “no girls allowed” and “there’s definitely something wrong with them” like these are salient points, but I don’t think they are.

    For one, their protest was meant to draw attention to the fact that Putin is manipulating the rules of the Orthodox church for personal gain. They had to break the rules to do that – and the fact that the State is the entity punishing them makes me think that this is a protest that needed to be had. Let the Church ban them from the Cathedral; we’ve had enough bad experiences with theocracy in the West to know there’s an issue here.

    Second, calling them schizophrenics and other names is bad logic: it’s an ad hominem attack that signifies nothing but disdain for these girls. Stick to criticizing the message, not the messenger.

    • Pete

      First, I believe the “you know what you were getting into” argument holds water here simply because those girls were playing this “gig” for maximum publicity. They’ve also played at the Kremlin and at other hot spots around Moscow. They wanted to get arrested. They were giggling at the sentencing. They still think this is all a big joke. And despite it all, the Church is still asking the state to give them mercy (see next blog entry for details). As for letting our experiences with theocracy in the West inform the Orthodox East… No thanks! Don’t think there will be any takers there! (Just see the Crusade of 1204 for one example.)

      By the way, which “rule of the Orthodox church” was Putin manipulating for personal gain? Which of the seven ecumenical councils? Which church canon?

      Also, by calling them schizophrenics we were actually looking for mitigating evidence as ways to lessen their sentences, not to attack the girls. That said, after reading the lyrics to their songs, I can’t call their work “art,” nor find myself willing to dignify their “message.” one iota.

  • Ben

    In the U.S., the acts of Pussy Riot could be construed as a Hate Crime. Maybe. I say “maybe” because lately, it is getting to be a common occurrence to enforce laws on a selective basis and as the evidence suggests, it depends upon who (social class or even ethnicity) is doing what to whom (social class or even ethnicity). Just sayin’

  • Gregory Garland

    Proposterous! Microsoft can associate the Dean of Ferraris with an orthodoxed church, and the pope, but Pussy Riot can’t perform outside the gate! Proposterous! Does the pope really own a Ferrari? Peculiar people…..

  • Gathered for the freedom of speech « subsequent

    […] with different opinions on this – here – and – here Share this:ShareTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  • kthorpe

    I’d say again that I feel for the people in Russia wanting freedom and trying to take a stand for it. I also wish the punishment was more lenient. Heck, I think a warning and escorting them away from the place would have been more than enough! If they did it again, maybe a fine. You know? I just have to question the wisdom and motive behind staging that kind of a protest in that place. So offensive to the members of the Church…

  • 01varvara

    There was something like this in the USA some time back. Two shock jocks in NYC, Opie and Anthony, offered a prize to the couple who’d have sex in the most unusual location. Well, one couple opted to do the nasty in St Pat’s. The Archdiocese of NY was NOT amused. Opie and Anthony got redundant very fast (although another outlet hired them) and the couple involved got a personal knowledge of Rikers. That is, they got the same as the PR “girls” (married women with kids aren’t “girls”).

    As for Orthodox priests abusing kids, in Russia, it’s rare, but it occurs. There was a case in Vladimir a year or two back that got in the Moscow tabs (MK or KP)… it led to legislation in the RF Gosduma and the local bishop in Vladimir cracking down on the convent and clergy involved. The Church in the rodina ain’t perfect (every successful organisation attracts baddies and nogoodniks)… but it does act openly, and it does punish baddies. Here in the USA, let’s not forget Sam Greene and Gleb Podmoshensky. That is… we shouldn’t point fingers, we’re not guiltless.

    As for me, I’m sick n’ tired of “PR this and PR that”… a bunch of PR copycats in Germany got caught trying to pull a stunt in in the Kölner Dom (a church of equivalent significance to German RCs). The Catholic Church was not amused… they’re pressing charges. The goofy church invaders face… three years in the slam… the same as PR.

    In short… are we perfect? NO. That’s not the point. A good organisation cleans up its messes and takes steps to see that they don’t recur. Bad ones stonewall and use lawyers. Unfortunately, both sorts exist amongst Orthodox here. Deus videat et iudicare…

  • Russian Patriarch Reaffirms Need for Powerful Russian State « Tents of Sinners

    […] indicate a reaffirmation of its support expressly for Putin, basically regurgitating the subtext of jailed punk rock sluts Pussy Riot when it sacked the Christ the Savior Cathedral last February to play a really bad “punk […]

  • GQ Does Pussy Riot… Shadows of Mandela, Lenin Shimmer « Tents of Sinners

    […] in February. Three members of the “collective” were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in a medium security prison for the act, considered highly blasphemous and offensive to Orthodox Christians. The GQ story is an excellent […]

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