Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot visits Seattle


Amber GillilandSenior Reporter

Excitement filled the air of the Neptune Theatre as two members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot took the stage on Feb. 8.

The sold out event titled Pussy Riot: Feminist Punk and the Police State brought together an eclectic mix of punk music fans, feminists, film enthusiasts and civil rights activists to witness a documentary screening and discussion from Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Ksenia Zhivago.

The evening began with a brief introduction to Russian history, the leadership of President Vladimir Putin and a small backstory of Pussy Riot given by event moderator Mariana Markova.

Pussy Riot is no ordinary punk band. They’re the perfect mix of performance artists, civil rights activists and musicians.

“Pussy Riot is a movement,” Alyokhina said.

The group uses their songs as political demonstrations, holding unannounced performances in  public places while wearing masks and bright clothes. The group’s demonstrations are meant to shock audiences and their lyrics bring attention to government corruption, gay rights, media censorship and express the group’s disapproval of Putin.

After the introduction, an abridged version of the documentary Pussy vs. Putin was screened. The film is a documentary that highlights the group’s journey to fight the Russian regime, including moments from the criminal case that plunged Pussy Riot into the spotlight.  

On Feb. 21, 2012,  five members of Pussy Riot, including Alyokhina, held a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The women began dancing and singing a prayer asking to remove Putin from power. The women later said the performance wasn’t a religious protest but a statement against the Russian union of church and state. Cathedral security quickly removed the women from the facility and Pussy Riot then used footage of the event to turn it into a music video for the song.

Alyokhina and two other members were later arrested for their actions and held in custody for months until their trial. They were denied bail for fear that they’d flee the country if released from custody. On Aug. 17, 2012, the three women were sentenced to two years in prison for the crime of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for offending members of the Orthodox Christian church and creating a disturbance.

The imprisonment of Pussy Riot created an uproar around the world as people showed support for the release of the women. Many supporters blamed the conviction on Putin’s union with the church and questioned how offending someone was a crime worthy of multiple years in jail.

Other scenes from the documentary included shots of their political protest demonstrations and songs, as well as scenes of angry church members throwing holy water and yelling at Pussy Riot supporters.

When the documentary concluded, Alyokhina and Zhivago appeared on stage to applause and a standing ovation from the audience.

A moderated discussion followed with an opportunity for audience members to ask questions. The women were joined onstage by Markova and tour promoter Alexander Cheparukhin, who  helped translate for Alyokhina.

Discussion topics included women’s issues in Russia, Alyokhina’s experiences while imprisoned and other Russian artists who have joined the movement.

A portion of the time was spent discussing the state of the government and judicial system in Russia. Anecdotes of media censorship and questionable imprisonments were mentioned, including the stories of a man who was given a 20 year sentence for his political views and another man who was sentenced to jail for standing next to a building where a painter was working.

“If you don’t keep an eye on your democracy, you could have the same,” Alyokhina said.

MediaZona, an independent news service created by Alyokhina and Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova, was also mentioned. This platform was created by the women to help fight Russian media censorship. Alyokhina encouraged audience members to help the Russian movement by bringing attention to the cause and speaking out against injustice.

The entire evening can be summed up as inspiring. Russian citizens continue to fight for basic rights that Americans have only had for a small amount of time. Scenes from the film were reminiscent of the civil rights movement in America. It was extremely moving to hear from these women who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and others.

Despite the full venue, the discussion felt intimate. Audience members were able to ask their questions at a microphone that was directly in front of the stage, so that eye contact with the speakers was easy to maintain. Despite being over an hour long, the discussion didn’t feel long enough. This reporter was left with many unanswered questions such as what happened to the women after they were released from prison and where they reside now.

A few lucky audience members were able to purchase T-shirts before they quickly sold out. The proceeds from the sales would go to helping other political prisoners, Alyokhina said.

The evening ended with a 15-minute trailer for another documentary about Pussy Riot that had never been shown in the U.S. and another roaring round of applause.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost

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Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot visits Seattle

by Amber Gilliland time to read: 3 min
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