Those of us who live in Russia often feel like we have been forced into a time machine. Now the rest of the world has seen it happen: three women shaped by 20th-century thought tried by a 17th-century court. Consider the testimony of altar warden Vasily Tsyganyuk, classified as a victim because he claimed to have suffered psychological trauma as a result of the performance.
VICTIM: “Those who are possessed can exhibit different behaviors. They can scream, beat their heads against the floor, jump up and down...”
DEFENSE ATTORNEY NIKOLAI POLOZOV: “Do they dance?”
VICTIM: “Well, no.”
JUDGE: “Stop questioning him about those who are possessed. Tsyganyuk is not a medical professional and is not qualified to render a diagnosis.”
POSSESSION IS A DIAGNOSIS?
The only reason the judge stopped it was not that it was ridiculous medieval crap, but that a doctor was not stating it. This is Putin's Russia now.
And what Westerners do not understand as well as they should: when Pussy Riot chose to protest Putin in a Russian Orthodox Church, they were specifically calling attention to the dark partnership between Putin and said church. Because if he ever steps down, independent tribunals will be right there, ready to send him to jail for his manifold and obvious crimes--his murders, his bribes, his abuses of power--hell, there's not a single exercise OF power by him that can't be called abuse.
This is a restoral of the church as the other head of the eagle back in tsarist times. What Putin gets from them is the church making it a sin to protest. What the church gets is a kind of power over policy the likes of our religious right only dream of right now. It also reminds one of just why the Bolsheviks took such pains to persecute that church and destroy its power. It wasn't so much ideological opposition to religion itself as specifically that the Russian Orthodox Church as a temporal institution was instrumental in the oppression of the Russian people for centuries. They were one and the same. (think of Potemkin and the priest counting out the moments till the execution with his cross, not helping the sailors or speaking for mercy on their behalf. That's an image that expresses exactly what the church was--not even a church at all in any way, not even pretending to be)
And that is what Putin is doing now.
I am very surprised Pussy Riot are still alive. It's not as though Putin cares a thing about how he looks. In fact, he LIKES people to realize he's willing to kill anyone who stands up to him. These are literally the first ones to remain alive.
But anything can happen in a prison camp far away, as Stalin well knew, as the tsars well knew. And that is the tradition Putin is in. But this is a man who showed that he is willing to gas his own people to death to get rid of anything that challenges his power.
And again, it cannot be said enough--these women are goddamn brave. ___________________
"Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all of his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me & this pencil." --E. Blackadder, 1789 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson