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"Art and politics are inseparable for us" - interview with Pussy Riot

27.02.12 19:57    By Darya Zagvozdina, edited by Karina Ayvazova


«Our political ideal is a developed civil society where people are aware of their rights and interests.»   Photo: pussy-riot.livejournal.com


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Last Tuesday five members of The Pussy Riot punk band performed at the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow for a few minutes. They sang a song that contained unflattering characteristics of the clergy of the temple, as well as the Russian Patriarch, Kirill. The women who were wearing colored masks, also sang "Holy Mother, send Putin packing!" three times. Church officials called their actions blasphemy, sacrilege, an insult to religious feelings, and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin even stated that such actions should be followed with criminal penalties.
In an interview to Gazeta.ru, activists from the band explained why they gathered together and what the goal of their performances was.

-How did you come up with the idea to create Pussy Riot?
- Several activists of the opposition movement, dealing with the problems of feminism, ecology, as well as rights for the LGBT movement, regularly took part in rallies and other forms of active protest. We understood that Russia did not have enough explosive punk-feminist groups, pushing people to the development of a culture of protest. Anonymity and face masks were laid in the image of the group to avoid committing to specific individuals. Our concerts were to become a pure protest saying: super heroes in balaclavas and acid bright tights seize public space in Moscow. In October last year we recorded the song "Set free the pavement," held the first round of our illegal tour – we occupied several sites on public transport in Moscow.

-- How did you come up with the band's name and what does it mean?
- It was inspired by the famous punk-feminist movement called Riot Grrrl which was active in Amercia in 1990s. Their ideas were close to ours.

-How many people are in Pussy Riot?
- We have 10 performers. We also have several dozens of staff- assistants, editors, etc. Pussy riot is not like an ordinary music band, we have no constant members.

-- Can anyone become a member?
-- Of course, one can either perform, or organize a Pussy-Riot style performance by themselves.

-How do you organize an event? How do you choose a theme and scene?
- Ideas are born after communicating with our close friends – opposition activists. We also participate in different protest events, we study the traditions of global political activism. We train very hard. Each new performance can take a week or even a month of rehearsal.

- So what is it then? Art or politics? Work or hobby?
- Art and politics are inseparable for us. We try to make political art. Performances and their rehearsals are our job. Life in Pussy Riot takes a lot of time.

- Do the band members have political views?
- Most of us follow left non-authoritarian views, some of the members are liberals. Our political ideal is a developed civil society where people are aware of their rights and interests. Politicians must depend on their electorate. Today, a small number of people have taken power by force in Russia, they now change laws to keep control of the country. They have not asked Russia's citizens, whether they want prolongation of presidential term to 6 years or not. Why didn't they conduct a referendum? Russia does not have democracy now.
Our position is to think critically, to doubt all "natural" things, and find lies. Today, some people try to persuade us that Putin is a gift for Russia, that the country would collapse without him. Our position is to think, analyze and make the right decision.

- What is your ultimate goal?
- We have several of them. For example, we demand freedom for political prisoners. We heard some officials demanded our imprisonment after the performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. But we only wanted to stress the far too much communication between the church and the government. Our Patriarch is not ashamed of wearing watches worth $40,000, which is intolerable when so many families in Russia are on the edge of poverty.

-What do you think needs to be immediately changed in Russia?
- We must change the judicial system first. Democracy is impossible without an independent judicial system. An education reform, and cultural reform are also needed. Putin pays attention to anything but culture – museums, libraries, culture centers are all in awful conditions.

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