Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist protest punk rock group based in Moscow. The group gained global notoriety when five members of the group staged a performance inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21, The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leaders' support for Putin during his election campaign.
On March 3, , two of the group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina , were arrested and charged with hooliganism. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich , was arrested on March Denied bail, they were held in custody until their trial began in late July.
On August 17, , the three members were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred", and each was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The sentences of the other two women were upheld. The trial and sentence attracted considerable attention and criticism,  particularly in the West. The case was adopted by human-rights groups, including Amnesty International , which designated the women as prisoners of conscience ,  and by a number of prominent entertainers.
In February , a statement was made anonymously on behalf of some Pussy Riot members that both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were no longer members. Speaking as much to western European and North American audiences as to Russian audiences, in Pussy Riot anticipated Donald Trump 's victory two weeks before the outcome of the United States presidential election was declared and released "Make America Great Again", depicting a dystopian world where a President Trump enforces his values through beatings, shaming, and branding by stormtroopers.
In describing the video, Rolling Stone magazine noted that "jaunty, carefree music contrasts with the brutal events depicted on screen. Pussy Riot is a collective formed in late , in response to national politics in Russia. The group consisted of around a dozen performers and about 15 people who handled the technical work of shooting and editing videos that were posted on the Internet. Tolokonnikova, her husband, Pyotr Verzilov , and Samutsevich were members of the anarchist art collective " Voina " from the group's early days in , until an acrimonious split in The group was started by 15 women, several who were previously involved in Voina.
Tolokonnikova is seen as the face of the group. She was born in Norilsk and studied at Moscow State University. Tolokonnikova and her then husband Pyotr Verzilov were members of Voina from Samutsevich joined Voina in , the same time as Ailyokhina. Following release Tolokonnikova and Ailyokhinasai said they were no longer members of the group, although they appeared at various events around the world using the name Pussy Riot.
Other members tried to distance themselves from the two saying that although they were glad for their release they were anti-capitalistic and did not support them using Pussy Riot to make money from songs and tours. After failing to prevent them using the Pussy Riot name they declared the group dead. In Tolokonnikova and Ailyokhinasai went their own ways and although they still follow similar paths and keep in touch, Pussy Riot is seen by some more as Tolokonnikova's project than the collective it started out as.
In an interview with Gazeta. She said: "You don't have to sing very well. It's punk. You just scream a lot. The group cited British punk rock and oi! They stated: . What we have in common is impudence, politically loaded lyrics, the importance of feminist discourse and a non-standard female image.
The difference is that Bikini Kill performed at specific music venues, while we hold unsanctioned concerts. On the whole, Riot Grrrl was closely linked to Western cultural institutions, whose equivalents don't exist in Russia. Pussy Riot used situationist -style guerrilla performances. Pussy Riot's performances can either be called dissident art or political action that engages art forms. Either way, our performances are a kind of civic activity amidst the repressions of a corporate political system that directs its power against basic human rights and civil and political liberties.
Costumes were usually brightly colored dresses and tights , even in bitterly cold weather, with faces masked by balaclavas. During interviews they used nicknames such as "Balaclava", "Cat", "Seraph", "Terminator", and "Blondie". In an email interview with The St. Petersburg Times , the group explained their political positions further, saying that members' perspectives ranged from anarchist to liberal left , but that all were united by feminism, anti-authoritarianism and opposition to Putin, whom members regard as continuing the "aggressive imperial politics" of the Soviet Union.
Group concerns include education, health care , and the centralization of power, and the group supports regional autonomy and grass-roots organizing. Members regard unsanctioned rallies as a core principle, saying that authorities do not see rallies that they have sanctioned as a threat and simply ignore them. For this reason, all of Pussy Riot's performances were illegal and used co-opted public space.
The group was organized in part due to anger over what members saw as government policies that discriminated against women, citing legislation that "placed restrictions on legal abortions". Pussy Riot saw themselves as feminist artists who were influenced by the riot grrrl movement and musical groups such as Bikini Kill , Oi!
According to Elianna Kan in the American Reader, Pussy Riot's feminism focused on the repression of authoritarian regimes that created idealised ideas of sexism, sex and family life. Pussy Riot members were outspoken in their support of LGBT rights , and in a interview confirmed that the group included at least one member of a sexual minority.
We are always saying that anybody can be in Pussy Riot, and we really mean it". Pussy Riot released seven songs and five videos. An Associated Press reporter described them as "badly recorded, based on simple riffs and scream-like singing" and stated that critics had dismissed them as "amateur, provocative and obscene".
Club described them as an "excellent band" with "fuzzed-out guitars and classic Riot Grrrl chants". Pussy Riot have not released any conventional albums. However, their songs are freely available for download on a number of Internet sites, collected together under the title Ubey seksista "Kill the sexist". On October 1, , Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich gave a lecture on "punk feminism" as members of Voina. They played a recording of the song "Ubey seksista" "Kill the Sexist" , billing the performers as "a new Russian punk band called Pussy Riot".
Their first public performance as members of Pussy Riot was in November Several masked women performed "Osvobodi Bruschatku" "Release the Cobblestones" atop a scaffold in a Moscow subway and from the top of trolley cars, while tearing apart down feather pillows , showering feathers onto the train platform below.
The song recommended that Russians protest upcoming parliamentary elections by throwing cobblestones during street clashes. Their first video was uploaded to YouTube on November 6. Later that month the group re-emerged, with several members playing "Kropotkin Vodka" on the roof of an automobile display unit in a luxury-store district and in the windows of fashion boutiques, while another member discharged a fire extinguisher into the air.
The song took its title from Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin , and metaphorically concerned the assassination of " Kremlin bastards" by fatal poisoning.
Political activists Alexey Navalny and Ilya Yashin had been arrested one week earlier at a mass protest against the results of the State Duma elections. On January 20, , in what the Associated Press described as their "breakthrough performance",  eight members of the group performed a song on the Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square , entitled "Putin Zassal".
According to a Pussy Riot member identified as "Shayba", the song was inspired by the events of December 24, , during which approximately , people attended anti-Putin rallies in central Moscow. She told the Financial Times: "We saw how troops were moving around Moscow, there were helicopters in the sky, the military was put on alert. The regime just wet its pants on that day. And the symbol of the regime is Putin. On February 21, , as part of a protest movement against the re-election of Vladimir Putin , five women from the group entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow.
There was no church service in session at the time, and only a few people were in the cathedral. The song, which they described as a punk moleben supplicatory prayer , borrowed its opening melody and refrain from Sergei Rachmaninoff 's " Bogoroditse Devo, Raduisya " Ave Maria , from the All Night Vigil. They alluded to close ties between the church and the KGB "Black robes, golden epaulettes" , criticized the subservience of many Russians to the church "Parishioners crawl bowing" and attacked the church's traditionalist views on women "So as not to offend His Holiness, women must bear children and love".
They used the crude epithet " Sran Gospodnya ", which has been used to translate "holy shit" in Hollywood movies, but is rarely used in idiomatic Russian; it literally translates as "shit of the Lord". They later explained "It is an idiomatic expression, related to the previous verse — about the fusion of Moscow patriarchy and the government. Growing ties between church and state in Russia were a target of criticism and protest. The Russian Patriarch Kirill had openly supported Putin's re-election, calling Putin a "miracle from God", who had "rectified the crooked path of history".
After the cathedral performance, members of Pussy Riot said the church was a "weapon in a dirty election campaign" and called Putin "a man who is as far as can be from God's truth".
Pussy Riot released a single in August as the court case against three of their members drew to a close. Among other demands, the lyrics requested that "Seven years [imprisonment] is not enough, give us eighteen! Pussy Riot released their first song and video in English in February In their music video for this song, band members wear Russian riot police uniforms and are slowly buried alive as they sing. They wear these specific uniforms because they are worn by Russian police during clashes between police and protesters for change, and to make the statement that illegal violence not only kills the oppressed, but slowly kills the oppressors.
According to Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, "Policemen, soldiers, agents, they become hostages and are buried with those they kill, both figuratively and literally". Pussy Riot was responsible for concept and production of the video, while vocals and lyrics were performed by two other Russian bands, Jack Wood and Scofferlane.
With this song, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova begin to show the parallels between police brutality and state oppression in Russia and the United States. Trump enforces his values through beatings, shaming, and branding of victims delivered by stormtroopers.
The song is a statement against corruption in the criminal justice system. All proceeds from the song will go towards Planned Parenthood. On February 26, a criminal case was opened against the band members who had participated in the Moscow cathedral performance on February Both women at first denied being members of the group and started a hunger strike in protest against being held in jail away from their young children.
On March 16, another woman, Yekaterina Samutsevich , who had earlier been questioned as a witness in the case, was similarly arrested and charged. Defense attorney Nikolai Polozov said that both Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich were also members of the Voina group, and both had previously staged disruptive protests in the Tagansky Court building, where they would be judged.
He argued that their two previous attempts to disrupt proceedings would bias the judge, and preclude a fair outcome at that location. Speaking at a liturgy in Moscow's Deposition of the Robe Church on March 21, Patriarch Kirill condemned Pussy Riot's actions as blasphemous, saying that the "Devil has laughed at all of us … We have no future if we allow mockery in front of great shrines, and if some see such mockery as a sort of bravery, an expression of political protest, an acceptable action or a harmless joke.
Formal charges against the group were presented on June 4, the indictment running to 2, pages. It was signed by leading opposition figures, as well as by director Fyodor Bondarchuk , a supporter of Putin, and actors Chulpan Khamatova and Yevgeny Mironov , both of whom had appeared in campaign videos supporting Putin's re-election. On July 4, the defendants were informed that they would have to finish preparing their defense by July 9. They announced a hunger strike in response, saying that two working days was inadequate time to finish preparing their trial defense.
In early July, a poll conducted in Moscow found that half of the respondents opposed the trial while 36 percent supported it; the rest being undecided.