Well-behaved punk rockers never make history. That's particularly true for budding musicians in Vladimir Putin's Russia. So it's not surprising that the feminist, Riot-Grrrl inspired band Pussy Riot
has had their share of altercations with the Russian authorities.
Three leaders of this band of anonymous, balaclava-sporting rockers are currently battling charges of, yes, "hooliganism" for storming through the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, during an impromptu concert. If they don't already sound cool enough, picture them howling a "punk prayer" to the Virgin Mary, urging her to "Throw Putin out!" They testified that they were attempting to showcase the disconcerting kinship between Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader refers to Putin's rule as "a miracle of God."
It's no shock that this made the governmental machine a teensy bit nervous. The band never plays concerts in traditional music venues, instead bringing their music to the very streets that Putin's paved in oppression. By taking their radical punk anthems through the most public of venues, they break the rampant silence perpetuated by the regime; their four-chord harmonies make it impossible to remain deaf to public outcry. They sport colorful balaclavas, both because the band's membership is a constant ebb and flow of guitar wielding crusaders, and because they deem their own personal identity less important than the band's symbolic power.
Now, as the three young women who first conceptualized Pussy Riot await the judge's gavel, people across the globe are turning up the volume. The ACLU's busted out the megaphone, organizing protests and rallying international support. And at Madonna's Moscow concert last night, she voiced her solidarity with these untamed, fearless musicians. During their closing statements, the women compared themselves to the brave Soviet dissenters of the last century. One of the musicians, 24-year-old Maria Alyokhina declared, "No one will take my inner freedom away." Another, 22-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova agreed, "With every day, more and more people believe us, and believe in us, and think we should not be behind bar."
There's no way to rationalize the tragedy of the situation, as these brave women are separated from their families and put behind bars. And there's no way to make sense of the hideous oppression persisting in a so-called democracy. But the glimmer of hope is that this sort of gross governmental display of power is what awakens people. You can put three punk rockers in prison, but you can't lock up their music. There are plenty more women willing to don their balaclavas, and there are thousands of more people singing the same tune. It takes a lot more than a Gulag to shut up a country of angry punk rockers. And what happens when the music gets to loud and the mute button's nowhere in sight? Well, God save the Queen, things are gonna get messy.