The Trial

 What are the Siberian participants in the Pussy Riot trial striving for?  08/17/2012, 07:42
The Trial
Photograps be Sergey Mordvinov, illusyrations by Maria Kiseleva

Novosibirsk resident Irina Ruzankina is suing Pussy Riot, who «put her in a bad mood», and well-known artist Artyom Loskutov is suing Ruzankina’s lawyers... This whole story, with numerous trials mushrooming out of control, is acquiring a distinctly Kafkaesque shade (simultaneously giving the plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers and judges a share of the Moscow punk-trio’s international popularity). Sib.fm gives readers the chance to experience the atmosphere of the coming trials, get to know the positions of the defence and prosecution, listen to the lawyers’ speeches and pass their own judgements on the case.

Irina Ruzankina, a plaintiff against Pussy Riot:

"Why was I so outraged? To tell you the truth, I don’t go to church for the sake of talking to the priests. For me, a church is a place which I visit in order to feel a spiritual connection: to share my problems or joy. I am strongly opposed to such behaviour in a place of worship. After all, you know, we need to separate politics, arts and faith. If you want to criticize the government, organise a protest; if you want to sing and dance, go on stage; if you want to pray, learn a prayer first. But why trample on other people’s feelings? They just do exactly what they want to. It smacks of a lack of restraint and outspoken cynicism.

At first, I didn’t catch the lyrics about Putin, I just saw the girls wearing colourful masks. Then someone told me that in fact they were asking the Virgin Mary to banish Putin. You know, my attitude still hasn’t changed: that’s not right. I could say a lot of things about our current government too; believe me, even more biting than they did. So what? Should I start shouting about it everywhere?

It’s the same with Patriarch Kirill. Don’t like his watch? Write him a letter.

In the end, you can even sue him. These are specific people and specific institutions, but the church itself is sacred. Let’s respect faith and its symbols. Pussy Riot offended the most defenceless part of the population: humble and simple people who still have souls.

In 2009, journalists noticed that the patriarch wears a watch worth around $30,000 for the first time.

I can’t judge the artistic side of their deed; it’s up to art-critics to decide what that was. The only thing I can say is that I don’t like songs like that one. Above all, I don’t like the cynicism.

I don’t know who exactly is controlling them, but these girls are being lead by someone else, that’s a fact. On TV I saw some excerpts of one of the girls’ closing statements from the courtroom, where she referred to the opinion of the British Prime Minister. Maybe that’s a clue.

As a woman, I am, of course, against the imprisonment of mothers with young children. They should be set free. But first they should publicly apologise to all the people who they have offended. To each of them individually.«

Alexei Krestyanov, managing partner of law firm «Ryabina, Zinovyev and Krestyanov», Irina Ruzankina’s representative

«I was approached by friends from Moscow who suggested taking a stand against the people who supported Pussy Riot’s prank. I thought: who needs all these letters, picketing, speeches? It’s all ineffective. We have wonderful laws, everything is described in detail; we should use them. Particularly seeing as there are grounds for moral damages compensation.

I suggested sending just 12 claims to the courts instead of overwhelming them with hundreds. Such a symbolic and epic number — the number of apostles and the number of jurors during a trial. But everything sort of died down: some people left, some didn’t keep in touch, some couldn’t find any time. The suit began to fall apart. And then Irina Ruzankina appears. We’ve known each other for a long time and got talking about this case. She decided to take a public stance.

You have to admit that suing for moral damages in the case of the punk-prayer is an obvious idea, it was on the surface.

There is a nice saying: ’If you get into trouble in Russia, don’t appeal to common sense, find yourself a lawyer’. For us it’s just a job, but it’s very stressful for Ruzankina. She has to explain to journalists why she is suing ten times a day.

According to tradition, all 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, except for John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot died a martyr’s death.

It irritates me when people say that you should just not watch the video and forget about its existence. You shouldn’t peep through your neighbour’s keyhole, but Pussy Riot’s video became a part of public life which cannot be ignored. Let’s put up some pornography in the city centre and ask the faint of heart to close their eyes. It’s not right.

It’s not that important whether a person has seen the video or not. The discussion itself and these endless conversations about this silly prank are hurting Orthodox people. I understand that it sounds the phrase ‘I haven’t read Solzhenitsyn, but I don’t approve of him’. I understand that it is hard to feel negative about something you have no idea about; I understand that it’s none of my business to get involved in theological disputes, but still.

In this way you could jump to the conclusion that if, like the video, no one has seen God either, then he doesn’t exist. But he does.

In 2009, Alexei Krestyanov demanded that Novosibirsk registry offices stop using Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, citing copyright infringement

Fear is the same. A person can get so afraid that he will turn grey or die. So what is fear? It isn’t visible, but we can see and feel its consequences.

I think that these girls’ act has nothing to do with art. It is nothing but hooliganism: no choreography, no music, no voices. It’s just pathetic. Even if you take our ’Blue Noses’ (Novosibirsk art group), you can find ideas and meaning: they are real artists. What’s more, I can tell you that the Blue Noses share my attitude towards Pussy Riot (artist Konstantin Skotnikov refuted this statement, calling it ’slander’ — Sib.fm comment). Everybody knows that people defecate but we all know where it should be done. No one comes to someone’s wedding to do this and then says that it’s an expression of his attitude to life, Putin and the country. If someone did, they’d get it in the neck!

Basically, religion is our culture. Our morals come from the Ten Commandments. So if a band called «Wet Pussies» goes into a cathedral, I’ll be the first to throw them out. Our whole history is connected to the Orthodox Church, we should realise that. These girls should be punished for violating national cultural traditions.

It’s clear that this story of dancing in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was well scripted and directed. There are definite forces who are determined to stir up media interest in Pussy Riot. It’s a chain of manipulation: artists are not allowed to create, the country moves towards totalitarianism, Putin’s bloody regime, Russia is at the bottom of the ratings.

All this fuss is just the background for a trivial struggle for resources between civilisations.

Of course, some of society’s claims against the church have their grounds. For example, with regard to the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill’s clumsy support during Vladimir Putin’s election campaign. It could have been more subtle and elegant. On the other hand, who else is there to support?

Patriarch Kirill openly supported Vladimir Putin’s candidature during the March presidential elections and urged Russians not to attend protests «for honest elections».

In this case, the most important thing for me is the inevitability of punishment. Whatever people say, the elements of the crime are obvious: the object — the religious feelings of a part of the population, the subject — legally-responsible adult girls, the objective aspect — prepared costumes, assigned roles, instruments, video recording.

They knew perfectly well what they were getting into. They were looking for scandal, wanted to get a reaction from government and society. They succeeded. So now there’s no need to go on about the cruelty of the authorities: if you break the rules made by the state, wait for the backlash.«

Artyom Loskutov, plaintiff against the law firm «Ryabina, Zinovyev and Krestyanov»:

«I first heard about the video from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the news, like everyone else. The event wasn’t announced, but from previous messages online it became clear that the girls in masks most likely belong to the Moscow faction of art-group ’Voyna’ (War).

It’s hard to say why Ruzankina lodged her claim. I don’t think it’s about money. There is simply a group of people, a quite impressive part of society, who were offended by Pussy Riot. Maybe Ruzankina and her lawyers want to ride the wave, start speaking on behalf of this wild crowd and gain influence and authority as the defenders of the humiliated and insulted.

I don’t believe that this woman experienced moral suffering watching the video. No one did. Were these people surfing the Internet for the first time? Don’t they know what kind of other videos are on there? Haven’t they seen what is shown on TV?

When I see people suing for dancing in a church, I want to ask them: ’Didn’t Police Major Evsyukov insult you when he shot people in a Moscow supermarket?’ I’d like to clarify what this morality which they constantly appeal to is really like.

30 icons were chopped up with an axe in one of the Orthodox churches of Veliky Ustyug by a resident of Dobrynino village, who has been sent for compulsory psychiatric treatment

With my claim I am just increasing the absurdity level of Ruzankina’s lawsuit. I don’t understand why the lawyers are doing this. Why gang up on inherently weak people and trample on them? These people are spiritually out of balance; their actions do not correspond with the values they try to rely on. I was baptised but now I don’t want to be associated with the Russian Orthodox Church as an organization. I stopped wearing a cross around my neck 8 years ago; I don’t even know where it is now. If I find it, I’ll give it back.»

Kirill Kuznetsov, director of the Legal Agency «People of action», representative of Artyom Loskutov

«I heard about Pussy Riot when they had already been charged. Since then I’ve been observing the ups and downs of this performance. After all, what is happening can hardly be called a trial; it’s a performance, a political act. It’s got very little to do with the law.

I haven’t seen the video; to tell you the truth, I’m not really interested. I’m worried about the basis on which the government concludes that such acts are criminal and so serious.

I am a convinced atheist but I think that there was probably no need to behave like that in a church. On the other hand, I understand the message of the punk-prayer. The Russian Orthodox Church as a corporation has been extremely brazen, intrusive and pushy for the last few years. It has consistently ignored the secularity of our state; priests are getting involved in all institutions: secondary and higher education, the army and executive branch. You don’t have to go very far: our Berdsk and Novosibirsk Metropolitan (bishop) Tikhon is on the governor’s town planning council. I think that’s too much.

1,7 million views have been counted on YouTube for the punk-prayer video «Virgin Mary, banish Putin»

My intention to sue was a direct reaction to Mr Krestyanov’s actions, which in my opinion are not compatible with the profession of a lawyer. After some things, people stop being friendly with you. There are things which shouldn’t be used for PR. I understand that lawyer is one of the most ancient professions, but not to that extent. It’s not acceptable; such figures cast a shadow over the entire community. At the end of the day, it’s all ridiculous.

In order to experience moral damage, Ruzankina had to carry out a whole series of actions, which, I should mention, no one forced her to do.

4% of Orthodox Russians regularly go to church and receive communion (Fond Public Opinion Media, January 2010)

Go on the Internet, find some information about the fateful video, open YouTube, click on it and watch.

It reminds me of an old soviet joke. A guy calls out the housing commission and complains that there is a female bathhouse opposite his windows and he always can see women in negligees. The inspectors look out of the window on all sides; they even lean out, but can’t see anything. At which point the guy reasonably suggested: «You should climb on to the cabinet!» This is about the same situation, Ruzankina got what she wanted, but she had to get on the internet, not a cabinet.

It feels like they want to make easy money by simulating feelings.

Let’s not be hypocrites. Most of our so-called Orthodox people haven’t been going to church for years. They don’t know the prayers, the canons, or which hand you should cross yourself with.

In 2004, Russia was ranked in the category of «Not Free» countries for the first time since 1989

In his day, Mark Twain correctly highlighted the key points: the church as a united force is very harmful to the development of society, but at the same time it’s difficult to object to the great number of independent priests who do a lot of good deeds and live for the benefit of society.

If Krestyanov and Ruzankina somehow win the case, then I’m ready to take responsibility for Pussy Riot. As for the verdict on 17th August, I don’t think that there will be an acquittal, the system won’t allow it. However, I expect that the sentences will be suspended; the authorities won’t let this scandal develop any further. In that case, I think that we can expect these performances to continue; the girls are not likely to calm down. It’s clear that the artistic value of their ‘concerts’ is dubious, but the political influence is very significant. That is important.

If they are sent to prison, we will witness a revival of the Inquisition.

 This publication has been translated by experts from "Monoton" translation agency.
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