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Pussy Riot: The new Soviet League of Militant Godless

Author: Philip Jenkins ABC Religion and Ethics 21 Aug 2012

(Source: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/08/21/3572305.htm)

It sounds like a scriptwriter’s dream.

Here we have Russia, a vastly powerful country with a floundering democracy, facing the imminent threat of tyranny. That danger is personified by Vladimir Putin, a former KGB man who looks like, well, a former KGB man, as imagined by John Le Carre. Standing in his way is a gallant resistance movement symbolized by an all-female rock band, a group of punky young performance artists called Pussy Riot. After playing for democracy in a daring public venue, they face a show trial that could send them to prison for years. Around the world, politicians and celebrities speak out, supporters organize solidarity demonstrations. The film is a natural: can we get Aubrey Plaza as the band’s leader? Will Madonna do a cameo? This is too good to be true!

And indeed it is. Putin may be a thug, and Pussy Riot might be feminist warriors for human rights, but the particular act for which they faced trial is much more controversial than is commonly reported in the West.

A good case can be made that it was a grievous act of religious hate crime, of a kind that would be roundly condemned if it happened in a country that the West happened to like. (I’m also wondering why liberals are suddenly so fond of a band that claims inspiration from the “Oi!” music invented by Far-Right British skinheads).
Last March, three members of Pussy Riot staged an unauthorized “concert” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Standing before the altar, they sang a pseudo-hymn to the Virgin, urging her to remove Putin and condemning the Patriarch Kirill as his slavish disciple. They have now been convicted of what a judge termed “hooliganism driven by religious hatred.”
Few western commentators have taken that religious element too seriously, but it is central to what Hollywood might term the back-story.Look, above all, at the site of the demonstration. Historically, Christ the Saviour was a central shrine both of the Orthodox faith and of Russian national pride, and for that reason, the Bolsheviks targeted it for destruction. In 1931, in a notorious act of cultural vandalism, the Soviet government dynamited the old building, levelling it to the ground, and replacing it with a public swimming pool. Not until 1990 did a new regime permit a rebuilding, funded largely by ordinary believers, and the vast new structure was consecrated in 2000. The cathedral is thus a primary memorial to the restoration of Russia’s Christianity after a savage persecution.It’s difficult, perhaps, for Westerners to realize how bloodthirsty that government assault was. Russia in 1917 was overwhelmingly Orthodox, and in fact was undergoing a widespread religious revival. Rooting out that faith demanded forceful action by the new Bolshevik government, which had no scruples about imposing its will on the wishes of a vast majority. Government leaders like Alexandra Kollontai – the self-proclaimed Female Antichrist – illegally seized historic churches and monasteries, and used soldiers to suppress the resulting demonstration. Hundreds were killed in those actions alone.

Through the 1920s, the Bolsheviks systematically wiped out the church’s leaders. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev perished in 1918, shot outside the historic Monastery of the Caves, while Bishop Hermogenes of Tobolsk was drowned in a Siberian river. Archbishop Andronicus of Perm was killed the following year, followed by most of his clergy. In 1920, Bishop Joachim of Nizhni Novgorod was crucified upside down from the iconostasis in his cathedral. In 1922, a firing squad executed the powerful Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd/St Petersburg. The repression was indiscriminate, paying no attention to the victims’ records as critics of Tsarist injustice and anti-Semitism.

Persecution claimed many lives at lower levels of the church, among ordinary monks and priests. We hear of clergy shot in their hundreds, buried alive, mutilated, or fed to wild animals. Local Red officials hunted down priests as enthusiastically as their aristocratic predecessors had pursued wolves and wild boar. The number of clergy killed for their faith ran at least into the tens of thousands, with perhaps millions more lay believers.


The regime also rooted up the churches and monasteries that were the heart of Russian culture and spiritual life. Officials wandered the country, vandalizing churches, desecrating saints’ shrines and seizing church goods, and murdering those who protested the acts. Militant atheist groups used sacred objects to stage anti-religious skits and processions. Between 1927 and 1940, active Orthodox churches all but vanished from the Russian Republic, as their numbers fell from 30,000 to just 500.

In the process of dechristianization, the crowning act came in 1931 with the obliteration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. For the Bolsheviks, it was the ultimate proof of the Death of God. But, of course, Resurrection did come, so that a new cathedral would stand to mark a new century. The long nightmare was over.

Yet Russia’s new religious freedom is a very tender shoot, and the prospect of future turmoil has to agonize those believers who recall bygone horrors. These fears are all the more pressing when modern-day activists seem to reproduce exactly the blasphemous deeds of the past, and even in the precise places.

When modern-day Orthodox look at Pussy Riot, they see the ghosts of Alexandra Kollontai and her militiamen, or the old Soviet League of Militant Godless. Are they wrong to do so?
I just offer an analogy. Imagine a dissident group opposed to the current governments of Poland or Hungary. In order to grab media attention, they take over one of those countries’ recently restored synagogues, and frame their complaint in the form of a pseudo-Jewish prayer. Horrified, the authorities arrest them and threaten harsh criminal penalties. Not only would international media fully support the governments in those circumstances, but they would complain bitterly if police and courts showed any signs of leniency. However serious a group’s grievances, there is absolutely no justification for expressing them with such mind-boggling historical insensitivity, and in such a place. Anywhere but there!

So no, I won’t be giving to any Pussy Riot support groups.


Question: When modern-day Orthodox look at Pussy Riot, they see the ghosts of Alexandra Kollontai and her militiamen, or the old Soviet League of Militant Godless. Are they wrong to do so?

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3 comments

  1. This dearly beloved readers, as we all know, is a very sensitive issue of recent times and reveals some other underlying issues, particularly within Russian society and politics. However it is not the position of Mode of Life to voice personal political opinions or views as to whether Putin or Pussy Riot are in the right. We neither endorse nor condemn the actions or beliefs of either, but we are of the contention that the group Pussy Riot should have conducted their protests outside of the church and not inside it. Hence embroiling the Church in a matter of politics, which has now witnessed some very extreme responses by Western ignoramases, feminists and defenders of human rights, who in actual fact are doing things which are contrary to the very principles that they protest about, such as death threats to His Beatitude Patriarch Kiril of Moscow.

    Interestingly feminist groups are particularly taking the lead in such excesses, in their attempt to paint the Church as oppressive to women despite a lack of proof. We would like to call to attention to these feminists that they should study and examine how the True Christian message has helped to empower women and change their status within society over the course of 2000 years. Compare and contrast the difference in the view of marriage according to Pagan Roman law and outlook with that of Byzantine legislation. In any case, the objective of authentic feminisim is to empower women and to secure their equality within society, so that men and women can work alongside as partners in life and not as co-combatants. For as we Orthodox Christians cite, this equality was part of God’s original intention as noted by verses like this: “there is neither male nor female, but all are one in God”. However it is sad that feminism in many contexts has failed in this task to realise what the Scripture calls for and has often degenerated into “feminazism” (eg Alexandra Kollotnai) as exemplified by the crude acts of desecrating places of worship and religious shrines and symbols, such as Pussy Riot supporters in the Ukraine and Russia cutting down Crucifixes. Assuredly there are far more effective and powerful means to bring a message across so that one can be heard.

    As for His Beatitude, Patriarch Kiril of Moscow, there will always be immense danger and fallout when the leadership of the Church expresses political views or opinions of which, one must always be wary of if not careful, to not be entagnled by. The Apostolic Canons, as well as other canons and directives of the Holy Orthodox Church are quite clear on this matter, because the message of Christ and His Church is for all peoples irrespective of their political ideologies or leanings, and thus we must embrace them with love. Naturally the people must show due respect towards the Church, but it is incumbent upon the Church to not be mixed up in politics but to serve as the peaceful neutral ground where all can gather, and to serve as a moral and ethical (as well as spiritual) guiding force within society, setting down principles by which governments, legislation and society can base itself on. We respect the immense difficulty and pastoral stresses placed upon His Beatitude in this Post Communist era of Russia, because much damage has been done to Russian society, politics, economics and culture. But the example of Greece’s Post World War II ecclesiastical circumstances are a perfect lesson in how the ravages of politics can infect the Church’s proper functioning and the spiritual health of its faithful.

    With regards Western commentators, they should not interfere or speak out of turn on what is essentially a Russian matter, unless they are knowledgeable and culturally attuned to the facts and Russian society. Western media and governments should not use such a thing as leverage against Mr Putin or Russia so that they can secure national and economic interests to the detriment of Russians (we cannot forget what happened during the Yeltsin years when much of the West sought to swoop in like vultures and take advantage, while Russians and other former Soviet nations suffered immense hardships). The need for people to speak freely, live in safety and peace, and be accorded due respect and civil rights, is not purely a political or legal right, but is a God-given right that is integral to the gift of life which we all receive. Whether this is attainable through democracy or through some other form of political structure/ideology, it must be secured and guaranteed either way. If Mr Putin is able to deliver this, then Russia will go forward, if he cannot or will not, the people will rise against him and remove him…

    A rather sobering thought for the rest of us, maybe we should all examine our own societies and nations carefully with the same critical force as we have applied towards the events in Russia of recent times, for in public policy there are always immense inconsistencies whether we live under democracy, tyranny, sharia, communism etc. Those inconsistencies of course reflect the imperfect nature of human character and the variables of the world we have created for ourselves.

  2. It is interesting that Europe’s “Femenazi groups” seem to get away with anything, as had occurred not so long ago with the disturbance at Cologne’s Catholic Cathedral in Germany, whereby one of the members ran out from the congregation, jumped onto the altar and stripped off topless with the words written on her chest that “I am a God” and other such slogans. The woman in question was calmly seized and taken out of the cathedral kicking and screaming. It is a credit to the Roman Catholic faithful and to Cardinal Meisner who maintained order and control over what is a grave desecration of a holy site. Of course I would like to see such “protestors” and “attention seeking scum” to try that within a synagogue or mosque and see what happens!!!

    Nevertheless, as one reader of this weblog highlighted, these women who belong to the “Pussy Riot” (also known as “Chicks Riot” & “Chicks Uprising”) are on the whole, detested by the majority of Russians and other Eastern Europeans, despite being celebrated by Western media who ultimately are waging a propaganda war against Russia, Putin and all of Eastern Europe.

    Yet the detestment that many Eastern Europeans feel towards these supposed protestors seem to come to the fore when one examines the criminal, dangerous and unethical behaviour that the Pussy Riot movement (and its associates) have exhibited in the past.

    One of the most damning examples of this questionable and degenerate behaviour was that of one of the riot “protestors” in Moscow’s cathedral, Nadjeschda Tolokonnikova. The said member in question could not hide the documented and photographic evidence, (backed by witnesses), which reveal that she had engaged in a group orgy while 9 months pregnant. Naturally we will not publish the disturbed images of this “banal and sick event” on our weblog. But suffice to say, no matter how one wishes to argue the point, such depraved actions even if one claims that it is in protest, can never be justified for it strikes at the very foundations of human dignity and civilisation.

    If anything, it does more to tarnish the image and dignity of womanhood, thus compromising the supposed efforts to forward women’s rights, and instead promotes the genocide of sex trafficking within our demoralised world by putting it forward as something desirable. The porn industry is certainly built on such exploitation that controls the minds of people today, preying on peoples’ natural desires and distorting them for their own profit. We won’t speak about the emotional and psychological implications for the users of porn or those who are exploited to produce it, but we must be mindful that it has accelerated the rate of sexploitation and sex slavery. Pussy Riot members like Nadjeschda Tolokonnikova, merely promote this serious problem within our world by their depraved actions, and it is not matter of scapegoating because such figures put themselves forward as role models to our youth and claim that they are advocates of civil rights and female empowerment.

    Nevertheless Nadjeschda Tolokonnikova’s 9 month pregnant orgy reminds us of the cult orgies performed by satanists and devil worshippers in the hope to unlock “demonic powers” or to “prime” future unborn children as candidates for “human sacrifice”. Such things I assure you are not unheard of, as the archives of Victoria police for example reveal many satanic cults that were doing just that, orgies that were primers for the torturing and killing of unregistered babies in various Melbourne suburbs!

    Yet another example that was cited to Mode of Life Project, seemed to us as a tall tale. But if this claim is true then it certainly highlights a disturbed or deranged character disposition of Pussy Riot members.The account in question recounts how a Pussy Riot members entered with a group of women, men and some children into a St Petersburg supermarket in July 2010, to steal some chickens. The action itself had no political motive or message to offer, but scandalised onlookers as the member in question went and shoved the stolen chicken into her “genital area”. Yet notwithstanding this particular account, the many more incidences that have been related or revealed to us, certainly causes us to hold the opinion, that whatever Pussy Riot and any other “feminazi group” seeks to contend are discredited by their vulgar, offensive and coarse attention seeking efforts. If anything one has to seriously question as to how useful these groups are in advocating womens’ rights or whether they are really serious about those civil rights they protest about when they themselves violate other peoples’ rights…

    Are these feminazi groups more about self-serving and seeking to justify the whorish behaviour of its members and other like-minded people.

    Thus the following questions arise within our thoughts:
    Who are these people?
    Where did they come from?
    What is their real purpose and agenda?
    Who is supporting and financing them?

    And most importantly:
    Why are they given any sort of credibility?
    Why are they so well loved and accepted by the Western media in particular?
    Why are Western politicians and leaders very supportive of these hooligans and their criminal and degenerate behaviour? This bring us to the question of why Western leaders are using the presence of these hooligans as leveraging, propaganda and efforts to lobby and attack countries like Russia or the Ukraine and their respective authorities (and opposition groups)?

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