Pussy Riot verdict: 2 years in prison

The live-blog of the decision is here.  The live recording will soon be here and is being translated into English (try back later if the link doesn’t work yet).

From the Guardian live-blog:

“The court does find a religious hatred motive” the judge has said and has given an interesting reason for this based partly around the argument of Pussy Riot being Feminists.

6 thoughts on “Pussy Riot verdict: 2 years in prison

  1. This seems to be an odious miscarriage of justice. I fear for Russia’s future under Putin. There’s also a cautionary lesson here about the natural ease with which hate speech laws lend themselves to injustice.

  2. This is clearly awful, and has had me riled up for a bit, now.

    N+1 has translations of the Pussy Riot members’ closing statements, over here http://nplusonemag.com/pussy-riot-closing-statements

    On a connected note, as I am sure many of you know, several members of the Pussy Riot collective are philosophers (some in formal training terms, some informally), and their closing statements lend themselves greatly to philosophy discussions. I am planning on teaching their closing statements alongside Plato’s Apology. Not only do I think it would be great for my students to see Socrates updated, but I think it will be even better for them to see him updated into an explicitly feminist example.

  3. Knowing the Russian situation a little bit, I’d like to respond about the hate speech laws in general.

    First, Pussy Riot have not been convicted for hate speech. They have been convicted under Article 213 “Hooliganism” (see here: http://www.russian-criminal-code.com/PartII/SectionIX/Chapter24.html) I don’t know how much that article has been used in Russia since 1991, but in the Soviet times (the Russian criminal code is a direct descendent of the Soviet criminal code, with some changes) that article has been used to put to jail peaceful protesters, even though you wouldn’t guess it from the wording. So accidentally, this article has been put to quite traditional use.

    There is a “hate” article in the Russian criminal code, too (article 282, here: http://www.russian-criminal-code.com/PartII/SectionX/Chapter29.html) However, it’s not a hate speech law in the sense usual in the West. There is no theory of hate speech in Russia. As a result, this law (introduced in 2003, under Putin) has been used for two purposes: first, to put to jail neo-nazis; second, to convict people who “incite hatred” against such social groups as… police officers or state bureaucrats. What constituted “inciting hatred” in such cases was simply public criticism – e.g., speaking up against abuses of those in power. (And one thought accusations of “black racism” were a terrible thing…)

    Now, as far as I know, the number of neo-nazis convicted under Article 282 is much greater than the number of political prisoners jailed for criticizing the authorities. But there has never been anyone who had been convicted under this law for, say, hate speech against women, against LGBT, against ethnic minorities in general. (The neo-nazis don’t quite count – the ones jailed are from organizations which do beatings and murders on a regular basis. Just publishing hateful remarks is not nearly enough to get charged. Besides, the neo-nazis getting arrested are mostly young people, without much access to institutional power. Nobody with any sort of authority or money has ever been convicted under this hate speech law.)

    So summing up, the Pussy Riot case is NOT a case of a hate speech law application.

    Furthermore, the actual hate speech law in Russia works not against real hate speech towards the disadvantaged groups, and never did. It looks superficially similar to the hate speech laws the readers of Feminist Philosophers are used to, but there is a very different reason behind its existence, and a very different legal theory.
    I think that it IS important to understand how laws superficially looking as genuine hate speech laws can have bad effects. But the Russian case is NOT a case of a hate speech law used to restrict the actual hate speech which went awry at some point. It went awry from the very start.

  4. Scu, Igor, I learn so much from both of your comments, thanks! Very informative.

    Like a lot of Americans, I only learned recently what the first closing statement says, that is, ” Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyayev took over as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of political power in Russia.”

  5. beta, as they say, “we live to serve” :)

    A quick note on the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is only alleged that he had ties to KGB. It has never been proven, though it’s completely not surprising if he did (a bishop since 1984, and given the church’s official status in late USSR, high hierarchs may have easily had ties to KGB.) But it’s a bit too far to call him a former KGB colleague of Putin’s, though of course I’m saying that not to criticize a person making a closing statement before her conviction.

  6. Igor is quite right about the perverse way this law has been used. For a very early example, see what happened to the directors of the Sakharov Museum- the museum was attacked and an exhibit destroyed. The vandals- Orthodox thugs- were acquitted, but the directors charged, and found guilty, of “inciting religious and ethnic hatred.” The “best” part was that the thugs testified that the exhibit filled them with hatred towards the directors, because of their religious beliefs, therefore showing that the directors had incited religious hatred. For an account, see here:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1058175.html

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