Pussy Riot Pogrom Committed by Cossacks

Pussy RiotPussy Riot, the female Russian punk band, was attacked today in Sochi by a band of whip wielding Cossacks, in a kind of 21st Century reenactment of pogroms committed by Cossacks against Jews in 19th and early 20th Century Tsarist Russia. The women had just begun an outdoor performance in front of a wall covered with Olympic symbols, when a group of uniformed Cossack militiamen, armed with weighted leather whips, commenced to pummeling them. Numerous spectators videotaped the crime.

International Olympic Committee spokesman, Mark Adams, said he found the Pussy Riot video “unsettling,” but thought it was a shame that the women had used the Olympics for political expression. Band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova asserted her firm belief that the Sochi Olympics have facilitated the demolition of human rights in Russia.

Wearing their trademark colorful ski masks, the Pussy Riot women had just begun to chant a cappella when the Cossacks committed their pogrom. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, marauding bands of Cossack horsemen in the employ of the tsars were responsible for death and destruction throughout a region of the Russian empire known as the Pale of Settlement. The Pale existed primarily in what is now Ukraine, and was the area to which Jews were restricted.

Tolokonnikova and her band-mate, Maria Alyokhina, were released from prison in December, after being jailed for nearly two years for performing a protest song in a Russian Orthodox church in 2012. Tolokonnikova claims their release was merely a publicity stunt to enhance Russia’s image abroad prior to the Sochi games.

In response to their own imprisonment and the recent Russian ban on gay pride symbols, Pussy Riot has penned protest songs with lyrics such as: “Virgin Mary…put Putin away…” and “…Gay-pride sent to Siberia… .”

The women said they have been harassed and repeatedly detained by Russian authorities since their arrival in Sochi on Sunday. Their stated purpose in coming to the Olympic host city was to draw global attention to the plight of a group of protesters charged with orchestrating mass disorder in May 2012 in connection with Vladimir Putin’s third inauguration as president.

The Pussy Riot women have not been the only victims of free speech repression. Environmentalists, as well as human rights activists have also been caught up in the Sochi dragnet. Olga Noskovets, an environmental activist who volunteered to drive the band members around Sochi during their stay, was arrested during one of their detentions earlier in the week. When the band was released, police continued to hold Noskovets, on the grounds that she did not have her passport with her. Noskovets was released after being fingerprinting and entered into the system.

Environmentalist David Khakim was detained along with Pussy Riot when the group was picked up on Tuesday. On Monday, he had been convicted for demonstrating in support of Evgeny Vitishko, an environmentalist who received a three year sentence in a labor colony.

Human rights defender Semyon Simonov, an activist for the rights of migrant laborers employed in construction of Olympic facilities, was also taken into custody with the riotous bandmates by police in Sochi. In that instance, police claimed they were investigating the theft of a purse from the hotel where the band was staying. Simonov claims the purse story was a fabrication.

In a related incident, Vladimir Luxuria, an Italian proponent of transgender rights, was ushered out of Olympic Park when she appeared in a rainbow headdress. The rainbow flag is the globally recognized symbol for lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) pride.

The more Russian authorities attempt to hide Pussy Riot from the view of media gathered in Sochi for the Olympic, engaging police and marauding Cossacks to commit pogroms against them and other protesters, the more attention they attract. Video may be disturbing to some viewers.

By Melissa Roddy

Sources
Washington Post
Chicago Tribune
FreePussyRiot.org

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