Peter Rutland: What Links Pussy Riot With Dostoevsky

Roundup: Media's Take

Peter Rutland is a professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

The dramatic trial and sentencing of the Pussy Riot band members captured the imagination of Western observers but has not resonated so much at home. Why has the band been so successful in gaining international attention, and what is the long-term historical significance of the Pussy Riot phenomenon?
Behind their punk Western image, it is important to recognize that Pussy Riot emanates from a long-standing tradition of dissent by the Russian intelligentsia. To borrow a Leninist term, Pussy Riot is Western in form but Russian in content. The Western-derived medium of a punk performance is delivering a very Russian message.
One obvious lesson to draw is the disruptive potential of the Internet. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then in the age of YouTube, a video is worth 10,000. The striking images of colorfully dressed women dancing in front of the ornate gilt altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral — the country's crowned Orthodox jewel — against a curious but ear-catching soundtrack, proved irresistible to global audiences. It spawned copy-cat action in a Cologne cathedral, demonstrations of support in dozens of cities from Marseilles to Sydney, and expressions of sympathy from the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney...

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