The Social Construct

dedicated to social justice

Rita Heidtman

Rita Heidtman
Royal Oak, Michigan, United States
December 15
I'm a writer, journalist and marketing professional living and working in the Greater Detroit Area. I jump started my journalism career in Flint, MI, where I wrote for several publications, including: The Michigan Times, Broadside and East Village Magazine. I've also written for the Contra Costa Times, B-Sides, Capture Technologies, The Women's Community Clinic and NPR's Pulse of the Planet.


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AUGUST 18, 2012 7:23PM

Why Pussy Riot Protests

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Although Pussy Riot simply chanted a “punk prayer” inside of Russia’s main place of worship, their protest against Putin is what’s putting them behind bars.  Their charges are hooliganism and inciting religious hatred.  But the media knows that Putin is happy to make them an example of what is acceptable in his beloved Russia.

According to Bloomberg, 54 percent of Russia’s general population disagrees with their imprisonment, while 47 percent agree that they violated moral values.  But now, even as the church itself has urged for a lessened sentence, it seems as though Putin simply won’t let it go.

Since the original protest, in February 2012, Putin’s approval ratings have slumped.  And even if he wanted to turn back on their sentencing now, he must stay the course in order to show his strength during a 12-year rule.  Igor Bunin, head of the Center for Political Technology in Moscow has agreed that Putin will find it difficult to reverse his course of actions.

In the church, Pussy Riot wore colorful tights and balaclavas, now replicated by protesters all over the world in support of their controversial act.  Others who belong to the group have held strong, saying that their protests will not stop.  The Daily Beast has reported that the three who were arrested chanted in their punk prayer asking the Virgin Mary to expel President Vladmir Putin from the Kremlin.

Their main goal is in fact, freedom of speech, and the remaining members, outside of prison want to keep supporting the cause. 

The women use codes names to hide their identities in a recent BBC article.  “Terminator,” has said that she won’t let the government silence their group.  While the majority has claimed that their act offended the church, it was not an act against religion, but a “political performance” against Putin himself.

It’s easy to see why Putin has remained in power for so long.  In particular, he’s known for saving the economy in the region.  The New York Times reported in 2007, that the Russian people lived better than they ever had before under his rule in 2000.  Yet, while their resources have grown, the people have still suffered in various other areas.

Public safety and health are just a couple of the areas where the state is lacking, and both have certainly gotten worse since the 1990s.  Not to mention that corruption has flourished.  In short, public policy is largely lacking, and the system that could have been a democratic state has now become autocratic, with one man holding the reigns to their fate.

Because of Putin’s corruption, Russia is now called a “mafia state.”  In 2010, WikiLeaks coined the term, after they released diplomatic cables showing the links between the government and organized crime.  Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment and the government’s protection of gangsters is just the beginning of the bleak picture that these cables show.  The Guardian reported that bribery alone attributed to $300 billion.

Putin also has a long history of silencing dissent.  Link News has a series of videos related to Putin’s last election, when he was sure to win.  While the people protested his presidency, independent media covered their uprising, only to find themselves inside of a media “crackdown.”  Echo Radio, a popular source of independent media was subject to Putin’s scrutiny.  Putin publicly scrutinized the station’s editor, which resulted in three board members being dismissed.  Sergey Buntman, Echo Radio’s deputy editor described Putin’s actions as “part of the campaign,” saying that Putin is showing all forms of media what should be allowed to be aired or published.  And this was only the beginning.  Many other forms of independent media have also been silenced or systematically shut down.

Now that Pussy Riot is refusing to be silenced, and other countries are joining in the fight for free speech, it seems like Putin should finally be more open to hearing the voice of the people.  But as his world rises against him, he shies in fear of losing any type of political power.  As Europeans and Americans shout for him to get out of the Kremin, perhaps somehow, their fight for freedom will be heard. 


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