Pussy Rioter's Speech Sums Up Russian 'Regime'

8.2.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

'The style of the Putin regime is a conservative, secret-police aesthetic,' said imprisoned rocker.

Russia's rapidly losing American favor. While the tensions between the two nations have until recently been confined to fairly obscure policy differences — Syria, missile defense sites, nuclear disarmament — two huge media stories are exacerbating the situation.

The first is the Edward Snowden situation. Ditching its original diplomatic pussyfooting, the Russian government this week granted Snowden "temporary asylum." They did this without giving the U.S. government the customary heads up and as authorities here insist Snowden represents a threat to our national security.

And then there is, as I'm sure you're aware, the awesome amount of attention being paid to Russia's nebulous and far-reaching anti-gay laws, particularly one that forbids any positive comments on homosexuality, same-sex love, or LGBT people in general. News that Russia plans on fining or arresting foreign Olympic competitors for being themselves, as well as a somewhat ill-conceived, but headline-grabbing boycott of Russian vodka, has garnered plenty of media and political play here in the States, and now Senator Jeff Merkley is drawing up a Senate resolution that would ask the International Olympic Committee to denounce the Russian policies.

From Buzzfeed:

"The resolution will ask the IOC both to oppose the law itself and to receive a guarantee that athletes and spectators will not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Merkley spokesman Jamal Raad said. The language is still being finalized, however, and he said the resolution will not be introduced formally until the Senate returns from its August recess."

All of these developments, particularly the government's crackdown on the "wrong" type of person they say goes against the nation's ideal, remind many observers of the Soviet era. And it's to that era that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova alluded in a blistering and accurate denunciation of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his "regime" during her parole hearing this week.

"The style of the Putin regime is a conservative, secret-police aesthetic," began Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot, a punk band whose members have been jailed for criticizing Putin's government, something that happened early and often under communist regimes.

She went on, via the New York Times and n+1's translation:

"…This [secret-police] aesthetic persistently samples and recreates the principles of two previous regimes, both of them historical precedents to the present one: the czarist-imperial aesthetic and the wrongly understood aesthetic of Socialist Realism, complete with workers from some kind of standard-issue Train-Car Assembly Plant of the Urals. Given the clumsiness and thoughtlessness with which all of this is being recreated, the present political regime’s ideological apparatus deserves no praise….

This worthless aesthetic is lovingly recreated by each and every state institution in Russia, including, of course, the prison colonies, which form such an important part of the repressive machine of the state."

President Obama is meant to travel to Russia in September for bilateral talks with Putin, but with Russia partying like it's 1955, that trip may very well be canceled. Besides, where would we get a time machine to travel back to Soviet-era Russia on such short notice?

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