–Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, in her closing statement at the Pussy Riot trial
To understand what Pussy Riot is all about, it is not enough to watch the video of their performance. You need to read the word—in this case, the translated transcripts of their closing statements at the trial, available here. This is how Katherine Holt, one of the translators, describes it:
“…they delivered impassioned, philosophically rigorous, and coherent statements about the Russian media landscape, about the co-opting of the Christ the Savior Cathedral as a political stage, about the manipulation of the Christian value of humility, about the need for individuals to think of themselves as citizens, about the role of contemporary art, about the dangers of conformity. And all this was coming on top of all the questions they had already raised (globally) about feminism, punk rock, the limits of public space, the role of cultural forces in political change.
These statements are inspiring to me as a Russia-watcher; they prove that the last nine months of protesting have not been for naught. But I should also add that to me as a person, as a woman, as someone who believes in critical thought and the power of ideas, these statements are acts of heroism.”
I couldn’t agree more. And as a follow-up, I would remind Americans that it is not just Moscow that takes political prisoners—think of Tim DeChristopher, Bradley Manning, or Julian Assange. (Assange is in essence being held captive in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London by the United States Government—against whom Assange’s address from the balcony there was (tellingly) very much directed.)