Government censorship of punk rock music has been ever-present in the news lately. Crackdowns on alternative subcultures have taken place in Burma, Indonesia, and Iraq. (See: "Not dead," below.)
But in Russia, it's long been the norm, not just in terms of government policies against punk, but rock music subcultures in general. A quick glance at the news archives on the Web site of Freemuse — a Germany-based non-profit that documents music censorship around the world — reveals a number of related incidents in the past few years alone. Like in 2008, when lawmakers tried to outlaw emo and goth culture, calling them "dangerous teen trends," with a bill aiming to ban emo fashion in schools, regulate Internet use, and mandate after-school activities. In 2010, the Russian town of Belgorod introduced a campaign to ban heavy metal concerts, calling them "ideologically destructive." In 2011, the Russian government introduced amendments to federal mass media law to regulate Internet use, emphasizing the Internet's effect on young Russians being exposed to too much music and forgetting the values of traditional songs. Also in 2011, Freemuse reported on a rock critic who was jailed for calling a pro-Kremlin guitarist a "poodle."
Of all these incidents, though, the Pussy Riot case includes the highest infringement on human rights. Amnesty International has named Nadia, Masha, and Katya "prisoners of conscience" due to "the severity of the response of the Russian authorities."
"Even if the action was calculated to shock and was known to be likely to cause offence, the activists left the Cathedral when requested to do so and caused no damage," says Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Program Director John Dalhuisen, in an article on the organization's Web site calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the three women. "The entire action lasted only a few minutes and caused minimal disruption to those using the Cathedral for other, notably religious, purposes."
Since Pussy Riot's arrest, feminist groups around the world — from San Francisco and Brooklyn to Berlin and London — have held solidarity rallies and fundraiser punk shows in the name of the Free Pussy Riot campaign. Next weekend, Boston joins in, as local feminist collective Permanent Wave Boston holds a the fundraiser to benefit the Pussy Riot legal defense team, featuring local punk bands like Dream Warrior, Curmudgeon, and more.
Pussy Riot's trial started on Monday in a Moscow courthouse — allowing the women to respond to the charges of hooliganism based on "religious hatred." "I have never had such feelings toward anyone in the world," Tolokonnikova said (according to NBC News). "We are not enemies of Christians. . . . Our motives are exclusively political. We only want Russia to change for the better."
In typical punk fashion, Permanent Wave, Boston’s day-long fundraiser fest is taking place at a private residence. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org message facebook.com/permanentwaveboston.