The Show Must Go On

After weeks of trials often likened to Stalin’s show trials, three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were yesterday sentenced to two years of prison for voicing their opinions on the then soon to be Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Protests have been loud world wide ever since with musicians, bands and people like you and me begging the Russian court to release the three women. But like we have seen so many times before, there is no begging the self-proclaimed thug that is Vladimir Putin.

Today the U.S. Department of State issued the following statement:

The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia.

We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.

It is clear few will accept the Russian court’s decision to imprison Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevitch but what impact this U.S. statement will have on Vladimir Putin and a Russia lacking any form of separation of power, is a scene yet to be played out. And it is unlikely Russia will play nicely.

Having earlier this year interviewed two very brave women protesting loudly against Russia’s laws to silence its LGBT population, yesterday’s verdict did not surprise me.

It did however scare me, just like reading about Russian life somehow always scares me. If Putin hasn’t made it into your worst nightmares already, read Masha Gessen’s “The Man Without A Face – The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin” now.

Speaking of Gessen, she remains one of my biggest heroes and inspirations. An out lesbian mother and writer living and working in Moscow, she has provided great comment on the Pussy Riot trials. And although she faces threats and fears on a daily basis, she decides to stay in a country watching her every move.

A recent blog post of hers (read her N.Y. Times blog here) discussed the issue of moving for fear of repercussions from the Russian authorities. Yet she stays.

It is bravery like that of Masha Gessen, LGBT rights fighters and Pussy Riot that make me believe in humankind. And it is women showing the way, women staying, writing, singing and shouting.

Because this show must go on.


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