In August, the sentence handed down to members of the feminist collective Pussy Riot was a grotesque overreaction to political self-expression. A two-year prison term for “hooliganism” reflects how seriously Russia’s political and religious authorities treat acts of perceived subversion and dissent.
Freedom of speech has never been valued as highly in Russia as it is in the West. The members of Pussy Riot, however, participate in the punk community, a subculture in which speaking out is a basic tenet. They are following a rich lineage of personal expression and protest.
Unfortunately, there is also a history of punishment.