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Pussy Riot Members Deliver Their Closing Statements Claiming Russia Has Forgotten Its Freedom And Its Art

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Masked female activists demonstrate in support of members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Thursday Aug. 9, 2012.
Masked female activists demonstrate in support of members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Thursday Aug. 9, 2012.

As the trial of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot winds its way to a close, the group's members -- Maria Alyekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- are facing three years in prison for charges of hooliganism and incitement of religious hatred.

On August 8th, the women delivered their politically-charged closing statements nearly six months after they first sang their famous lyric "Mother of God, Cast Putin Out" on the altar of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Much of the group's critique of the Russian system was targeted toward the administration of Vladimir Putin, whose name the women incited in their "punk prayer" last February. In her personal statement, Alyekhina outlined the debilitating effects of Putin's rule on Russian society at large, describing how the institutions during his rule have failed to deliver any understanding of the arts or foster critical thinking skills:

"In this closing statement, I would like to describe my firsthand experience of running afoul of this system. Our schooling, which is where the personality begins to form in a social context, effectively ignores any particularities of the individual. There is no “individual approach,” no study of culture, of philosophy, of basic knowledge about civic society. Officially, these subjects do exist, but they are still taught according to the Soviet model. And as a result, we see the marginalization of contemporary art in the public consciousness, a lack of motivation for philosophical thought, and gender stereotyping. The concept of the human being as a citizen gets swept away into a distant corner.

Today’s educational institutions teach people, from childhood, to live as automatons. Not to pose the crucial questions consistent with their age. They inculcate cruelty and intolerance of nonconformity. Beginning in childhood, we forget our freedom."

The women continued to defend their actions at the Cathedral as an act of civic engagement, with Tolokonnikova stating that their performances should be characterized as "dissident art" or "political action that engages art forms." They also acknowledged the widespread support they have received from across the globe, and though Samutsevich stated that she expects a guilty verdict at the end of this week, they encouraged their supporters throughout their statements, saying that "the art of creating the image of an epoch does not know winners or losers."

pussy riot

Feminist punk group Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Summarizing the impact of the three women's closing quotes, statement translator Maksim Hanukai remarked: "The press has often made use of formulas like 'courtroom drama' and 'show trial' to describe the ongoing proceedings against Pussy Riot, but it was not until August 8, 2012, the day that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevitch delivered their closing statements, that one began to sense that we were witnessing the penultimate act of a full-blown romantic tragedy."

The saga of Pussy Riot's three incarcerated members will come to an end this Friday, when Judge Marina Syrova delivers her verdict. The odds are certainly not in their favor, as 92% of Syrova's cases have ruled against the defendant. The prosecutor is demanding a three year jail term for the women, but a suspended sentence is still a possibility.

You can read more of Pussy Riot's final remarks on n+1, as translated by Sasha Senderovich, Marijeta Bozovic, Maria Carrigan, Maksim Hanukai, Katharine Holt, Elena Glazov-Corrigan, Ainsley Morese, and Chto Delat.

Let us know what you think of the Pussy Riot trial proceedings in the comments section below.

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