For God’s Sake


Before the October Revolution famous lawyer Fyodor Plevako defended an old woman who had stolen a tin kettle. The case went to jury. The advocate’s speech was short.

Here it is:

‘Russia has had to suffer many trials for the thousand years of her existence. Pechenegs oppressed her, as did Cumans, Tatars and Poles. Napoleon’s army invaded her and took Moscow. Russia has endured everything, overcome it all. She grew stronger, building strength out of hardship. But now, now ... An old woman has stolen an old kettle worth 30 kopecks. Russia, of course, will not survive this. She is going to perish forever.’

The old woman was acquitted.

Two days ago, five girls from a feminist group Pussy Riot made their way to the altar of the main Russian church and managed to sing, for about a minute, something against Putin, something they called ‘Holy Shit’.

As the law stands, they should have been fined $15 each. And this is where the story should have ended.

Later that day, though, a popular journalist - not from an extremist magazine, but from Russia’s largest state owned broadcasting company - wrote that ‘the desecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour by Pussy Riot’s whores and the almost unanimous (according to Twitter) support of this action by activists from Bolotnaya square [where the anti-Putin protest took place – RLO] is an open declaration of war to all the people of our country, an attack on their faith and respect for life and death’.

‘Liberals’, he wrote will bring Russia ‘corruption and depravity, the desecration of holy places and huge pressure on all those who want to live freely, with the name of God in their hearts and souls’. ‘Liberalism (not to be confused with freedom) is the cancer of our country and it seems we will need surgery to remove it.’

Next day the official representative of the Moscow Patriarchate demanded that criminal punishment should be meted out to those who insult religion. ‘Yesterday's escapade in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour has posed a serious problem for us all. We cannot and will not live in a country where such things are possible. Hence, the country needs to change,’ said the Chairman of the Synodal Department for the Cooperation of Church and Society Vsevolod Chaplin.

Arnold Toynbee believed that there is just one reason why nations fall: their elites become dull and dreary. If this is so, Russia is in trouble. And we should thank Pussy Riot for the warning.


picture © John Takai -


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