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Putin’s Kulturkampf

MOSCOW – August is often an unlucky month in Russia, particularly President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Submarines have sunk, neighbors have been invaded, and forests have burned out of control. But, this August, the crisis was purely man-made – indeed, made by one man. The conviction of three members of the agitprop punk-rock group Pussy Riot for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” has turned the three young women into an international cause célèbre.

On February 21, 2012, five members of the group tried to stage a performance, later described as a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The “prayer” lasted for no more than 40 seconds, at which point security personnel expelled the performers. But their visit to Russia’s largest church was not in vain – footage of five women, dressed in glowing dresses and balaclavas while jumping in front of the altar, circulated widely on the Internet.