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Message to Gergiev and Netrebko: A Pussy Riot prisoner went on hunger strike today

While Putin’s supporters regale the Metropolitan Opera, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova announced today that she has begun a hunger strike against the injustice of her imprisonment and the intolerable conditions in which she is being held. Here’s a good English translation of her letter.

Here is Valery Gergiev on the subject of Pussy Riot:

‘I don’t think this is anything to do with artistic freedom. Why go to the Cathedral of Christ to make a political statement? Why with screaming and dancing? You don’t need to go to a place that is considered sacred by many people…

‘I am told by too many people that those girls are potentially a very good business proposition. Suppose that someone created all this in order to produce another touring group earning millions and millions? Anna Netrebko (acclaimed Russian soprano) didn’t need to do something like this.’

nadezhda pussy riot

Photo: Andrew Stenin / RIA Novosti/Lebrecht Music&Arts

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Mark Stratford says:

    Details on the prison conditions here in the Guardian piece:

    http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/sep/23/pussy-riot-hunger-strike-nadezhda-tolokonnikova

  2. Given the nature of the offense(s), and the severity of the sentences, any sane person would view these two Putin victims as political prisoners. For Gergiev to support the taking of political prisoners — while also supporting Putin, who has very seriously circumscribed freedom of speech in Russia — is despicable.

    My jaw dropped when I saw that this stinking coward refused to be interviewed by The New York Times about 2013′s opening night at the Met — not because he wouldn’t have something to say about Onegin — but because he didn’t want to be asked about the human rights of gay people.

    • Sina Hanson says:

      Girgiev’s lack of outrage is in no way supporting what has been done. I find your insinuations offensive.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        I’m afraid you’re wrong. His harsh words are only for the girls and the mysterious “someone” supposed to have organized this as “good business”. The “someone” seems to be the key word here : good Russian girls would never have done this by themselves, they must have been hired and paid by some “anti-Russian forces” (formerly “anti-socialist”). Same old same old.

  3. Dennis Marks says:

    Dennis Marks Very disappointed by Gergiev’s response. The Mariinsky is in a vulnerable position, deeply dependent on state support for its two theatres and concert hall, but the least Valery could have done would be to have maintained a dignified silence. He should recall the experiences of those artists whose works he performs so brilliantly when they were persecuted by previous Russian regimes. History has a habit of repeating itself.

  4. Interesting that Gergiev will be the new GMD of the Munich Philharmonic. In the early 90s, I had to write two letters to the city’s cultural ministry in an attempt to have them remove the swastikas from the orchestra’s old music. I’m not sure anything can be drawn from that, but the juxtapositon of the see-no-evil attitude is mildly ironic.

  5. Oh, people, you never know what would you do in their position.

  6. After reading the Gergiev comment about Pussy Riot, I want to throw up.

    Crossing the Met’s “HD Live” presentation of ONEGIN off my calendar. Maybe it’s time to get off the HD Live train completely until my stomach settles down.

  7. Is this the same site that posted this:
    http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/09/slipped-disc-editorial-the-met-gets-it-on-gay-rights.html

    ??!!
    We’ve got some crossed wires, here.

  8. The high moral ground is a very slippery slope !!

  9. harold braun says:

    With due respect.:I,as s a not very observant jew would also not been terribly amused if someone had made such a spectacle at a synagogue.So far I can relate to Maestro Gergiev’s response.

    • Harold : As a non jew, I would not be terribly amused either if someone did this in a synagogue. I would find it outrageous. But I would certainly NOT endorse their being condemned to such a heavy punishment. There is a big difference between not condoning Pussy Riot’s actions and saying that sending them to work camp is OK. It’s not.

  10. cabbagejuice says:

    What a horrible story! Maybe some good will come out of this unfortunate event, that is, an opportunity to reveal to the outside world the Gulag conditions of the prisons over there.

  11. Well, of course Gergiev is gay…..

    It’s one of those deals that he’s so afraid to be outed (and he understandably is – with Putin his big backer, and the Gulags – yes they still exist – in Russia), he is totally supporting Putin’s vicious attitude towards gays in Russia. We’ve all seen it before: some of the most outspoken anti-homosexuals are closeted gays.

    Scott Rose calls him a stinking coward. Maybe yes, maybe no – I can’t say. But try walking a few kilometres in his shoes.

    How do I know Gergiev is gay?

    I had a few beers with certain members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra’s violin section…..

    Come out, Valeriy – don’t be scared – move to the USA – the water’s fine…..

    • Assuming you’re right for a moment, I think it’s important to note that Gergiev doesn’t define himself by whom he prefers to pair with. He is more interested in issues of culture and defending music in his country which includes his support of Putin. His sexuality is his own private business (and not yours to manipulate for your own motives) and he clearly doesn’t approve of folks who push theirs in other people’s faces or make similarly obscene public political spectacles. Classical music comes from a central idea of beauty and principles of harmony. It’s antithetical to contrived emotion,or, kitch. It’s not what many of you are hoping you can use it for.

  12. How disappointing that two musicians I so admire are cowards and mindless minions of the repressive, anti-gay Putin regime. I am not a fan of Pussy Riot’s music but I am a fan of free speech and compassionate treatment for all living beings so I whole-heartedly support the women of PR in all of their endeavours. As for Gergiev and Netrebko, I say “het!” to spending another ruble on their recordings and concerts. There are so many talented people out there that there is no need to support fascist suck-ups.

  13. Big mistake by Russia to give these silly punks such global publicity by giving them high prison sentences. Totally overblown reaction to a childish provocation.
    But I do wonder what would have happened, had these kids done the same in a big Texan church or in a big Synagogue in Israel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZKaBh9pX64

    • Better even, what would have happened if they did this in a Black church to protest Obama? I’ll tell you: it would be the George Zimmerman treatment on steroids.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      What would have happened? They would probably pay a fine, or get several hours of community service.

      • Sure, and that’s what they should have gotten in Russia too. Maybe a few days of community service… But I was also referring to the public opinion in said places…

        • Gonout Backson says:

          You’re right. Fortunately for all of us, “public opinion” cannot send anyone to prison.

  14. DOESN’T THE CONDUCTOR OF THE OPENING NIGHT PERFORMANCE AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA USUALLY LEAD THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER AT THE START OF THE EVENING ?

    • He does and he did. It was sung lustily too by the assembled hoi polloi. Growing up in the UK in the 60s and 70s I never thought I’d see the day when a Russian (very definitely a non-emigre) would conduct an American orchestra in the Star Spangled Banner. More used to seeing the Leningrad Phil escorted and observed as they played by the KGB (1978, Leeds, Mariss Jansons).

      The protest outside was dignified and civilized. Inside a few chanters (probably by prior arrangement) got their say (see NYT report for detail) and were hustled and booed out of the house. At least the USA has some measure of Free Speech and that is more than can be said for Russia.

      I bet Gelb wished he’d had Cosi for Opening Night…………………

  15. Michael Smith says:

    She disrupted a church service. Don’t worshippers have a right to worship in peace? Two years in prison does not seem unreasonable.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Two years of labor camp for disrupting a church service? That’s a cruel world you live in.

    • Get your facts right, please. They didn’t “disrupt a church service”. They performed their song when NO service was in progress. And hardly anyone else was in the cathedral at the time.

      • I don’t think that this should make a big difference, if there was a service or not.
        Russian authorities acted with their inferiority complex, suspecting a foreign steered protest movement, and wanted to choke it with brutal force right at the beginning. Paradoxically they made the punk group Pussy Riot big by that, rather than destroying it.
        The authorities know perfectly well in Russia, that these long prison sentences are completely overblown for such minor misdemeanors as desecrating a place of worship.

        • Michael Smith says:

          It was two years – the same maximum sentence as in the UK. S4A of the Public Order Act carries a two year sentence when Religiously Aggravated.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Michael Smith says:
            September 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm

            “It was two years – the same maximum sentence as in the UK. S4A of the Public Order Act carries a two year sentence when Religiously Aggravated.’

            So in Russian law, Jesus of Nazareth would have gotten 2 years in jail for disrupting the peace in the temple?

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Bravo!

          • In theory, the offence of “public nuisance” can elicit a life sentence in the United Kingdom. Alternatively, our government could use it as a pretext for deportation, even if the sentence were under a year (see hyperlink below; it is worth pointing out that it has elicited considerably less media attention than Pussy Riot). Funny how it is still, decades after the Cold War was supposed to have concluded, fashionable to direct outrage at Russia, whilst failing to look in the mirror.

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/29/trenton-oldfield-boat-race-protester

            I suspect the recent spate of vituperation is an attempt, probably driven by American lobbying, to ostracise Putin for sheltering Snowden and for not subscribing to bomb-happy Obama’s desire to exacerbate the bloodbath in Syria.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Does the name of Anna Politkovskaya mean anything to you?

          • Naming Politkovskaya and Pussy Riot in one sentence is like naming Maria Callas and Ozzy Osborne in one sentence.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Could you quote the sentence, please?

      • So, it’s OK to run amok in a religious building as long as there are no worshippers? Good to know.

  16. We’ve got to have protest! Or we have the same crazies taking the piss, imagine if we were ‘living’ under Stalin or Hitler – like regimes?! It’s all about change, for the better.

    Putin should have gone ages ago.

    • Sorry, but what kind of “protest” is dancing and screaming to funny “music” in a church, desecrating the holy sanctuary in the church?
      Were they protesting the Orthodox Church?
      If we like it or not, Putin is the democratically elected President of Russia, the majority of the people support him actually.
      Do you know a better alternative to Putin? I don’t, unfortunately.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Unfortunately, the “democratically elected” is debatable, to put it mildly. As for the “alternative”, it’s really not for you to choose. The Russian people should do it. Hopefully – this time in a really democratic election. Like, for instance, with all the candidates having the same time on TV, and none of them put in prison on fabricated charges.

        • The Russian elections are at least as democratic as the American ones. Enough said.

          It’s not for me to choose the alternative, but it is for you to detest the chosen one? Strange “logic”.

          • Gonout Backson says:
          • I know. As I said, at least as democratic as the American ones.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            “There were serious problems from the very start of this election. The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia. There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt.”

            Yeah, The former president plays with the constitution, switches seats with the former prime minister, backseat drives for some years, to come back into the office, naming his ex-former prime minister and the former president – prime minister all over again. And no one in the world, let alone in the country, doubts for a second this is exactly what will happen. Even the French Fifth Republic isn’t THAT democratic.

            Wanna guess who wins in 2016?

          • Clinton or the other candidate from the Two-Party-Dictatorship.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Happy man. Sincerely, and from the bottom of my heart, I hope you will never learn, feel and taste what “dictatorship” really means.

  17. Michael Smith says:

    People should be allowed to pray. The video shows plenty of people at prayer. Your attitude to truth is as casual as your attitude to freedom of worship.

    • “The video shows plenty of people at prayer.”
      It doesn’t.

      Your attitude towards truth is to simply try to deny it.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Even if this were true, two years in a Russian labor camp for this? Be serious.

      • Michael Smith says:

        It’s a prison, not a gulag. But ‘camp’ makes it sound so much more Nazi, doesn’t it?

        • Gonout Backson says:
          • Michael Smith says:

            Trivial compared to the Soviet era. Still, delighted to see she’s getting justice.

          • Wow. And this is someone who wants the privacy to pray, but condones and supports the blatant human rights abuses described in the Guardian article? That’s “christianity” for you.
            You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • Michael Smith says:

            I wonder what makes “Musiker” think I’m a Christian. I happen to think that people who scream obscenities at worshippers don’t deserve sympathy. I’d rather focus on protecting freedom of worship and gay rights – both of which are under attack all over the world, Russia included.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Well, you sound like a typical Christian. Anyway, I don’t think that dancing around in a more or less empty church for what was apparently 1 minute or so, juvenile as that “performance” may have been, seriously curtails anyone’s “freedom of worship”. After all, as we know from the New Testament, protesting against the use of religion by worldly powers is a very Jesus thing to do. Also, as I understand it, the intention of their appearance in the church was to ask Jesus’ mother to help remove Putin and make things better for women in Russia – and shouldn’t they be allowed to ask Jesus’ mother for a favor? Isn’t that what “religious freedom” is about?

          • There is a difference between “not deserving sympathy” and incarcerating someone in a gulag.
            But you are someone who — in their own words — unashamedly “delights” in people being starved, beaten, tortured and treated as slaves for merely criticizing Putin.
            That’s why you should be ashamed of yourself.

          • Michael Smith says:

            I do not delight in torture. Musiker is a [redacted: abuse].

          • Michael Smith says:

            It is untrue that I abused Musiker. However, I suggest he withdraws his claim that I delight in torture and beating, which is a deliberate untruth.

            He should be ashamed of himself, which is doubtless why he hides behind a pseudonym.

          • You said: “delighted to see she’s getting justice.”
            Such a comment speaks for itself.

          • Michael Smith says:

            Pleased she’s in prison. Nothing to do with torture or beating. You must be embarrassed at being caught out.

          • I think everyone reading this blog has got a very clear picture from your comments what sort of person you are. You’ve shown yourself up. No-one else

          • Enough. End of conversation.

  18. Some Pussy Riot supporters are in big trouble in Germany now. Should musicians boycott Germany too?

    http://en.rian.ru/society/20120823/175396962.html

  19. Chicot leFou says:

    Hmmmm. Obnoxiously rude childish behavior by dopey ill mannered young people countered by absurdly nasty governmental overreaction ; why does this sound familiar ? Got it ! Sounds like home ! God bless America !

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