zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » An Unquiet Riot

An Unquiet Riot

The Master and the Minion

The Russian girl-punk rock band Pussy Riot has done something with their protest at  Christ the Savior Cathedral that prior cases of oppression, election-fraud, corruption and murder of Putin’s critics by agents of the siloviki regime failed to do – put a defiant human face on political persecution in Russia. Something we have not seen since the days of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn.

Photo credit: The Guardian 

A reminder that when men are not free, mocking insolence is a form of bravery.

In a thoughtful post, Charles Cameron suggests that their performance was not a “political protest”. I disagree, though I think Charles’ examination of the tradition of “Holy Fools” in Russia is useful and culturally relevant as to how this event was intended to register with a Russian audience. Pussy Riot was being audaciously offensive in their selection of performance sites, as TM Lutas explains:

Orthodoxy is not a religion that is widely understood in the West. So it’s actually the rare pundit that catches how offensive what this punk riot group was doing actually was. There’s a subtitled version of the video that helps. The video misses the positional problems. The picture screen, called an iconostasis is something like the old altar rails of Catholicism but with fairly elaborate rituals surrounding the structure. There are three doors, the center one is called the holy doors. As a lay person you’re not even supposed to walk in front of that door. It’s viewed as disrespectful, even sacrilegious. So the people in charge of order and discipline were a bit stuck because these girls were dancing in the sanctuary, in front of the iconostasis and extracting them actually meant that they had to break the rules too. Several times a Pussy Riot girl bowed and did a full prostration. One does these things towards the altar in Orthodoxy. Reversing this as the protesters did is viewed as idolatry. Who, exactly, are they bowing to? That’s the genesis of the “devil dancing” talk in their trial.

Putin may have been a target but he certainly wasn’t the target. Their attack had a much wider range of victims. This was an attack on Orthodoxy, an attack on symphonia, the concept of church and state in complementary roles and mutual respect, and also an attack on Putin. 

In 4GW thinking, the strong lose when they are forced to fight the weak on terms that favor the weak. Pussy Riot – a group of young women – engineered a protest at a location whose significance meant that the authorities could not easily ignore or suppress it quietly with brutal thuggery in the shadows. By making Vladimir Putin the lyrical center of gravity, local officials were  made to look sycophantic and toadying, national officials petty and foolish. The Russian authorities, burly and oafish like their Soviet counterparts, have been reduced to fighting young girls while the rigged legal system that passes for justice in Russia is showcased in the unsparing glare of the global media.

By daring the authorities to make them political prisoners, Maria Vladimirovna Alyokhina, Yekaterina Stanislavovna Samutsevich and Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova have made the regime look weak.

Moreover, their actions are a not so subtle reminder to Russians that the Orthodox Church is a corrupt vessel, a propaganda arm of the regime with a long tradition of KGB agents as Patriarchs and squalid informers as clergymen. The Church in Russia has not been free of the tentacles of state security since the day Lenin ordered the arrest of St. Tikhon. President Putin and Patriarch Kyrill are not peers temporal and spiritual, but fellow alumni of the same organs as the Big Lubyanka’s gaolers and policemen.

I would like to close this post by letting Yekaterina Samutsevich speak for herself:

In the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent, express regret for her deeds, or enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to voice some thoughts about what has happened to us.
That Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of the authorities was clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyayev took over as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of political power in Russia.
Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, the state-controlled corporations, or his menacing police system, or his obedient judicial system. It may be that the harsh, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; that otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more persuasive, transcendent guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power. It was then that it became necessary to make use of the aesthetic of the Orthodox religion, which is historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.
How did Putin succeed in this? After all, we still have a secular state, and any intersection of the religious and political spheres should be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society. Right? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of the Orthodox aesthetic in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had an aura of lost history, of something that had been crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present a new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project that has little to do with a genuine concern for the preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.
It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, given its long mystical ties to power, emerged as the project’s principal exponent in the media. It was decided that, unlike in the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the brutality of the authorities toward history itself, the Russian Orthodox Church should now confront all pernicious manifestations of contemporary mass culture with its concept of diversity and tolerance.
Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national television for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would in fact be presented, thus helping the faithful make the correct political choice during a difficult time for Putin preceding the election. Moreover, the filming must be continuous; the necessary images must be burned into the memory and constantly updated; they must create the impression of something natural, constant, and compulsory.
Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of the media image that the authorities had spent such a long time generating and maintaining, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to unite the visual imagery of Orthodox culture with that of protest culture, thus suggesting that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, and Putin, but that it could also ally itself with civic rebellion and the spirit of protest in Russia.
Perhaps the unpleasant, far-reaching effect of our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. At first, they tried to present our performance as a prank pulled by heartless, militant atheists. This was a serious blunder on their part, because by then we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out its media assaults on the country’s major political symbols.
In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently than the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings. Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law has been taken. And his statement that this court will be objective and hand down a fair verdict is yet another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

22 Responses to “An Unquiet Riot”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi, Zen:
    I’m not suggesting in my first post that “their performance was not a ‘political protest'” — so I don’t believe we’re disagreeing!  
    I’m quoting mentions of “an anti-Kremlin protest on the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral” and of the PR “performing what they called a ‘punk prayer’ on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral” (in the Telegraph and ABC respectively).  In both these cases, it’s not the description of the activity I’m disagreeing with, it’s the phrase “on the altar”.  They aren’t doing whatever they’re doing on the altar, they are doing it in front of the iconostasis.  And while “in front of the iconostasis” is indeed a form of sacred space, it is still within the nave, representing earth and open to worshipers — the iconostasis is what separates the nave from the sanctuary, representing heaven, and open to the Eucharistic celebrants.
    Here’s a lovely description from an Orthodox lay-person’s POV:

    One of the most striking aspects upon entering an Orthodox church is the way in which the space is divided into two. The nave, the main body of the church building, is where the faithful gather; to the east of it lies the sanctuary, where the altar is. The nave symbolically represents the earth, whilst the sancturary – usually raised up slightly – is Heaven. Between the two is the Iconostasis or Icon Screen. Without experiencing the services of the Church, it seems as though the iconostasis represents a “barrier” between the heavenly sanctuary and earthly nave: a throwback to Jewish Temple worship and a concept opposed to the Gospel. Yet when seen “in action”, the iconostasis is seen to reaffirm the Good News that Christ is in our midst.
    The division of the sacramental space between that representing earth and all creation, and that representing heaven, God and the angelic realms, is not meant to indicate a barrier between these two realms. The division of space is meant to realise symbolically their encounter. It is by having the altar separated from the nave by the iconostasis that this wall can be used to symbolise not just a divide, but also a breaking of the divide.
    At the centre of the iconostasis are the Royal Doors, usually with a veil behind it, and it is the opening and closing of the doors, the drawing and opening of the veil at certain times of the Church’s services, which show us the reality of Christ’s work in bridging the heavenly and the earthly.
    The best example, but not the only, is found in the Divine Liturgy. First, the doors are opened and the priest walks through holding the Gospel Book, into the nave, to read to the people. The Word of God coming down from Heaven to the world is presented to us through the word of God, the Scriptures, being brought through the Royal Doors to be heard by all. Then, later in the service, comes the time when the bread and wine is blessed to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Immediately prior, the Royal Doors and the veil are shut, and what goes on inside is hidden, except through hearing the priest’s prayers. We are “shut out” from these mysteries in a way, but only to heighten our longing for what comes next…
    Moments after the elevation of the gifts, where the priest shouts: “the Holy things for the holy…!”, the veil and doors are opened wide. The priest carries the chalice bearing the Body and Blood of Christ out into the nave for the people to take communion. That Christ comes out to us, rather than we going to Him, hardly needs stating in words when it is shown so clearly in action.

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Charles,
    Ah, the error was mine, will strike.
    What do you make of TM’s interpretation? He is, if I recall, from one of the balkan Orthodox Church traditions

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Well, first off, there’s no doubt that what they were doing would be shocking to pious sensibility.  
    The thing is, there’s danger in having too great an attachment to “the sacred” — so many traditions have a sort of moment where the sacred reverses polarity, to to speak, and the vulgar or profane becomes sacred.  In western Christendom there was the Feast of Fools, when a choirboy would act the bishop for a day, and the Feast of the Ass.  Russia has its Holy Fools, Islam has its sufi “malamatis” who bring shame on themselves to avoid the ego taking pleasure in its own “righteousness” — and the native Americans have a variety of kosharis, heyokas, etc who perform the most contrary actions and yet are considered the most sacred of visionaries.
    When a sacred clown urinates, the urination isn’t any less shocking, when a holy fool goes naked but for his beard, the nakedness isn’t any less shocking — it is precisely because these things are in defiance and violation of sacred norms that they are in fact so powerfully sacred.
    So yes, this was a punk action, yes it was shocking, even arguably blasphemous — but the Rioters also had and indeed expressed a conscious appreciation for the contrarian tradition within Russian spirituality.  
    How can I put this?  The white swirl in the tai-chi’h symbol is shocked and appalled at the black spot in its own heart — and the black swirl has no idea how to handle the purity of the white dot that has somehow crept into and illuminated its darkness.
    And yet, as Eliot says, this is all “That the pattern may subsist, that the wheel may turn and still / Be forever still.”
    As for TM’s contention:

    Putin may have been a target but he certainly wasn’t the target. Their attack had a much wider range of victims. This was an attack on Orthodoxy…

    I think we should take their own words seriously. They said:

    when we talk about Putin, we have in mind first and foremost not Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin but Putin the system that he himself created — the power vertical, where all control is carried out effectively by one person.

    To my mind, that clearly includes Putin and his associates, the Patriarch Kiril I prominent among them, and the Church as a control system, considered as a single system. Equally clearly, they felt that something must be done to pierce the surface of this control system and thus remove the “transcendant” face-lift that the Church had given Putin the ancien-KGB man and nouveau-Czar — in Yekaterina’s words, the “more persuasive, transcendent guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power.”
    So no, I don’t think it was an attack on Orthodoxy so much as on the present hierarchy — and popular, acquiescent piety.
    So pious-Charles the lover of Gregorian (or Znamenny) Chant would almost certainly have been appalled. But Charles-the-anthropologist would have to admit, afterwards, once the shock had subsided — that these actions strike deep into the heart of “sacred” paradox.

  4. Mr. X Says:

    I agree with TM Lutas. It was an attack on Orthodoxy, and many a Western Christian are being duped into a hypocritical stance of self-righteous attacks on a Church that suffered more under Communism than any other — and the author of this piece is either misinformed about what happened with Patriarch Tikhon or simply hasn’t read what Solzhenitysn wrote about the Church under the Bolshevik yoke or the great pains many in the ROCOR took to repent of the sin of judging their brothers who had to live under it from the safety of exile. 

    For those unfamiliar with Orthodoxy but who happen to be Catholic, I will only say that the ‘logic’ of attacking the Russian Orthodox Church as merely an arm of the State is very much akin to the Obamanoids logic that the Roman Catholic Church is merely an arm of the Republican Party now that the Bishops took a stand on abortion or the HHS mandate.

    I find myself basically disagreeing with 90-95% of the American punditeska now. I find the comparisons between these deranged ladies who stuff chicken parts into their private parts to Solzhenitysn or Sakharov disgusting. At the end of the day, maybe Putin only has sympathizers among the Manosphere in the West (who also not coincidentally view Russia as the last bastion against Western feminism and all its related evils, rightly or wrongly). But ultimately this just isn’t about Putin anymore than a group of trannies taking a dump in a Baptist Church during Communion to protest Dubya would’ve been in 2004 about George W. Bush.

  5. zen Says:

    Hi Mr. X,
    Sorry, I have read Solzhenitsyn, and on St. Tikhon’s ordeal at the hands of the bolsheviki too. Kyrill is a Chekist. As were his predecessors. I put no stock in their repenting so long as the chekists remain in place. An empty gesture, at best. Someday, the office may be occupied by a churchman who was not with the organs but I wager it will take some time yet.
    That the protest by Pussy Riot was highly offensive in character is true. I included TM’s explanation because I wanted readers to understand why it was particularly shocking to Russians beyond the superficial “they protested in a church” level.  It may have been, as TM and you argue, directed at Orthodoxy as well as Putin and now it is convenient for the emphasis to be shifted entirely to Putin. If so, it was another instance of being a political step ahead of the Russian authorities

  6. Mr. X Says:

    Fine, I think the above reply is simply recognition that you cannot defend the indefensible, nor making it open season on the Church for any lunatic who wants to scream anti-Putin slogans during a service to be lionized by a lazy, Russophobic Anglo-American media that prints what they’re told. Ergo just retreat to calling ROC a bunch of siloviks, despite there being no documented proof that Patriarch Kirill was ever a member of the KGB, just a bunch of rumors and innuendo. The sin you engage in is the very one the ROCOR bishops repented of.

  7. L. C. Rees Says:

    The ROC, like most East Roman churches, has been an integral part of the Muscovite state since 1325. But it’s distinct enough that direct action against the ROC based on a fool’s notion that it’s a vulnerable proxy for the Muscovite state yields two enemies instead of one. This sort of decadence “artistry” is self-marginalizing in most societies. Its sound and fury with no teeth “activism” is aggressive self-marginalization. The center of gravity in Putin’s Russia is the confidence the nomenklatura have in Putin’s ability to keep the goodies flowing. This does nothing to shake that confidence. An earlier Russian “activist” understood this better. Kto kogo?, that is the question. 

  8. zen Says:

    Mr. X,
    Not really. The media may be Russophobic, but I am not, having been consistently critical of those who wished to frame Russia as the Soviet Union, which it is not, even under Putin.  The regime blundered here. Had someone just shoved the women out the door of the cathedral, we’d not be discussing this now. But having made boring and ordinary political protest by Russia’s dispirited and disorganized liberals difficult and physically risky, an environment has been created in Russia to generate a smarter and less timid opposition. And the authorities handed these women a global platform on a silver platter to air their views that they could never have garnered on their own. That was less than shrewd.
    The Church hierarchy though, has recalled the unwisdom of creating martyrs
    Hi LC,
    If Pussy Riot and/or an opposition intends a focused campaign against the ROC, you’re right. If this was a one-off, lateral/indirect political strike against the state it was a fairly brilliant manuever against underling security officials going through their motions

  9. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Pussy Riot Links Says:

    […] Zenpundit […]

  10. TMLutas Says:

    Charles Cameron – Please review the tape and review the definition of Orthodox church layout that you’ve included. The sanctuary is raised. We agree on that. Now where were they dancing in front of the iconostasis? Do you see any steps up between their level and the doors? I do not. That puts them in the sanctuary.

    You approach that area on a mission and do not linger there. You come up and perhaps kiss an icon, seek a candle, or provide a name to be included in prayers for the sick and the dead. Unless you’re a kid who doesn’t know any better, you do not go there and especially you avoid the central doors where you never have business there on your own. The kids get away with it strictly on the basis of Mark 10:14 and similar passages in the other gospels to suffer the children to come to Jesus. 

    Regarding Putin and the power vertical, by separating out Orthodoxy, you wedge Orthodoxy from the State. By lumping them together, you further their unequal symphonia. At least this is how I see things. Orthodoxy must defend itself and that defense must be first and foremost spiritual. They’ve gotten out of the habit during the Soviet years. It will take time for them to truly find their footing. When they do, the Church will be a separate power vertical, operating on different principles than the State, but no less potent. 

    zen – What do you make of the line “In order not to give offense to the Holy, women must give birth and to love”? I’m not going to repeat the subsequent line but it’s relevant. What is the political significance here? That segment is a real problem in trying to interpret this as not seriously anti-Orthodox and not a theological as well as a political attack. 

    Mr X – Kiril I’s tax adventures over the years and his vain bit with the luxury watch this year have convinced me that he is a flawed prelate and at best a transitional figure to a restored Orthodoxy, recovered from the stress of surviving Communism. Whether he also holds rank in the FSB is beyond my ability to intuit from such a distance. Don’t ignore Patriarch Kiril’s flaws, just because some of his opponents blaspheme. Others of them do not. 

    L C Rees – Orthodoxy moves in ways that even the western Church finds difficult to understand. I do not think you truly get it.  I think that Putin is a nasty SOB siloviki. I also think that he is actually Orthodox. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is as difficult to fathom as the genuine Catholicism of the sicilian Mafia. 


  11. zen Says:

    Hi TM,
    I would have to interpret it as part of a stanza:
    “The head of the KGB, their chief saint,

    Leads protesters to prison under escort

    In order not to offend His Holiness

    Women must give birth and love”
    The first line would refer, in my view, to Dzerzhinskii who became an iconized figure (“knight of the proletariat”, “Iron Felix”) in Chekist culture and early Soviet era propaganda. “Under escort” recalls the NKVD era under Stalin when the gulag was at it’s maximum extent and prisoners were moved from place to place in the camp system. His Holiness probably refers to Kyrill. The line you are interested in might refer to Church opposition to Russia’s world-record abortion rate.
    I am speculating, of course and don’t know what the words were used here in the original Russian or how good the translation is, though there’s little mistaking the following line which probably refers to either Kyrill himself, the hierarchy or the church at large. If it is meant as a reference to Christianity as a religion, it’s a theological attack; if it refers to the state of the church as being damaged by Kyrill, then it is political attack (though offensively expressed)

  12. Charles Cameron Says:

    Great line, TM:

    I think that Putin is a nasty SOB siloviki. I also think that he is actually Orthodox. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is as difficult to fathom as the genuine Catholicism of the sicilian Mafia.

    I’m hoping for time to respond to your various comments, here and elsewhere pon ZP, which are much appreciated.

  13. Arimathean Says:

    I am an Orthodox seminarian. TMLutas’s assertion that the girls were “in the sanctuary” is just flat-out wrong. The iconostasis defines the boundary between the nave and the sanctuary. The space directly in front of the holy doors is a particularly sensitive area, but it is still in the nave, and not equivalent to the area immediately on the other side of the doors, which is the most sacred spot in the sanctuary.
    I am also a former Soviet analyst. Back in the Soviet days, 90% of the bishops reported to KGB handlers. The other 10% did not get promoted. So it is safe to say that any archbishop, metropolitan, or patriarch – or anyone on track to ascend to those offices – was cooperating with the KGB. That is not, however, the same as being an officer of the KGB. The Soviet state had various ways of eliciting cooperation from those who were weak or ambitious – that is, just about everyone – and the clergy were not immune. The sacrament of Confession fell into disuse during the Soviet period because everyone feared that anything interesting they confessed would be passed on to the KGB.
    In general, I agree with the views being put forth here by Zen and Charles. While the band’s protest would have been shocking to any devout Russian Orthodox worshiper, one should understand that most Russian Orthodox worshipers are alert for opportunities to be shocked (or at least to assume a pose of shock) against any behavior deemed “disrespectful” – a term that encompasses just about anything contrary to Russian custom as interpreted by its local, usually self-appointed, enforcers. In liturgics class I was warned that, when visiting a Russian church, if I so much as put my hands in my pockets or clasped my hands behind my back (both considered by Russians to be disrespectful stances) I could expect to be beaten without warning by a babushka (a Russian grandmother).
    The charge that the band’s action was “motivated by religious hatred” is clearly absurd. It is on the same level as the ubiquitous charges of blasphemy against Christians in Pakistan – an abuse of popular religious sentiment to achieve less lofty ends.
    Finally, regarding the lyric, “In order not to give offense to the Holy, women must give birth and to love”: It clearly corresponds to 1 Timothy 2:15, which is usually interpreted to say that women “will be saved through childbearing” (though there are a couple of interesting alternate translations). Russian culture is still quite patriarchal, and even the more reform-minded clergy of the ROC believe that getting married and having children is the calling of women (except for nuns, obviously). One high-ranking Russian bishop, a young intellectual and reputed reformer, raised the ire of the young women of my seminary by expressing such sentiments in a lecture a couple of years ago.

  14. TMLutas Says:

    Arimathean – I don’t think anybody, myself included, supports the Russian charge sheet. Even the ROC at this point is looking for mercy. Soup kitchen duty on a trespassing charge would have been a lot better. The Russian state, if it wants to get into the business of punishing sin, could be running morals charges against the power elite for years before it got through the backlog of cases. 

    I think that the issue of Russian over-sensitivity is better addressed by asking the question of who isn’t offended by showgirl kicks et al in church. I think that the list is just a bit longer than russian grannies. Both the Church and the State promote natality, each for their own reasons. Both were being attacked for that stance in the song. Or do you think the birth line is supportive? That would be unusual in this song. 

    Like many other issues right now, the demographic collapse of advanced societies is a subject whose honest discussion is rare. Bravo to your Russian bishop for upholding orthodoxy even on subjects where it is not fashionable, or particularly easy, to uphold. 

    As to the status of the place where they were dancing, the location in question is called, I believe, the soleas. I have asked a priest for a better educated opinion on the status of the soleas and I hope that you too would double check. From what I can tell so far it is part of the sanctuary. 

    zen – You left off one possibility in your analysis of the line I’m refusing to quote, that it was a scatalogical reference to the 3rd person of the Trinity. I can’t tell from the punk screeching but it could be lifted, and twisted, from a line in the liturgy. If it is, that’s a slam dunk on the religious attack theory and explains the distinct lack of line-by-line analysis of what they’re saying by their supporters.  

  15. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    “zen – You left off one possibility in your analysis of the line I’m refusing to quote, that it was a scatalogical reference to the 3rd person of the Trinity.”
    I thought, from a previous post on ZP, that it is actually a phrase that can be translated into “Holy shit!”—an exclamation of disbelief.   The literal translation being printed may be misleading.  Also, if we look at these two translations, then it might be fair to say that the apostrophe-s in the literal version shouldn’t be taken as a possessive so much as merely adjectival:   “Lord’s shit!” = “Holy shit!”   However, I’m rather fond of another interpretation of the group of lines that might come to mind if we think of it as possessive—a connotation, that is—in which the religiosity of “The head of the KGB, their chief saint” and “His Holiness”, displayed via their actions, is “The Lord’s shit” — in other words, the very lowest rungs of religiosity possible, or a superficial (at least, minor) religious adherence to the Lord.
    So, I’m not sure it should be interpreted as anti-religious or anti-theological so much as a criticism of the theology/religiosity of Putin et al.   One can be critical of religious observance without being critical of the religion.

  16. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Addendum:  Forgot to include, though meant to include it, that viewing the literal translation as a contraction might be much farther off-base.  I.e, not “The Lord is shit.”

  17. Charles Cameron Says:

    There’s a lot of interesting conversation going on around here, & I’m grateful for it — thanks, all — but having a difficult time keeping up.  One the topic of liturgical architecture, what I seem to be learning is that I was right to say the PR performance was in the nave, not the sanctuary, but TM was right to point out that it was on an extension of the raised platform, in the most sacramental place in the nave, which is apparently called the ambo and is itself part of the soleas.  
    There are degrees of sacredness within the spaces of the church, in other words, comparable to the Intimacy Gradient, pattern 127 in Christopher Alexander’s great book, A Pattern Language
    Here’s the relevant passage from an official Antiochene Orthodox description of the architectural plan for a church:

    The Iconostasis is placed near the edge of the platform upon which stands the Altar and the part of the platform which projects out into the Nave is called the Soleas (an elevated place) where the Communicants stand to receive Holy Communion and where the Celebrants come out for public prayers, sermons, etc. At either side of the Soleas are places for two Choirs, called the Kleros (meaning lots, since in ancient times Readers and Singers were chosen by lots). At the front of the Soleas, before the Holy Doors, is an extension of the Soleas, called the Ambo (ascent) which is the specific spot where the faithful receive Communion and where sermons are given.

    I think that supports both my literal accuracy (nave, not sanctuary) and TM’s spiritual emphasis (a place that’s elevated both physically and in sacramental significance above the level of the rest of the nave).
    The entire page is excerpted from “These Truths We Hold – The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings” by A Monk of St. Tikhon’s Monastery (St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania), and offers a fascinating insight into the correlations between the degrees of sacrality in architectural space and the degrees of sacramental competence of those who enter those spaces — from those penitents who might not even enter the church, via the catechumens, the baptised faithful, those faithful at the time of receiving the sacrament, to the diaconate and priesthood… and the sacramental enactment itself

  18. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Source:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/20/pussy-riot-punk-prayer-lyrics 

    ‘The Russian word “sran” becomes English “crap” in my version, rather than “shit”. This line, particularly offensive for some, has been translated as “shit, shit, the Lord’s shit”. Not only is this ambiguous (it could mean either “the Lord is shit” or “shit from/of the Lord”), it’s inaccurate. Derived from Gospod, meaning Lord, “gospodnaya,” is an adjective. It could be translated as “religious”, though I tried something different. “Crap” has a stronger metaphorical dimension than “shit” and comes a shade closer to “bullshit”. The song is simply saying that all this state-controlled religious stuff is bullshit. ‘
    –found this today, as I looked into it some more.


  19. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Addendum:  Being an adjective derived from Lord, one could use “Lordly” perhaps:  This Lordly Shit!  That would at least be in keeping w/ the meaning and sentiment and put an interesting spin, intended I think, on the conjoint Lord vs political lord relationships they would criticize.  (Putin et al usurping the real Lord, acting like The Lord.) —for an English translation.   Maybe this would be an interpolation; I am no translator and know almost nothing of Russian.
    I think it’s also important to keep in mind that not only religious and political domains are active here, but also artistic.  And specifically, punk.  There is a bit of “foolishness” in punk, a relaxed attitude toward conventions, including linguistic and artistic conventions.

  20. TMLutas Says:

    Curtis Gale Weeks – With the desecration of a Finnish Orthodox cathedral in a copycat act, we have a perfect social experiment. If Pussy Riot or the three member prisoners speak out against such acts in non-Russian Orthodox churches, their anti-hierarchy character would be much better documented. If they remain silent, or even support the copycat, their anti-religious character would be better documented.  

  21. Arimathean Says:

    TMLutas – You are probably correct in your speculation that the Russian bishop’s statement about women being called to bear children should be interpreted in the context of Russian demographic decline. One of my fellow seminarians, a Russian woman with feminist leanings, held back her personal feelings about the bishop’s statement and offered that very explanation to us clueless Americans. The Patriarch of Georgia has come up with an imaginative solution to the demographic problem: A few years ago he declared that he would serve as godfather to any third child born to a family. Since then a lot of families have had three children to take advantage of the offer, and Georgia’s population now has a much healthier growth rate than its neighbors.
    Charles – Thanks for digging up the explanations of Orthodox liturgical architecture. The only thing I can add is some background on the significance of the ambo – the central portion of the solea, which often projects out into the nave a little way. Originally (i.e., before 1204), the ambo was a raised platform, like a large pulpit, in the middle of the nave. But that was back when most Christian worship took place in cathedrals and stational churches funded by the largess of the emperor. As worship moved into smaller, less elaborate churches and was carried out by fewer personnel, church architecture was simplified. The formerly elaborate arrangement of ambo and templon was squashed towards the front of the church. The main reason an ambo survives at all is because the choreographical rubrics of the liturgical books require it. So the central part of the solea, immediately in front of the holy doors, is the location where prayers and Scripture are now read, which would once have been read from the ambo in the middle of the nave. However, some Orthodox churches have moved some ambo-related activity back out into the nave. In current Russian practice, Scripture is typically read from the middle of the nave facing the altar, which reduces the “ambo-ness” of the central part of the solea.

  22. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thank you again.  The conversations on Zenpundit recently have been providing me with a great deal of pleasurable instruction!

Switch to our mobile site