Monday, August 20, 2012

Authoritarian society in Latvia tilts against Pussy Riot?

The outrage against  the harsh sentencing of the Russian musicians and performance artists Pussy Riot seems to have passed by many Latvians (to be fair, there have not been mass gatherings or  riots in the streets in any other countries). What disturbs me is not the passivity on this issue, but the fact that a significant number of Latvians in social networks seem to support the punishment of the three Russian women, who have already been jailed for five months.
Latvia has been exposed to democratic values for more than 20 years. One could even say that the whole freedom movement of the late 1980s was based on a hope to once again be a free, democratic nation. But it apparently came at a time when the social fabric of Latvia was damaged beyond some critical breaking point, leaving an almost indelible Soviet mentality of  “ it is right to repress what I dislike” fixed in the personalities of many Latvians. I judge that by the response of people on Twitter and other social networks, where I suggested that the arrest and anticipated sentencing of Pussy Riot was a violation of the freedom of expression.
I was shocked – though knowing Latvia, only slightly shocked – how people who are knee-jerk anti-Russian on other issues (Russian language, Russian schools, the New Wave music festival) were so quick to align with the authoritarian Kremlin when it came to three young women causing less than a minute of disturbance in a largely empty Orthodox church. People carried on about how it was right to punish those who had “desecrated” a holy place (where, apparently, other non-religious events had taken place), how the behavior of the women was somehow despicable. There were also claims that Pussy Riot members had made a pornographic video and had participated in group sex (as if either of these actions lessened their freedom of expression with regard to the incident at the Orthodox Church). But mainly, there was a general belief that it was right to repress and punish those who do not agree with one’s own beliefs or some ill defined public morality and order.  The authoritarian personality lives on in  Latvia, it is one of the most persistent legacies of the Soviet occupation and, perhaps, also the authoritarian regime from 1934 – 1940. 


John Christmas said...

Most Latvians think it is okay that Pussy Riot will go to prison for 2 years? Most Latvians also seem to think it is okay that the Oligarchs are not in prison. I guess the irrationality is consistent.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with you John and Juris !

Anonymous said...

Couldn't care less about what fate befalls these "žogvāveres".

Anonymous said...

At least there were a few minutes of fun yesterday at the Riga Russian Cathedral :)

"Pussy Riot" atbalstam pie katedrāles pulcējas pārdesmit cilvēki

Rīga, 19.aug., LETA. Šovakar pie Rīgas Kristus Piedzimšanas pareizticīgo katedrāles ir pulcējušies pārdesmit cilvēki, pārsvarā jaunieši, lai paustu atbalstu pankgrupas "Pussy Riot" dalībniecēm, kurām piespriests divu gadu cietumsods, novēroja aģentūra LETA.

Jaunieši tur rokās plakātus "FreePussyRiot", un seši no viņiem - trīs meitenes un tikpat puiši - ir tie, kas aizturēti pirms rokgruppas "Mumij Troļļ" koncerta "Arēnā Rīga", noskaidroja LETA.

Pulcēšanās notiek mierīgā atmosfērā, risinot sarunas dažādās valodās - arī angliski. Pulcēšanās plkst.20 vakarā pie katedrāles visas dienas garumā bija izziņota tviterī.

Jau rakstīts, ka šovakar pirms rokgruppas "Mumij Troļļ" koncerta "Arēnas Rīga" apsardze bija aizturējusi trīs meitenes, kas vāca parakstus zem petīcijas "FreePussyRiot", bet vēlāk viņas atbrīvotas, atņemot plakātus ar uzrakstu "FreePussyRiot".

Maskavas tiesa 17.augustā atzina pankgrupas "Pussy Riot" dalībnieču vainu huligānismā, kas motivēts ar reliģisko naidu, piespriežot viņām divu gadu cietumsodu.

Publicēta: 19.08.2012 20:19
Juris Kaža, LETA

Anonymous said...

Sad. I was there. Trying to explain to one young Russian passer-by the importance of our act. He seemed indifferent and ready to accept that what happened to Pussy-Riot as simply the way the things are. Could we conclude, that Latvians, Russians, etc deserve what they get? Check out yesterday's op ed piece in the New York Times entitled, "For Russians, Corruption is Just a Way of Life". Maybe the same applies to Latvians.

TRex said...

Rebellion is never condoned among the old, religious or the male power elite. Throw in some holdover thinking from the repressive Soviet times (the olds, times were better then eh?) and a corrupt nihilism from the 1% (the pols and their business cronies, ex-Soviet apparatchiks) mixed with a lot of Old Believers and you have an ossified society that can pay lip service to change and adopt a veneer of modernity for public consumption outside the countries borders but in fact remains very much stuck in a time warp.

These are very brave women.

Anonymous said...

So as long as you are protesting against something, you can commit any crime and get away with it? Or does that only apply to ultra-liberalism?
Anyway, my point is that "Pussy riot" isn't really considerable as a protest against the authoritarian regime. Their previous activities demonstrate that they cannot be taken seriously. It's a shame that so many people are trying to defend PR without understanding this.
The worst part is that there are so many other real dissidents in Russias prisons and no one is standing in for their rights.
And two years for hooliganism is a considerably light sentence even in Western states.

TRex said...

Hooliganism is a catch-all, football thugs stabbing minorities in a Moscow underground passageway get less time served than Pussy Riot under this charge.

Pussy Riots heft as a nascent movement against the status quo is reflected in the support they receive in the countries with a history of freedom of expression, which is not yet a crime. Latvia is not a member of this group. As for what their protest was about their statement read in court speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

A protest of any type will never be tolerated in a Communist or former Communist country. Punishment doesnt fit the "crime"!!

Anonymous said...

Soviet mentality? Ooops the laws defence this position in Germany, Austria... for instance:
Pussy Riot Protestors In Germany Escorted Out Of Cologne Cathedral, Could Face Prison (VIDEO)

or this guy... who was arrested just for singing and now has to face a trial...

sadly this kind of news aren't extrange in Western Europe (and many states in US) soviet mentality should be spread all over the world.

Asehpe said...

Even though I agree this feeling is stronger in Latvia, Russia, and in the Post-Soviet space, probably for the reasons Juris describes in his blog post, I have to say that this is not at all limited to this area. Perhaps Juris was influenced by his time in Sweden to think that all, or most, Westerners are as broad-minded as (most) Swedes. In fact, it is not difficult to find in America voices of support for Putin's decision to jail these young women -- for precisely the same reaons that Latvians and Russians would give. And that, in a country in which fear of Russia is still to many people an automatic, Cold-War-conditioned reaction.

The truth is that a significant number of people all over the West do think that it's OK to repress people who do "despicable" things. Such people may be more frequent in Latvia or Russia, but they're quite present elsewhere. (Isn't the Russian media now mentioning this German case as an example that "the West does as we do, too"?...)

Perhaps Juris could someday start a blog on Free Speech Violations throughout the West. I'm curious what he would come up with if he looked seriously at the question.