Elena Omel’chenko and Nastya Min’kova, MYPLACE team members at Centre for Youth Research, Higher School of Economics (St Petersburg)
For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE
From the very beginning the mood of protest in Russia has attracted young people who don’t quite fit into the standard definition of ‘the middle class’. In the press this generation has already been labelled the ‘creative class’ ( http://newtimes.ru/articles/detail/33300?sphrase_id=449575). It is a relatively large stratum (especially in Moscow) of well-paid office workers whose professional sphere might be considered a new culture of creative individualism. Creators of advertisements, marketing strategists, artists, musicians, journalists and representatives of other ‘creative’ professions joined the demonstrators on Bolotnaia Square and Sakharov Square in December 2011.
On 20 January eight girls from the punk group ‘Pussy Riot’, dressed in masks and brightly coloured tights, climbed over the security fence of Lobnoe mesto[i] , raised a ladder and climbed up onto the three-meter parapet. They threw off their jackets, got out electric guitars and sang: ‘An insurrectionary column is heading to the Kremlin, the windows of FSB offices are being blown out. The bitches are pissing behind the red walls. Declaring riot, the abortion of the system…’ and, then, ‘Riot in Russia – the charisma of protest, riot in Russia – Putin ‘s afraid’. A photo report and the lyrics of the song were uploaded to the group’s blog: (http://pussy-riot.livejournal.com/8459.html).
Those on duty from the special security service – whose objects of protection include government buildings and the highest state officials – rushed to arrest the girls. They tried to prevent passers-by from filming the events on mobile telephones. Nonetheless the girls finished the song, lit fireworks and then were taken to the police station where they were fined. A journalist of the popular journal ‘Afisha’ met the girls two days later at their rehearsal site and recorded an interview with them: (http://www.afisha.ru/article/pussy-riot-against-putin/).
Prior to the Red Square action the girls from Pussy Riot had staged concerts on the roof of a trolleybus and in the metro. Their aim is to create a strong feminist movement in the country and ‘a charisma of protest’. And, of course, they oppose Putin. In fact the oppose all politicians who strive for positions of leadership. The girls participate in many protest acts – they took part in the Bolotnaia Square, Triumfal’naia Square and Skaharov Square demonstrations also – but only as citizens. They consider the current mood in society is right, but that the main thing is that everyone uses what creative capabilities they have to create ‘make ideological protest’.
‘Pussy Riot’ is an example of pure protest creativity. ‘Culture influences emotions – it has a very important influence. Not only a rational but an affective impact’, says one of the girls. In their blog the musicians explain that their main object of protest is the existing political system – in Russia the authorities treat citizens like psychiatric patients unable to take independent decisions.
Perhaps ‘Pussy’ will turn out to be the next creative association after the art group ‘Voina’ (‘War’) – a group famous for drawing a penis on the Liteinii bridge in St Petersburg opposite the FSB building: http://rutube.ru/tracks/3345890.html ) – to make itself known via street actions. According to the punk-feminists, its activity is financed by a concerned businessman.
[i] Lobnoe mesto is an historical monument from the era of Ivan the Terrible situated on Red Square. It was the site of public executions (beheadings) from which its name is derived (lob in Russian means ‘forehead’).