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Of Pussy Riots and Patriarchs

Date Added: 12 September 2012
Does the relationship of the Orthodox Church to the Kremlin resemble that which the Spanish Church had with Franco?

The plight of the girls of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, sentenced to two years for a supposed act of hooliganism in staging an illegal performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, has attracted international sympathy, not least from Spain. (Although the Spanish Press does not give them the benefit of the doubt about the meaning of their name, which they translate as "revuelta de coño" where "coño" does not mean "moggy".)

Such sympathy is, in my opinion, appropriate when you consider that all they did was use the building for a legitimate purpose, namely to make a petitionary prayer with a pious object: to get rid of Putin.

As for the supposed hooliganism, there is a biblical precedent for riotous behaviour in a place of worship: namely Christ's expulsion of the money changers from Temple. By comparison, any disturbance caused by Pussy Riot was minimal; all they did, as I understand it, was put on a dumb show and add the sound later.

A question occurs to me: had it been performed in the style, not of punk rock, but of a Gregorian chant, would the case have been prosecuted?

How's this relevant to Spain? In El Pais Semanal of Sept 2nd 2012 Juan José Millás draws parallels between Putin's Russia and Spain. The article is accompanied by a photo of three girls in the dock, with one of them sporting a teashirt bearing the legend "No Pasarán", meaning "they shall not pass", the slogan of the Republicans defending Madrid during the Spanish Civil War.

This leads one to reflect that even if Señor Millás is indulging in rather extravagent hyperbole in likening Putin's Russia with modern Spain, similarities may be drawn with Spain's past, in particular the relationship of Church and State. It's been said that the "The Russian Orthodox church, which has long found itself in a symbiotic embrace with Mr Putin, has become a central pillar of legitimacy in this political struggle" ((the Economist, July 28th 2012). This is analagous to the Spanish Church's endorsement of the Nationalist Cause during the Civil War and its relationship with the subsequent Franco regime.

The Orthodox Church should probably take heed; I believe its fair to say that the Church in Spain has lost a certain amount of credibility as a result of endowing Franco with a patina of legitimacy by letting this murderous dictator pose as Defender of the Faith. Cosying up to temporal authority might give a Church a short term ascendency, but only while the said authority lasts.  And not even General Franco lasted forever.