Pussy Riot

Looking Beyond the Economy

The arrest of the protest punk band Pussy Riot in March 2012 and the subsequent prosecution of three band members pose a significant puzzle for political science. Although Pussy Riot’s performances presented a coherent alternative to the Putin regime’s image of Russian reality, it was unlikely that the discordant music and crude lyrics of their art protest would inspire Russian society to take to the streets. Yet, the regime mounted a very visible prosecution against the three young women. We argue that the trial marked a shift in the Kremlin’s strategy to shape state–society relations. In the face of declining economic conditions and social unrest, the PR trial encapsulated the Kremlin’s renewed focus on three related mechanisms to ensure social support: coercion, alliance building, and symbolic politics. The PR trial afforded the Kremlin an important opportunity to simultaneously redefine its loyal constituency, secure the Church-state relationship, and stigmatize the opposition.

Looking Beyond the Economy: Pussy Riot and the Kremlin’s Voting Coalition. Post-Soviet Affairs. 2014. Vol. 30. No. 4. P. 257-275 (Regina Smyth & Irina Soboleva) [SSRN]

Featured Image: Pussy Riot Action.