Riot in the temple
Why would a Christian festival host Russia’s most notorious troublemakers? Stephen Tomkins finds out
On 21 February 2012, members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot staged a shocking demonstration in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Wearing coloured balaclavas, over raucous guitars, they attacked the Church and the government, shouting lyrics that many considered blasphemous. Three were arrested, found guilty of inciting religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison camps.
On 26 August 2018, Pussy Riot performed on the mainstage at the UK Christian festival Greenbelt, and took part in the programme throughout the weekend. The same balaclavas, the same shouted lyrics, the same impassioned protest. They weren’t jailed this time, but they were subjected to questions by the religious media, including Reform. It was surprise booking which raised some eyebrows. What were such controversial troublemakers doing at a Christian festival?
Maria Alyokhina, who fronts the band and wrote the book Riot Days about her protest and prison term, is a Christian who says: ‘The New Testament is the most important book in my life.’ Last year, she was arrested for reciting the Beatitudes, with an Orthodox activist, outside the Russian Ministry of Justice. She says she likes to go to church regularly, but is invariably recognised and kicked out…
Stephen Tomkins is Editor of Reform. Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina was first published by Allen Lane in 2017
This is an extract from an article that was published in the October 2018 edition of Reform