Support our riot grrl comrades in Mother Russia

Their name: Pussy Riot.

Their job: Save rock 'n' roll and, perhaps, the world.

Pussy Riot is Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina. These riot grrls are locked in a Russian jail cell as they await sentencing for bursting into a Moscow church and lip-syncing a "punk prayer."

For this, Pussy Riot faces a possible seven-year prison sentence. While I've never traveled in Mother Russia, I'm just going to assume its prison system is not the place to spend the remainder of your 20s and a good chunk of your 30s.

The Pussy Riot saga began in March on the steps of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. This Russian Orthodox behemoth sits just a few block from the Kremlin and has been featured in several Nelson DeMille and Bob Ludlum novels.

According to thousands of media reports, our grrls barged into the church wearing brightly colored ski masks, kicking and dancing while singing, "Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away. Put Putin away, put Putin away."

This most punk of protests was aimed at the Orthodox Church's unveiled support of Putin's regime.

(A quick word on Mr. Putin. To anyone who writes off the ugly stereotypes of Cold War-era Russian villains in the '80s cinema of Arnold, Dolph, Norris and Sly, well, I present to you Vlady Putin. I mean, you couldn't cast a better guy to play the sweaty, cold-eyed, soulless embodiment of militant communism than Putin. If fact, I think Putin modeled himself after the portrayals of Soviet evil as seen in such classics as "Red Dawn," "Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Braddock: Missing in Action III." And why wouldn't he? It's like those reports I've heard of real-life mobsters in New Jersey looking to "Goodfellas" and "The Godfather" for inspiration. If you're going to live a life of bloody nihilism, might as well do it in style.)

The New York Times reports that Pussy Riot is a feminist punk-rock collective that has engaged in this sort of activity throughout Russia. They picked up steam and millions of Internet hits during last winter's anti-Putin protests.

Whenever Putin isn't oiling himself up for a judo match or trolling for Russian rhythmic dancers half his age, he apparently finds time to check out YouTube.

He must have seen Pussy Riot doing punk-rocky things amid the protests and thought, "Women? Punk rock? Masks? Not in my Russia, by God."

Anyway, the protests died out when the Russian people realized democracy has about as much chance of catching hold in Putinland as the Russian basketball team has of beating Team USA in these Olympics. They all went home to sip vodka and watch state-sponsored ballet on television.

But not Pussy Riot. The street protests were just a precursor to the hooliganism they had in mind. Then the church caper went down, and here we are.

I'm pulling for Pussy Riot to beat the rap, which is looking more and more likely. Putin himself, perhaps bowing to world sentiment that his regime is being particularly buttholish on this one, has stated that the court should seek a lenient sentence.

My respect for Pussy Riot grows as I think about the state of protest punk rock in the United States. Does it even exist?

The last punk shows I attended were depressing cries of suburban navel-gazing. I checked out.

Pussy Riot is the best kind of protest music because they even out the politics with a dose of humor. I just watched close to an hour of Pussy Riot videos on YouTube and was struck by how funny they are. Where is that in our protest/punk music?

To be sure, there remains a strong bastion of true political and social subversion in pockets of hip-hop, which is why my iPod finds itself on rappers such as Immortal Technique and The Roots these days.

Last weekend my friend G$ and I were discussing Pussy Riot over beers. He made the point that what Pussy Riot did at that time and place in Russia is the most punk-rock thing in history.

It took me less than one second to agree.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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