Pussy Riot are free, but the beast lives on

Anastasiia Fedorova on the regime that deigns to free those it should never have locked up

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It's true, Pussy Riot members are free. Yesterday, the Russian parliament passed a Putin-backed amnesty law which covers Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, members of the Greenpeace Arctic 30 and four Moscow protesters from May 2012. Seems like we should all be happy. But this justice, like their trials, is fake. Putin's PR move just exposed the insides of the corrupt system. The innocent are forgiven for non-existent crimes. Those who should never have been jailed are free. Today's Russia can sometimes go from Kafka to Orwell to Monty Python; with the upcoming Olympics promising to become the triumphant high-budget fail of the century. And Pussy Riot, jailed or free, are crucial figures in Russian's struggle for freedom and human rights. 

Pussy Riot were the end of an era. The mid-2000s in Russia was a happy time. We were all young or growing up, discovering the pleasures of the world, faster internet, first iPods, new magazines and beautiful clothes. On the weekends I remember dancing with my friends to nu rave and spilling vodka-grenadine cocktails on each other. None of us were concerned with politics. Not until we suddenly ended up in a sickeningly conservative country. 

Your life is just dust to them, and can be taken at any moment. Tomorrow there might be a sentence for you; and a week later, an amnesty. All up to the dark creature's mind. 

Out of the darkness they appeared on the Red Square, wearing bright coloured-balaclavas and shouting "Putin Zassal" (“Putin pisses himself from fear”). Then the legendary “Punk Prayer”, which took place on the 21 February 2012 at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Pussy Riot rocketed into history and martyr superstardom. They were a splash of colour over traditional Orthodox Church gold, with the chorus “Mother of God, Chase Putin Away” later added to the video. 

What exactly did they do wrong?”, their lawyer demanded to know during the trial. “They didn't pray the right way or were crossing themselves too fast?” Fat orthodox priests and the silent conservative majority saw the perfect enemy: women, artists, rebels, and blasphemers. Pussy Riot attacked the very heart of Putin's kingdom, a million-pound golden cake, now known worldwide ironically enough as The Pussy Riot Church. As all Muscovites know, there is a luxury car wash in the cathedral's basement and a Vertu phone concession for corporate clients. It was a personal offence against Putin. So they had to be punished. 

Remember when Hunter S Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” wrote about the forces of Old and Evil? This is the perfect description for the ones ruling Russia now. They don't feel the need to pretend or justify themselves. For a peaceful protest, two Pussy Riot members were sent to prison camps. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to one of the worst ones in Mordovia. She described the slave-like prison conditions in horrifying detail in an open letter. This autumn, Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike and exchanged letters with celebrity philosopher Slavoj Zizek as the international outcry was getting loud enough to reach the skies but, until now, not the Kremlin's ears. 

Living in Russia can feel strange sometimes. Believe me, we are the same as you. We have the same fun, read the same books. We kiss and make plans for the future and we can even shop at ASOS. In spite of all the anti-gay legislation, Moscow still has great LGBT parties. But sometimes you feel a shadow over you. It is your state that is the enemy. And you feel yourself small, and scared. Your life is just dust to them, and can be taken at any moment. Our state is not even a machine – as it doesn't really work properly. Rather it's a big dark creature. Tomorrow there might be a sentence for you; and a week later, an amnesty. it's all up to the dark creature's mind. 

But when I think of the activists about to be freed, I feel incredibly happy for them. The reason for their freedom is not Putin, but everyone who spoke out, from Amnesty International to Courtney Love to the Oscar committee to every single protester on the streets. The best thing we can do is to kill this feeling of being small, weak and hopeless against the system. Just like they did. 

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