July 31, 2012 – Young, progressive Russians, who used to flee to other countries to get away from the brutal oppression of free speech and dissent by the government, are now deciding to stay and try and change things at home. Most notably is the women punk musician-activist band Pussy Riot that is challenging free speech restrictions by doing "actions". 3 members of the band were arrested in February of 2012 and are now on trial for singing an anti-Putin song at the cathedral of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church. They face charges of "hooliganism" and face up to 7 years in prison. Even their spouses are being attacked, such as the husband of one of the women arrested, Pyotr Verzilov, who had a Canadian passport when he was attending school in Toronto years ago and the Russian government flashed an image of his passport on TV and called it evidence that he and his wife are trying to "tear Russia apart". Read more on WashPo here, and also there is a good article about the trial on NBCNews.com here.
They are all part of a movement called "Voina", a group consisting of artists, musicians and others that stage provocative actions deliberately meant to test the boundaries of their freedoms and liberties, and challenge the government's authority. They call this "polical protest art"; and at least 20 criminal investigations have been launched against the group and its members. The government of Russia says the Art group VOINA, "is a left-wing radical anarchist collective whose central goal is to carry out PR actions directed against the authorities…" Check out the org's website and read about the many political prisoners in Russia consisting of journalists, artists and even regular activists trying to bring about progressive change in Russia on their website: http://en.free-voina.org/.
The trial has divided old Russia against the youth, and even spilled over to America as protesters held a rally in front of the Russian embassy here in Washington, DC on July 28, 2012 to protest what they see as government overreach and oppression of free speech. NME.com reports that many musicians have spoken out against the detention and prosecution of the women, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand. Check back because JTMP will be posting on this issue regularly, and will also have a video out soon. (photo credits: CC\Wiki)