The Priest Who Defeated Pussy Riot
The sentence and verdict against the feminist punk band is further evidence of the dangerous erosion of Russia’s constitutional separation of church and state
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin speaks during a rally in support of Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill in Moscow on July 22, 2012. MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS
Long before the punk band Pussy Riot was formed last fall, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a senior clergyman of the Orthodox Church, had made himself an icon for conservative Russian values, sort of like what you might get if Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson squeezed into the cassock of an Orthodox priest. In 2010, while campaigning for a nationwide “dress code,” he proclaimed that women who wear revealing outfits are guilty of inciting rape. He later lobbied for legislation to ban Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel Lolita, and suggested that all Russian intellectuals should be condemned for the “sin of Russophobia.” Such pronouncements always made plenty of noise in the Russian press but, outside the tiny demographic of czarists and Orthodox fundamentalists, they were usually dismissed as the ramblings of a radical on the fringes of the Russian culture wars. That was, at least, until the case against Pussy Riot revealed how far the government has shifted in Chaplin’s direction.
On Friday, a district court in Moscow sentenced three members of that feminist punk band - founded on opposition to the rule of President Vladimir Putin — to two years in prison on charges that amount to blasphemy.