Pussy Riot: The new voice for freedom in Russia?

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has gradually worked to roll back democratic reforms which came to Russia after the fall of communism two decades ago. Muzzling news media outlets, jailing opponents and arm-twisting elections have all borne fruit, allowing him to consolidate power.

It seems ironic that the most visible challenge to Putin's rule has come from the female punk band Pussy Riot. The band, best known for wearing bright outfits including masks in neon colors, has become known for outrageous performances with songs often challenging Putin's regime.

Arrested in February for a guerrilla protest performance in a Moscow church, the band has garnered an international following, including numerous music performers, including Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Faith No More, who have called for their release and for greater freedom of expression in Russia.

While it may seem unlikely that Putin's biggest threat would be from a punk band of young females, it's important to recall the damage done to the Soviet empire by a Polish shipyard worker named Lech Walesa who became the leader of a nationwide Polish protest movement against communism.

Sometimes it's the little guys who do the most to undermine dictators. Thus Pussy Riot is worth watching in the weeks and months ahead.

The Putin government would be wise to handle the band members lightly and heed their message for the renewal of democratic reforms in Russia - or risk fueling the band's ever-growing national and international following.

Here's a YouTube clip of the band performing, including footage from their attempted protest performance of "Virgin Mother of God, put Putin away":


... and another from an outdoor performance.

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