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Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk-rock collective based in Moscow. Founded in August 2011, it has a variable membership of approximately 11 women ranging in age from about 20 to 33, who wear brightly colored balaclavas and use only nicknames during interviews. They stage unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which are edited into music videos and posted on the Internet. Their lyrical themes include feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they regard as a dictator, and links between the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin.


Their costumes are usually brightly colored dresses and tights, even in bitterly cold weather, with their faces masked by balaclavas, both while performing and during interviews. During interviews they use nicknames such as "Balaclava", "Cat", "Seraph", "Terminator", and "Blondie". In an interview with Gazeta.ru, a band member described their two-minute concerts as performance art, creating images of "pure protest, saying: super heroes in balaclavas and acid bright tights seize public space in Moscow." Another band member, who goes by the pseudonym Garadzha, told the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper that the group is open to women recruits with limited musical talents. She said: "You don't have to sing very well. It's punk. You just scream a lot."


The group cites punk rock and Oi! bands Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects, Sham 69 and The 4-Skins as their main musical influences. The band also cite American punk rock band Bikini Kill, Karen Finley and the Riot grrrl movement of the 1990s as inspirations.


Tolokonnikova, her husband Pyotr Verzilov, and Samutsevich were all members of the anarchist art collective "Voina" from the group's early days in 2007, until an acrimonious split in 2009. Following the split, they formed a separate Moscow-based group, also named "Voina", saying that they had as much right to use this name as Voina founder Oleg Vorotnikov. Pussy Riot is usually considered to be an offshoot of the "Moscow faction" of Voina.


On February 21, 2012, five members of the group staged a performance on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video entitled "Punk Prayer - Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!" The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader's support for Putin during his election campaign.


On March 3, two of the group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested and charged with hooliganism. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was arrested on March 16. Denied bail, they were held in custody until their trial began in late July. On August 17, 2012, the three members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and each was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Two other members of the group, who escaped arrest after February's protest, reportedly left Russia fearing prosecution. On October 10, following an appeal, Samutsevich was freed on probation, her sentence suspended. The sentences of the other two women were upheld. In late October 2012, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were separated and sent to prison.


The trial and sentence attracted considerable criticism, particularly in the West. The case was adopted by human rights groups including Amnesty International, which designated the women prisoners of conscience, and by a wide range of musicians including Madonna, Sting, and Yoko Ono. Public opinion in Russia was generally less sympathetic towards the women. Putin stated that the band had "undermined the moral foundations" of the nation and "got what they asked for." Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he did not think the three members of Pussy Riot should have been sent to jail, but stressed that the release of the remaining two imprisoned members was a matter for the courts.


Source: Wikipedia