November 2nd, 2023
Normal Russian Due Process or Absurdist Theatre?
The court in Russia tried to arrest me (again) today. As usually happens, my phone buzzes and someone sends me a link to a telegram post or some article that some new development on my criminal case has come to pass.
I’m writing this blog in case people have curiosity about the absurdity of the inner workings of the corrupt russian “justice” system. Those in the west have surely heard of Brittney Griner, or perhaps seen the documentation of Alexei Navalny. But they probably haven’t heard of the long list of my friends and family those brave enough to stand for actual justice – supporting Ukraine, resisting the war, and the war crimes committed under the russian flag.
I live in this world, so i can help to explain from my pov. Of course the bigger picture remains – military and humanitarian support to ukraine, sanctions against oligarchs and loyalists – these are paramount. For a few of us, this absurd dance of the russian court system is just our reality – no shock, it just exists. It is almost something to joke about – we send each other cat memes and flowers when we get new criminal cases. A mix of gallows humor, but more a mocking of how stupid and full of shit these people can be. Funny, until it is not, the faces of my friends in those glass cages, some sort of awful Zizekian wakeup from the nightmare, into the far worse nightmare of reality.
I was added to the “most wanted list” in March of 2023 – once again, news of this arriving to me on various telegram, whatsapp, signal messages notifications – a bit more than normal on that day in March.
What was my crime?
Did i dance in a church? Did i expose my shoulders? No – this time it was a bit more vague – I “hurt the feelings of religious believers”. The double irony that Russia (a traditionally atheist state – remember all the propaganda you heard about the godless soviets?), russia didn’t have a law for this … that is up until after our trial in 2012.
In 2012, they wanted to charge me with blasphemy or something along those lines, but no law existed, so we were charged officially with “hooliganism” – and i was sent to mordovia labor camps, those same ones you saw on the news when Brittney Griner was in jail. The green paint and uniforms, the bandanas, the all women’s prison – forced to sew uniforms for cops and troops. After our case, the russian court system came up with a new law, Article 148 – hurting the religious feelings of others, casually known as the “pussy riot law”.
So now, 2023, they charge me with my own namesake, for a double dose of absurdity.
They cited various social media posts, some artwork.
Mama they say im a …extremist , what?
A few weeks later, in april, russia designated all feminists as extremists. Of course, none of this is surprising or shocking in any way… with the constant barrage of attacks on Ukrainian civilians, not being allowed to call the war what it is, a war, the moral bankruptcy of russian officials is no surprise.
But why feminism? The soviet history of feminism is actually not so bad – we had abortion, we didnt have religious zealots protesting outside of clinics, mothers were in charge of the budgets of the family, women worked in positions of power. So why now? Putin has simply adopted the western ideology of the “right”- he might as well be in florida – macho man on horse, no tolerance for gay and trans people, the coupling of church and state.
One of the few things in the court papers that stuck out to me – my repeating the chorus from Punk Prayer, “virgin mary, become a feminist” and an image of the virgin mary, resembling the anatomy of female sexual organs – my crime.
We’ve seen the russian courts prosecute children’s parents for their crayon drawings, so at least we can say they are consistent in their absurdity. Which brings us to now…
Arrest in Absentia
Russia does a strange thing – they hold court hearings when their defendant is not present. I was not in court today, some no doubt familiar face of that russian stooge, full from guzzling his or her propaganda every day in massive quantities, that familiar face, the dead eyes, the fake pearl clutching, the smell of, as ukrainians say “orc”… im sure pleaded the case to the court – why they should place my phantom under arrest.
They do this all the time – earlier this month journalist Marina Ovsyannikova was sentenced in absentia. Before that, the father of my child, Petya Verzilov, was also placed “under arrest” in absentia. They also use this against Ukrainians – notably Defence Intelligence Chief, Kyrylo Budanov in April 2023, who reacted “I am pleased”.
They do this because it erases any due process. If they ever catch me they don’t need to fret over the pesky formalities – go directly to jail, do not pass go, we already arrested you, straight to the hole.
Theatre of the Absurd
In the great lineage of Becket, Arthur Adamov, or the pacing of Kafka – we come to the real artists here – the russian mental gymnasts – who convince themselves that they have a system of checks and balances. The wink wink nudge nudge veneer of “order” and “democracy” like the elections and polls we see.
“Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime” the widely known quote from the stalinist Beria.
For whatever reason, the court rejected the Investigative committee’s request to “arrest” me. This doesn’t mean much substantially, they did the same thing to Petya, and “arrested” him later in absentia. They will likely bring this case again…
I don’t tell the world where I am , for safety, but also for artistic agency – but for now, at least I can say “I” (nor my phantom) are sitting behind bars in russian prison.
And for the guards and investigative committee, who continue to be cogs in a horrible wheel of absurd tragedy, no arrest needed today, no booking for me or my phantom, you can gobble your norm now, you don’t even have to drag it home.