President of the American University in Moscow Professor of World Politics at Moscow State University
If I remember rightly, the words "Russia, you’ve gone crazy” were uttered by literary critic Yuri Karyakin when Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democrats made stupendous gains in the 1993 parliamentary election.
The European Parliament’s nomination of the Pussy Riot punk group for the Sakharov Award makes one want to use Karyakin’s quip about Europe. By their whole-hearted support for the move European Parliament member Werner Schultz and his colleagues have done a lot of harm, above all to the authority of the European Parliament itself. Moreover, they insulted the memory of Andrei Sakharov, of Soviet dissidents who fought against communism, and of the earlier winners of this award.
This is not about the fairness or unfairness of the court ruling on the penalty for the punk group. Europe has other tools – like, say, the European Court of Justice - for supporting prisoners. But using the name of Sakharov to encourage characters who practice group copulation in public places and yell obscenities in a church while doing a dance best suited for a brothel is sheer blasphemy hardly less unseemly than the acts themselves.
When theSnobmagazine named the punk group Art Project of the Year, or some obscure art experts nominated it for the Kandinsky Prize, one could shrug it off – weirdos will be weirdos. However, what came afterward was already quite different from that schizophrenic exercise in the absurd.
Certain individuals and whole media outlets, including in the West, have already raised the depraved punks’ "literary style” and content to the level of Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky. Now the time has apparently come to sully Sakharov’s name, too.
Meanwhile, if the Pussy Riot hussies have to be nominated for any sort of prize, the most suitable in my view would be the Lenin or Stalin Awards. After all, it was on their orders that thousands upon thousands of churches were pulled down or converted into warehouses or cowsheds. It was Joseph Stalin who gave orders to blast out of existence the very Christ the Savior Cathedral where the would-be Sakharov Award winners committed their outrage.
This is probably too much to expect from the likes of Werner Schulz but other parliament deputies have a more adequate vision of reality. For example, Knut Fleckenstein, head of the European Parliament’s delegation for links with Russia, has already expressed his indignation regarding Werner’s move.
My intuition tells me that among the different factions in this Parliament there will be more Fleckenstein rather than Werner followersbut whether this is true or not we will find out very soon.