When journalist Arkady Mamontov aired his television exposé on Pussy Riot last week, the central question was who was behind their riotous performance? Mamontov’s investigation yielded two culprits: oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, and “some Americans” who hired Pussy Riot and choreographed their act in order to corrupt the souls of Russian youth. Mamontov didn’t need to spell out who those Americans were; everyone watching got the message anyway.
MOSCOW—Last summer, Russian president Vladimir Putin, who was then still technically prime minister, put on a wetsuit and diving gear, and dove into the Black Sea, where he stumbled upon an ancient urn. It was the beginning of the end for Putin, image-wise. His previous stunts—personally putting out forest fires, tagging whales with a crossbow—were ridiculous, yes, but his deep sea discovery smacked especially of a light insanity. It didn’t help when Putin’s press secretary flippantly admitted the obvious: The urn had been planted.
On July 26, the heads of two of the most famous human rights groups in Russia sent President Barack Obama an open letter with a pressing issue: were they, or were they not his spies? It was a strange move, but also quite a clever one. In May, in the last week of its session, the Russian parliament kicked into overdrive and passed a raft of measures widely seen as trying to pull the rug out from under the increasingly vocal and increasingly numerous opposition.
MOSCOW—Yesterday afternoon, two women—a mother and her 38-year-old daughter—were found stabbed to death in the southeastern city of Kazan. By the time the news reached Moscow this morning, it arrived with a new bit of information: someone had scrawled “Free Pussy Riot” on the hallway wall. In blood. It’s not clear who did this—or, more significantly, why—but two weeks after the three young women of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for singing a “punk prayer” in the main church of the capital, the story continues to roil Russian society.
On the morning of February 21, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich walked up the steps leading to the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, shed their winter clothing, pulled colorful winter hats down over their faces, and jumped around punching and kicking for about thirty seconds. By evening, the three young women had turned it into a music video called “Punk Prayer: Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” which mocked the patriarch and Putin.
IT’S A BREEZY Moscow night, and Maria Baronova has moved on from tea and tom-yam to prosecco. Sitting on the terrace of a bar overlooking the Moscow River, she fishes around in her messy leather purse and shows me the court document charging her with inciting mass riots. “As you can see, I’m the organizer of an intergalactic revolution,” she scoffs and lights another menthol cigarette.
Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. ALONZO KING is not a celebrity. He is virtually unknown outside the dance world, and even to insiders he is something of an outsider, a choreographer-monk working away with a small troupe of devoted dancers in San Francisco. It is not that his work has gone unrecognized: he has won dozens of awards and made ballets for companies as diverse as the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and the Royal Swedish Ballet.
In 1975 I left the burning city of Beirut for the quiet insanity of England. To say that short, frail and wispy, 15-year-old me didn’t fit in would be such an understatement as to be a joke. I stuck out more in an English public school than I would have had I marched in a May Day parade with the Red Army in Moscow, or sashayed the Yves St Laurent catwalk with supermodels, or hunted seals with the Inuit, or—well, you get the idea. I spent most of the time pretending that I wasn’t worried about my family back in a war zone, desperately feigning nonchalance.