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Will Russia’s Scrotum Revolt Join Pussy Riot in Prison?

 

Photo from Petr Pavlensky's May 2013 protest, "Carcass," YouTube screenshot.

Photo from Petr Pavlensky's May 2013 protest, “Carcass,” YouTube screenshot.

Petr Pavlensky, the Russian political artist who recently nailed his scrotum the pavement in Red Square, now faces [ru] the same “hooliganism” charges that were at the center of the infamous Pussy Riot trial in 2012. Accused of violating Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code [ru], “disturbing the peace on grounds of political, ideological, racist, ethnic, or religious hatred,” Pavlensky could spend the next seven years in prison.

In comments [ru] to the journal Snob.ru, Pavlensky said he is ready to go to jail, though he believes that officials haven’t yet made up their minds. Contrasting the prison sentence handed down to Pussy Riot with Alexey Navalny’s suspended sentence, Pavlensky argues that Russian law enforcement is unpredictable:

Я был готов к этому. Наша власть – аппарат насилия, другой она быть не может, и поэтому ожидать от нее можно чего угодно. Может быть и такое, что меня посадят. А может, через три часа МВД вынесет опровержение, что это утка. Мы видели, как закрывали Pussy Riot, и как выпускали Навального из зала суда. В любой момент может случиться поворот на 180 градусов.

I was ready for anything. Our authorities are an apparatus of violence. They can’t change this, therefore you can expect just about anything from them. Maybe they will put me in prison. Then again, maybe the Interior Ministry will refute the idea three hours later, saying it’s only gossip. We saw how they locked up Pussy Riot, and how they released Navalny. At any moment, there can be a 180-degrees turn.

Petr Verzilov, husband of Pussy Riot front woman Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, wrote on Twitter that the hooliganism charges against Pavlensky mark the beginning of something new:

Criminal charges for nailing your own balls to Red Square—this is an utterly new level of judicial hell in the country. Unbelievable.

A scene from Pussy Riot's infamous "punk prayer" in February 2012, YouTube screenshot.

A scene from Pussy Riot's infamous “punk prayer” in February 2012, YouTube screenshot.

While Pavlensky’s situation does represent a harsh application of the law against hooliganism, the charges against him are more familiar than Verzilov seems to recognize. Like Pussy Riot before him, Pavlensky justifies [ru] his act of public indecency as a political-artistic effort to draw attention to Russia’s social problems. When prosecutors cite Article 213, however, they allege that some form of hatred motivated the indecency. Indeed, the supposed presence of hatred is why crimes of this nature carry such heavy penalties.

But how does hate play a role in a man nailing his balls to a rock?

Nikolai Polozov, one of the lawyers who defended Pussy Riot’s members in their 2012 trial, ventured a guess about the function of hate in Pavlensky’s Red Square demonstration:

The artist who nailed his own scrotum to the pavement is being charged with hooliganism. Motivated by hatred toward his own genitals, I presume?

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