According to several aging Russian hippies, bootlegged copies of The Beatles music had as much to do with the downfall of the Soviet Union as any politician or political movement.
The songs of the Beatles - banned by the Soviet leadership in the 1960's - permeated an underground Russian youth culture so thoroughly, that by the time that generation reached maturity in the 1980's, a majority of Russian society had little or no stomach left for Soviet ideology.
They were over it. Art - in the form of music - had enlightened them in ways beyond what even John, Paul, George, or Ringo could have intended.
Art and creativity can do that. It can change the way entire generations think.
'The Soviet Union' is a historical relic now. In its place are Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and several other smaller independent countries.
Russia is currrently ruled by one Vladimir Putin, and his hold on power is so absolute that you can be arrested for criticizing his policies.
This is what happened to performance-art-feminist-punk-band Pussy Riot.
In February, earlier this year, they staged what has been called a flash-mob-style invasion of a Russian Orthodox church and performed their "Punk Prayer," before being arrested.
They have been found guilty of disrupting public order, and hooliganism (I thought you had to be involved in a drunken fight outside a soccer game to be convicted of hooliganism). Two of the band members have managed to flee the country, and one saw her conviction dropped (because she was actually arrested BEFORE she had a chance to perform the offending song). Two members of Pussy Riot remain in prison, sent to what are described as 'penal colonies.'
I and many of my friends identify, in one discipline or another, as "Artists." For the most part we only have to worry about superficial things; Am I making a living at this or do I have to get a day job? Will I get the Million-dollar contract or do I have to settle for something smaller?
It's easy to lose sight of deeper issues.
There are no more courageous Artists in this world right now than the five members of Pussy Riot.
Earlier today I joined Amnesty International. I had been thinking about it for some time.
The recent Presidential campaigns in the U.S. left me feeling a little, shall we say, UNDERNOURISHED, regarding the issues that actually seem to matter.
But this is not about living in one country as opposed to another. We are a planetary family. What happens to an Artist in Russia affects us all.
November 14, 2012