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the words worth: The Pussy Riot Act

Published: August 8, 2012 (Issue # 1721)


: blasphemy

I have been reluctant towade intothe linguistic morass ofthe Pussy Riot case mostly because Im not aspecialist inreligious or legal terminology. But I finally gave into my curiosity anddecided toread (indictment).

Half apage intoit, thelegal language was pretty clear, but my desk was covered with reference books onchurch andreligious terminology. If youre trying tofollow thecase, it may be helpful tounderstand afew ofthe recurring terms.

First, where theaction took place. Inan Orthodox church, theraised platform infront ofthe iconostasis is (solea). Thesection ofthe solea infront ofthe royal doors is called (ambon).

Then, thecast ofwitnesses: (sacristan, ecclesiarch) is theperson incharge ofcaring forthe church building andits property. (altar server) is alayperson that helps atthe altar during theservices. is awoman selling candles.

Andnow forthe big accusations thereligious ones, I mean. Three words andtheir derivatives pop out throughout thetext: C, and, all ofwhich are translated as sacrilege, blasphemy, profanity or desecration. After cross-checking church translations anddipping intopre-revolutionary law, I think I would translate as desecration, which involves some kind ofviolation ofchurch property. It was theworst ofthe pre-revolutionary Russian religious crimes andcarried thedeath penalty forcenturies. Id translate as blasphemy and as sacrilege.

This is important toknow as you read thelegal documents because although theaccusation is couched inlegal terms, thesupporting evidence is largely presented inreligious terms.

Thewomen are accused ofcommitting anact of, , , - , (hooliganism, that is, agross violation ofpublic order expressing aclear disrespect forsociety, committed onthe grounds ofreligious hatred or enmity or hate against aparticular social group bya group ofpersons byprior agreement).

What did they do? According towitness testimony which is exactly thesame, word forword, page after page their behavior was , (unbefitting, andin fact violated all imaginable andunimaginable, commonly accepted rules ofbehavior ina church). They put onclothing (that clearly andobviously contradicted church rules). Then they , , , , , (started tosatanically jerk around, jump, run, kick their legs up, twirl their heads while they shouted very insulting, blasphemous words).

According tothe indictment, this led to (a violation ofthe feelings andfaith ofmany Orthodox Christians anda defilement ofthe spiritual basis ofthe state).

After reading theindictment andfollowing thetrial, Ive come tothe conclusion that thespiritual basis ofthe state may indeed have been defiled, but not byPussy Riot.

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of The Russian Words Worth (Glas), a collection of her columns.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.







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