the wordĺs worth: The Pussy Riot Act
Published: August 8, 2012 (Issue # 1721)
I have been reluctant toáwade intoáthe linguistic morass ofáthe Pussy Riot case mostly because Iĺm not aáspecialist ináreligious or legal terminology. But I finally gave ináto my curiosity andádecided toáread ţßÔŔÝŔ˛ňŰŘÝţň šÓŕŰ■¸ňÝŔň (indictment).
Half aápage intoáit, theálegal language was pretty clear, but my desk was covered with reference books onáchurch andáreligious terminology. If youĺre trying toáfollow theácase, it may be helpful toáunderstand aáfew ofáthe recurring terms.
First, where theáaction took place. Ináan Orthodox church, theáraised platform ináfront ofáthe iconostasis is ˝ţŰň (solea). Theásection ofáthe solea ináfront ofáthe royal doors is called ÓýÔţÝ (ambon).
Then, theácast ofáwitnesses: ╩Ű■¸ÓŘ (sacristan, ecclesiarch) is theáperson inácharge ofácaring foráthe church building andáits property. └Ű˛ÓÝŔŕ (altar server) is aálayperson that helps atáthe altar during theáservices. ĐÔň¸ÝŔ÷Ó is aáwoman selling candles.
Andánow foráthe big accusationsáŚ theáreligious ones, I mean. Three words andátheir derivatives pop out throughout theátext: CÔ ˛ţ˛Ó˛˝˛Ôţ, ßţŃţ§ˇŰŘ˝˛Ôţ andáŕţ¨ˇÝ˝˛Ôţ, all ofáwhich are translated as sacrilege, blasphemy, profanity or desecration. After cross-checking church translations andádipping intoápre-revolutionary law, I think I would translate ˝Ô ˛ţ˛Ó˛˝˛Ôţ as desecration, which involves some kind ofáviolation ofáchurch property. It was theáworst ofáthe pre-revolutionary Russian religious crimes andácarried theádeath penalty forácenturies. Iĺd translate ßţŃţ§ˇŰŘ˝˛Ôţ as blasphemy andáŕţ¨ˇÝ˝˛Ôţ as sacrilege.
This is important toáknow as you read theálegal documents because although theáaccusation is couched inálegal terms, theásupporting evidence is largely presented ináreligious terms.
Theáwomen are accused ofácommitting anáact ofá§ˇŰŔŃÓÝ˝˛Ôţ, ˛ţ ň˝˛Ř Ńˇßţň ÝÓˇ°ňÝŔň ţß¨ň˝˛ÔňÝÝţŃţ ´ţ ńŕÓ, ÔűÓŠÓ■¨ňň ÔÝţň ÝňˇÔÓŠňÝŔň ŕ ţß¨ň˝˛Ôˇ, ˝ţÔň°ŞÝÝţň ´ţ ýţ˛ŔÔÓý ňŰŔŃŔţšÝţÚ ÝňÝÓÔŔ˝˛Ŕ ŔŰŔ ÔÓŠńű ŰŔßţ ´ţ ýţ˛ŔÔÓý ÝňÝÓÔŔ˝˛Ŕ Ô ţ˛Ýţ°ňÝŔŔ ŕÓŕţÚ-ŰŔßţ ˝ţ÷ŔÓŰŘÝţÚ Ńˇ´´ű, Ńˇ´´ţÚ ŰŔ÷ ´ţ ´ňńÔÓŔ˛ňŰŘÝţýˇ ˝ŃţÔţˇ (hooliganism, that is, aágross violation ofápublic order expressing aáclear disrespect forásociety, committed onáthe grounds ofáreligious hatred or enmity or hate against aáparticular social group byáa group ofápersons byáprior agreement).
What did they do? According toáwitness testimony Ś which is exactly theásame, word foráword, page after page Ś their behavior was ôÝň´ţńţßÓ■¨ňň, Ó ˘Óŕ˛Ŕ¸ň˝ŕŔ ÝÓˇ°ÓŰţ Ô˝ň ýű˝ŰŔýűň Ŕ Ýňýű˝ŰŔýűň ţß¨ň´ŔÝ ˛űň ´ÓÔŔŰÓ ´ţÔňńňÝŔ Ô ŇÓýňö (unbefitting, andáin fact violated all imaginable andáunimaginable, commonly accepted rules ofábehavior ináa church). They put onáclothing ô ÔÝţ Ŕ ţ¸ňÔŔńÝţ ´ţ˛ŔÔţň¸Ó¨ˇ■ ţß¨Ŕý ÷ňŕţÔÝűý ´ÓÔŔŰÓýö (that clearly andáobviously contradicted church rules). Then they ôÝÓ¸ÓŰŔ ßň˝ţÔ˝ŕŔ ńűŃÓ˛Ř˝ , ´űŃÓ˛Ř, ˝ŕÓŕÓ˛Ř, šÓńŔÓ˛Ř Ôű˝ţŕţ ÝţŃŔ, ýţ˛Ó˛Ř ŃţŰţÔÓýŔ Ŕ ţńÝţÔňýňÝÝţ ˝ ř˛Ŕý ÔűŕŔŕŔÔÓŰŔ ţ¸ňÝŘ ţ˝ŕţßŔ˛ňŰŘÝűň, ßţŃţ§ˇŰŘÝűň ˝ŰţÔÓö (started toásatanically jerk around, jump, run, kick their legs up, twirl their heads while they shouted very insulting, blasphemous words).
According toáthe indictment, this led toáˇÝŔŠňÝŔň ¸ˇÔ˝˛Ô Ŕ ÔňţÔÓÝŔÚ ýÝţŃţ¸Ŕ˝ŰňÝÝű§ ´ŔÔňŠňÝ÷ňÔ ´ÓÔţ˝ŰÓÔÝţŃţ §Ŕ˝˛ŔÓÝ˝ŕţŃţ ÔňţŔ˝´ţÔňńÓÝŔ Ŕ ˇýÓŰňÝŔň ńˇ§ţÔÝţÚ ţ˝ÝţÔű Ńţ˝ˇńÓ˝˛ÔÓ (a violation ofáthe feelings andáfaith ofámany Orthodox Christians andáa defilement ofáthe spiritual basis ofáthe state).
After reading theáindictment andáfollowing theátrial, Iĺve come toáthe conclusion that theáspiritual basis ofáthe state may indeed have been defiled, but not byáPussy Riot.
Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of ôThe Russian Wordĺs Worthö (Glas), a collection of her columns.