Published: October 10, 2012 (Issue # 1730)
The Russian language is believed to be rich and highly nuanced.
This made foreign journalists think hard about how to translate the word dvushechka, used by President Vladimir Putin in reference to the two-year sentences the imprisoned women of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot were given in August for an anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral.
“The whole case ended up in court and the judge slipped them a dvushechka,” Putin said when interviewed for his 60th birthday television special, which aired Sunday.
Dvushechka sounds like a vulgar diminutive of “two,” and so news agency Agence France-Presse translated it as “a little two,” while the Associated Press news agency chose to avoid the subtleties and translated the word as a plain “two years.”
This is a pity because the Russian word says a lot about the person who uses it. It sounds loutish, somewhat tender and almost lustful, giving the idea that a man who has it in his vocabulary has certain power, finds nearly sexual pleasure in imposing it on those who cannot defend themselves and does not care about what others think about it.
In classic Russian literature, diminutives are frequently used by the most repulsive characters.
Using the word about prison terms for anybody — even if it were not young women, two of whom have young children — suggests an evil background and evil frame of mind.
After dropping his dvushechka, Putin, however, was quick to remark, “I have nothing to do with it.”
According to Putin, Pussy Riot’s performance was not political, but pure hooliganism, for which they “got what they asked for.”
If anybody had any doubts about his direct involvement, now they should not.
Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were arrested March 3, while Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was arrested March 16. The three have been held in a Moscow detention center since then.
Their crime consisted of entering the church, when there was no service being held, and trying to videotape a music performance, which was stopped by the church’s guards after less than 60 seconds.
Like Pussy Riot’s other performances, it was directed against Putin and was called “Holy Mother of God, Drive Putin Away.”
Putin expressed his satisfaction about the verdict three days before a postponed appeal hearing, due Wednesday, Oct. 10. The women’s defense said it sees his words as applying pressure on the court.
But quite frankly, an official of such stature has many other, more discreet ways to give orders to the court than via television.
A number of protests are planned around the world Wednesday, but not in St. Petersburg, where a rally was held Oct. 1. Check Pussy Riot’s support websites for times and locations.