Three young woman from a Russian punk band have been found guilty of “hooliganism” and sentenced to two years in prison after a controversial trial in Russia.
In February of this year, “Pussy Riot” staged a protest against Vladamir Putin in a Roman Catholic church in Russia. Three members of the band were incarcerated as they awaited trial. This week, a Moscow judge found the band guilty of hooliganism, stating that the women were motivated by religious hatred and that they displayed disrespect to Christians. What exactly is hooliganism? According to Russia’s penal code, hooliganism is “any deliberate behavior that violates public order and expresses explicit disrespect toward society“.
Supporters of the band have been protesting the trial for months, saying that the charges were a violation of free speech. The women in the band have said all along that their motivation was political in nature. Many people feel that this trial is symbolic of Putin’s intolerance of those who speak up against his government. Prior to the sentencing, several celebrities, including Madonna and Paul McCartney, recommended that the women be released.
Do you enjoy using authentic materials in the classroom? Share a paragraph or two from an article about this story with your high or advanced level students (paraphrase the story for lower levels). Try, We are all Hooligans or this one from the Huffington Post. The BBC also has an article: Pussy Riot members jailed for two years for hooliganism, and the Global Post defines “hooliganism” here. Here are some questions to get your students talking about this issue:
- Do you agree with the judge’s ruling? Why or why not?
- Reporters suggest that the women are unlikely to ask for a pardon from Vladimir Putin. Why won’t they?
- Many protests have taken place around the world. Do you think these protests will gain momentum, or will this case soon be forgotten?
- What is a “hooligan”? See Russia’s definition of a hooligan here. What are some examples of hooliganism?
- The judge stated that “considering the nature and degree of the danger posed by what was done, the defendants’ correction is possible only through an actual punishment.” Would you classify the band’s behavior as dangerous?
- Do you agree or disagree with the musician’s statement below?
“I am an opinionated person and I want to challenge the world I live in and challenge the governemt if I don’t agree with them.” Kate Nash for the BBC News
Related in the ESL-Library
If you are looking for a related ready-made lesson plan to use in your English classroom, please try our Famous People lesson plan on Vladimir Putin. This lesson includes warm up questions, a reading, comprehension questions, vocabulary review and discussion questions. You could also try our Discussion Starters lesson plan on Censorship or our popular lesson plan on Protests.