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When five brightly balaclava’d members of the Pussy Riot collective climbed atop the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February 2012 to chant “Our Lady, Chase Putin Out!,” they became celebrities; five months later, when Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova answered the state’s charge of hooliganism, they became heroes. Their closing statements turned a show trial into The Death of Socrates. Samutsevich criticized the government’s exploitation of Orthodox symbols, Alyokhina lamented political apathy, and Tolokonnikova insisted that their action, which was sending them to prison, had really set them free. Accused of religious hatred, she offered spiritual wisdom. “A human being is a creature that is always in error, never perfect,” she said. “She quests for wisdom, but cannot possess it. I think that Christianity . . . supports the search for truth and a constant overcoming of oneself, the overcoming of what you were earlier.”

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