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The Daily Vertical: When It All Began (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Five years ago today, two women were arrested in Moscow for misbehaving in church.

A third accomplice was picked up a couple weeks later.

The arrests of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich half a decade ago didn't just mark the start of the famous Pussy Riot case -- a spectacle that captivated Russia and much of the world in the spring and summer of 2012.

Those arrests five years ago also marked the beginning of an era.

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An era when Russian citizens could be prosecuted for blasphemy.

An era when liking a Facebook post that the Kremlin didn't like could land one in prison.

And era when charitable organizations would be slandered as foreign agents.

An era when support for so-called traditional values became a weapon to bludgeon opponents.

An era when sexual minorities were persecuted and forced deeper into the shadows.

An era when questioning authority became synonymous with extremism.

An era of enforced patriotism and zero tolerance for dissent.

Five years ago, the first post-Soviet generation was coming of age, and seemed eager to join the world.

Five years ago, Russian civil society seemed to be awakening and finding its voice.

But that voice would soon be silenced by Vladimir Putin's big chill.

And it all began when two women were arrested in Moscow for misbehaving in church.

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