- Associated Press - Saturday, August 18, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) - Given how world famous Pussy Riot has become, people are sometimes surprised to learn that the entire oeuvre of the women’s punk band is made up of six songs and five videos.

Badly recorded, based on simple riffs and scream-like singing, the feminist singers were dismissed by many critics and listeners as amateur, provocative and obscene.

But the performance and release of each song’s video mirrored important steps in the rise of the opposition movement in Russia that protested Vladimir Putin’s return to power as president.

By Friday, when three members of the group were convicted of hooliganism for performing a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral in February to protest the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Putin, it was clear the group also has won support around the world, including from stars such as Madonna and Paul McCartney and Amnesty International.

The band consists of at least 10 members who always performed in balaclavas so the identities of only the three who were convicted are publicly known.

Here is a guide to Pussy Riot’s songs, including one released Friday just hours before the Moscow court sentenced those three members to two years in prison.

“RELEASE THE COBBLESTONES”

The group’s first song and video are released on Nov. 7 _ the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

A month earlier, Prime Minister Putin announces that he and his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, will swap jobs, giving Putin the top government post again. The announcement is followed by regional elections that the Kremlin’s United Russia party wins by a landslide. Observers and government critics cry fraud, and online protests soon become widespread street demonstrations.

The Pussy Riot song recommends that Russians protest the upcoming parliamentary elections _ and throw cobblestones during street protests because “ballots will be used as toilet paper,” the group said on its blog.

The song’s most quoted line says that “Egyptian air is healthy for your lungs/Turn Red Square into Tahrir” _ the focal point of Egypt’s uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The song’s video is compiled from footage of band members singing and twanging guitars from the top of subway and trolley cars. The blog says the group was formed after its members “understood that after the Arab Spring Russia lacks political and sexual liberation, boldness, a feminist whip and a woman president.” From the very start, the group’s members do not disclose their real names and sport their now trademark balaclavas and brightly colored miniskirts.

“KROPOTKIN VODKA”

Dedicated to Pyotr Kropotkin, a 19th-century Russian prince and one of the founders of anarchism, the song advocates the “toppling of the Kremlin bastards” and “Death to prison, freedom to protests.”

It is videotaped during the band’s unannounced performances in posh restaurants and boutiques, during which band members uses fire extinguishers to put out fires they have started.

The song’s video is released on Dec. 1 , three days before the parliamentary elections, which trigger the largest civil protests in Russia since the Soviet collapse.

“DEATH TO PRISON, FREEDOM TO PROTESTS “

The song is recorded in mid-December, days after the first anti-Putin protests break out. As many as 100,000 people turn out in the frigid cold for demonstrations demanding free elections, and the streets of Moscow ring with cries of “Russia Without Putin” and “Putin Is a Thief.”

The band performs the song on the roof of a pre-trial detention center where opposition leaders and activists are held.

“PROTESTS IN RUSSIA, PUTIN CHICKENED OUT”

The band’s breakthrough performance takes place in a part of Red Square where czarist Russia once announced government decrees. During the performance, eight Pussy Riot band members are briefly detained.

Reacting to such rallies, Putin promises to allow more political competition and to take steps to ensure the transparency of the upcoming presidential election. Medvedev proposes a law to restore the direct elections of governors.

“HOLY MARY, DRIVE PUTIN AWAY”

Before the now-historic stunt at Russia’s grandest Orthodox Cathedral that led to Friday’s conviction, band members try to play at Moscow’s Epiphany Church but are taken away by security guards. The 41-second performance at Christ the Savior, during which five band members high-kick, dance and kneel, whispering “Holy Mother, Drive Putin Away,” is interrupted by guards.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s initial response is mild. An outspoken cleric known for his liberal views calls it a “legal outrage” during Shrovetide week, when church tradition allows and even encourages carnival-like escapades and jokes.

But the band then releases the video with an actual song _ with screeching guitars and an angry chorus urging Holy Mary to become a feminist. The song also claims the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, venerates Putin instead of God.

“PUTIN SETS THE FIRES OF REVOLUTIONS”

Pussy Riot’s latest song is played Friday afternoon by one of the band members who had escaped arrest from the balcony of an apartment building that faces the Khamovniki court building in central Moscow where a judge was reading the verdict.

The balaclava-wearing young woman also throws out compact discs containing the song. Hours later, the band’s supporters dance to it near the court building _ before police push them away, detaining several people.

The song mocks Putin for his alleged cosmetic surgery and urges him to marry Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader of neighboring Belarus.

The chorus says: Russia “takes to the streets to say goodbye to the regime.”

Recent rallies have drawn smaller crowds than those in December, but polls have indicated that Putin’s popularity is dwindling during his government’s crackdown on its critics and the opposition.