John, you correctly note that far too many people have overlooked the details of the reasoning (apart from the crude shock value that has been a trademark both of their protests and of those organized by the Voina collective from which they emerged) that led the three women to choose Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior as the site of their nano-performance.
That said, I don’t think that it is quite right to talk about the “oppression” of the Russian Orthodox Church. What has happened is that the church (or at the very least its leadership) has been corrupted (as you recognize) and co-opted; oppression, perhaps, but of a subtle variety. The corruption, by contrast, appears at times to have been almost comically literal.
The co-option of the church is a rather more complex matter. It has, of course, involved the penetration of the church by the security services, a dismal practice that dates back to the Soviet era, but it also harks back to an earlier tradition under which the Russian Orthodox church was an expression of nation and, to the extent that the two were divisible, throne (I touched on this here). It was this to which one of the defendants (Yekaterina Samutsevich) was referring when, during the course of her closing statement at the trial, she said:
It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, given its long mystical ties to power, emerged as the project’s principal exponent in the media.
Far from being a victim (in the conventional sense) of the Putin regime, the Russian Orthodox Church has emerged as something of a winner, subordinated to the Kremlin, to be sure, but awarded a privileged position within society as a whole.
If you want to find examples of the “oppression” of religion in contemporary Russia , it’s better to look at the often uncomfortable experience of faiths outside the Orthodox mainstream.