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  • Writer's pictureAltered State



“Anyone can be Pussy Riot and anyone can do Pussy Riot actions”. Appropriately for a feminist art collective inspired by the values of the riot grrrl 90s feminist punk rock movement, Masha Alyokhina and Olga Borisova talk about the original Pussy Riot wanting to have no form or structure, but to be a composite of ideas and action, constantly spreading their word. We were transfixed as they told us their astonishing story; how they fight against a regime so brutal that it’s difficult for us here to fully comprehend, as informed by an independent media, we sit around arguing over our choice of vote.


As in her book Riot Days, Masha recollected life in the sadistic penal colony, hardly changed from Stalin’s GULAG, that she was sent down to when first imprisoned by the state, her hunger strikes, the beatings and psychological torture. She told us how she kicked back with activist initiatives like taking the prison guards to trial over low wages and winning – in the prison court.  Later Pussy Riot hung rainbow flags from the buildings of the FSB, The President, the Supreme Court, the Police HQ and Ministry of Culture, on Putin’s birthday to protest against the state’s persecution of LGBTQ+ people. She explained the slow burn of the inertia of house arrest, to finally escaping the security apparatus, and the country, to live peripatetically in exile.


They are aware that they are not a political party, but young women activists, and that there is no instruction manual. But they said that we can help them and the others oppressed in Russia and around the world by Vladimir Putin. We can pressure our Government to support Ukraine with weapons and personnel, to sanction more Russian people who support Putin’s machine, that all ties to Putin’s Russia in all walks of life be investigated and that apologists and useful idiots like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage should be exposed and ridiculed.


Masha and Olga complied a series of Russian protest songs that we spun on the night. All these artists are very well known in Russia, creating the defiant mood at protest rallies. Now these musicians have fled the country as the Russian state don’t want them to fill stadiums with their audiences...


Masha and Olya also left us with a reading list:


Varlam Shalamov ‘Kolyma Tales'



Alexander Vvedensky - all poems


They spoke with emotion, dignity and humour. They see feminism as a global necessity and want more questions asked about transphobia as this new front of bigotry opens up. It was inspiring to be there, the room was full on the hottest night of the year and my ears are still ringing from the ovation they received at the end.


There was a final question that was on all our lips, how do they summon their significant bravery in the face of a murderous regime? Masha likened fear to being only a construct inside you, that beyond that there is nothing to be afraid of, she said that we must not feed this internal fear, or it “will build walls around us like a castle that we cannot escape”. “Beautifully put” added Olga.



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