Pussy Riot is now associated with prisoners’ rights activism and media. How did that happen?

Olga Zeveleva
  · 173
Political activist and member of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot. Spent two...

I think everything began when we received our sentences for our performance in the cathedral. I was sent to Berezniki, this is a penal colony in Perm region of Russia. It’s 3,500 kilometres from Moscow, and we had to travel there in stages because you cannot make it there in one go. Getting there was a whole separate adventure – how they transport you and so on.

But when I got there, it was evident the heads of the penal colony knew who I was. It was very cold there, about -35 degrees Celsius in the winter. And they don't give out any normal clothes at this penal colony, nothing nearly warm enough. So I was planning to go to the human rights activists to complain. The administration understood that I was going to do this, and they tried to create a provocation and make it so that I wouldn’t be able to take an active position there. So I sued them, and, unexpectedly, I won the case against then in court. And that feeling that you get when you realize you can win the case – that you are a person who wears the prisoner’s uniform, and yet you can win in court against people who are covered from head to toe in government insignia, symbols of power. This feeling is overpowering. Of course, it’s impossible to stop there once you get a taste of it. We succeeded in bringing about serious change in Bereznoki, and later also in the second colony I was sent to afterwards.

That same year, Nadya Tolokonnikova (who was also in prison for the song we performed in the cathedral in Moscow) went on hunger strike, and this made headlines all over the world. The Guardian wrote about it too. That’s how people outside of Russia learned about what penal colonies are like in the Mordovian region of Russia.

So we started to conduct media-and-human-rights-related activities from within the penal colonies.

21 мая 2017  · < 100
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