‘Pussy Riot is political art’

Katia Samutsevich from Pussy Riot talking to Amnesty at our office in Moscow, Russia, February 2013. © Amnesty International

It’s been a year since Pussy Riot member Ekaterina (Katia) Samutsevich was arrested. She spoke to Amnesty about her activism, life after prison and the fight to free her band mates. She also thanked activists worldwide for helping to spread Pussy Riot’s message about the reality of repression in Russia.

Katia Samutsevich was arrested on 16 March 2012 for performing a “punk prayer” in a church, as part of feminist punk band Pussy Riot. They criticised Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church officials who supported him. Katia was released from prison in October 2012. Her band mates, Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova and Maria (Masha) Alekhina are still serving their sentences in remote penal colonies.

Why did you choose to protest against Putin in this way?
“Pussy Riot is political art. If you are an artist you can’t help but react to political tendencies in your country, especially the state’s attitude towards civil society and the wide gap between society and the state elite.”

What did all the activism surrounding your trial and sentence mean to you?
“We wanted to protest against the Russian Orthodox Church, [and its] Patriarch Kirill; against Putin and sexist tendencies. The support we received took this already ongoing discussion in Russian society to a new level. We didn’t expect it to become so widely discussed around the world – and so acutely in Russia.

“Besides, the state authorities don’t just use handcuffs and arrests, but also media attacks. There’s a constant flow of misinformation, of utter defamation. It’s difficult to convince people that it isn’t all true. The campaigns supporting us stood against all that. Many people saw Pussy Riot’s supporters and thought: ‘Strangely, despite them being so bad and blasphemous, many people support them. Maybe things aren’t exactly as they say on Channel One [one of the main Russian TV channels]?’ That struggle was very important and truly necessary.

“It also influenced many people that international organizations, including Amnesty International, declared us prisoners of conscience, and that celebrities, including Madonna, Sting and others, showed their support.”

Do the conditions of your suspended sentence restrict you a lot?
“In general, no. But I notice that I’m sometimes under surveillance, quite explicitly. Several times on the subway I’ve seen someone clearly doing a video recording. Other Pussy Riot members are also followed. Apparently the authorities fear that we’re planning another protest, and that’s why they’re keeping an eye on us. But this isn’t professional surveillance. They either lack experience or are simply sending us a message: ‘You are being watched’. My phone is tapped, I’m sure of that. So of course I watch what I say.”

Is it scary to be a protest activist in Russia these days?
“It depends on what kind of activist you are. We aren’t so hardcore. In my view, being hardcore is having sensitive information. Then your life will be short. Artistic political activity is not that dangerous. What happened to us probably happened because the Presidential elections were coming up in March last year.

“But the fact that Nadya and Masha are in jail, that they aren’t being released despite the fact that they have children, is a new means of intimidation. After this, will anyone with kids want to participate in such activities? That is a peculiar kind of cruelty – a propagandist cruelty. It’s important to fight this somehow.”

This is an excerpt from a longer interview that will be published in the May/June issue of WIRE, Amnesty’s global campaigning magazine.

ACT NOW
Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina are serving sentences lasting until March 2014. However, they have applied for parole and their hearings could take place any day now. Write them a message of support in English or Russian - we will print them all out and make sure they reach the two women in prison.

 

Posted in Censorship and Free Speech, Human Rights Defenders and Activists, Russian Federation, Uncategorized | Tagged | 7 Comments

  1. michel vaschalde says:

    hi, I would like to write to Nadya and Masha, as I am an Amnesty Internatinal french member. Can you please send me the adress for I can write to them.
    best regards
    michel

  2. Pat Williams says:

    Hi Nadya and Masha
    I wish you both good luck for your hearings and want you to know that I and many, many others are wishing you well and supporting you in every way we can.
    Best wishes
    Pat

  3. Marie Stocher says:

    Je souhaite vous témoigner ma solidarité et tout mon soutien.

    Marie

  4. Guy Herremerre says:

    What you did was an enormous reminder for us how important freedom and liberties really are, not only in Russia but everywhere. That you did it in your country was incredibly brave. Can I also tell you that I really like your ‘Kill the sexist!” ep? I’m a riot grrrl fan since the nineties. I wish you the smoothest possible time in the camp and a return home as quick as possible with your loved ones. Please, make more music when you’re back.

  5. John Ennis says:

    Nine Lives We Hope
    (Fated by Kirrill and Putin to Hard Labour, Often round the Clock, Nadya, it’s reported, fell to Exhaustion, and was Force Rested)

    Circling with others then, your face spittled, you lot, from those seen, or unseen
    That finger the prison batons still, like gods, the powerful ones
    Unspat yet every pomp of office, altar, whatever courtly scene
    Lords it, wherever the leftovers on combs, the hefty drones,
    None,- a compliant populace, -to turf these out of the hives.
    So, you must slop the long dark, until exhaustion comes
    Only there’s more and more of it to take a cat’s nine lives
    Slopping shitspeak from skulls beneath their comfy whited domes.
    I hope the easter sun at Mordovia it lasers a path
    Somehow into your cell, or to your hospital bed.
    Memorials, magnificats are made of this, in truth,
    Your beautiful eyes sunken in like one half dead.
    I hope the sun re-kindles your bones, lingers above you.
    To your good health! Rise, Nadya. You’ve work to do.

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