Pussy Riot: One Year Later One year ago

Tom Tom Magazine Pussy Riot Woman Drummer

One year ago, Russian Punk-protest collective Pussy Riot performed it famous anti-Putin stunt in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Members Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alekhina, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were promptly put into custody and charged for hooliganism “motivated by religious hatred.”

Now, Samutsevich is freed while the other two members are still serving two-year sentences in Russian prison camps. Samutsevich’s charges were suspended when she was able to successfully argue that she was taken into police custody before being able to even perform. However, Samutsevich cannot leave the country and must ask for permission to leave Moscow. Life is not easy for the freed Pussy Riot member, who has noted that she is often followed and filmed. She also believes her phone is tapped.

Other Pussy Riot members who were able to elude arrest are forced to stay in hiding. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Pussy Riot drummer, Kot, showed cameras the band’s practice space with a disguised voice and balaclava.

“What happened to us was unacceptable,” said Kot to 60 Minutes interviewer Lesley Stahl.

For Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, appeals to have their sentences suspended until their children are teenagers have been denied, but both plan on applying for parole.

While Russia is split on support for Pussy Riot, the group has become a catalyst for people to talk about Russian government. The recently crowned Miss Russia 2013, Elmira Abdrazakova, has even spoken out about her disapproval of the charges Alekhina and Tolokonnikova have received. She has described the charges as being too harsh even though she considers herself a religious person with the belief of the church being a sacred place.

Several protests have been held this month on days such as International Women’s Day and the eve of Putin’s inauguration in support of the group and it’s detained members. Several activists have been arrested under a Russian law that only allows one-person demonstrations to be held without a permit. Protestors each took turns holding posters in attempts to comply with the law.

Pussy Riot has become so wildly popular that they have inspired documentaries and symposiums. At DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, the Russian Studies and Conflict Studies departments held a symposium titled “Riot Girls in Prison: Pussy Riot and Music of Protest.” The event was focused on Russian culture and the causes leading up to the protest, as well as how music was used as a medium to challenge political power. The documentary, directed and produced by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, follows Pussy Riot and is titled Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer. Picked up by HBO, the documentary is expected to premiere early June.

Even though Alekhina and Tolokonnikova are still jailed, Samutsevich still considers their act widely successful.

“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?’,” said Samutsevich in a recent interview with Amnesty International.

With growing support for Pussy Riot and political pressure on Putin, it seems that Alekhina and Tolokonnikova may be released early, especially with the Sochi Olympics approaching. For the time being, Samutsevich continues to hope and fight for Pussy Riot.

Tom Tom Magazine Pussy Riot Woman Drummer

Maggie Rivers for Tom Tom Magazine

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