Pussy Riot Continue Fight Against Vladimir Putin From Jail With New E-Book

Posted September 17

Last February five women in brightly colored ski masks climbed into a priests-only section of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They launched into a “punk prayer” called “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away,” asking Mary to become a feminist and join with them in protest against the Russian president. Forty seconds later, they were stopped by church officials.

The feminist, anti-Putin group Pussy Riot had staged performances before — including ones on top of a trolley, at a fashion show, and on the roof of a detention center. But this time would prove to be different. Three of the women — Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich — were arrested, charged with hooliganism, and held without bail (or a trial date) for six months. On August 17th they were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.

Many in the West, from President Obama’s camp to Madonna, have condemned the harsh sentencing. Even Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has called for their release. While the women are still jailed, their supporters are planning a rally for October 1, the opening day of their appeals trial. In the last few weeks the women’s eloquent courtroom statements have appeared online, but until now haven’t been available in one place.

Enter the The Feminist Press, who will publish Pussy Riot!: A Punk Prayer for Freedom, an e-book of the women’s letters from prison, their courtroom opening and closing statements, and open letters to President Medvedev and Patriarch Kirill. These materials shed light on the women’s political motivations and experiences in jail. The e-book will also include songs, poems and tributes from artists and musicians like Yoko Ono and members of Le Tigre.

Editorial Director Amy Scholder writes in the intro about her decision to publish these works: “These declarations are stunningly articulate about the plight of civil rights in Russia, and about the corruption at the core of the government there, which is in strategic alliance with a powerful religious institution. These texts are also brilliantly expansive about broader social issues of gender equality and human rights.”

The most fascinating sections of the e-book are those written by the three women, better known as Masha, Nadya and Katya. Nadya writes in a letter how other women in the jail can’t believe that there aren’t “smart men” behind her political acts and that she isn’t being paid for them. Nadya dots her letter with Bible verses, exploring how Jesus was condemned for blasphemy. She ends a passage with a succinct explanation for her actions: “Berdyaev taught that creativity is the structural moment of the age of liberty. Love will transform itself into liberty and with it the world will change. It is already in motion.”

The courtroom statements are also articulate and enlightening. Katya, in her closing statement, delves into the reasons behind Putin’s decision to closely align himself with the Russian Orthodox Church. She muses: “Apparently…he felt the need for more persuasive, transcendent guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power.” At the end of her speech, she notes that while she assumes they’ll be charged as guilty, she believes that they’ve still won: “The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently than the way Putin tries to present it.”

The e-book will be available September 25 through Feminist Press, and the proceeds will go to Pussy Riot’s legal defense team.