Published on Jul 30, 2012
How to write a letter to prison to the members of Pussy Riot.
Online broadcasting from a court hearing the case of #PussyRiot in Moscow. English version - https://twitter.com/Eng_Pussy_Riot firstname.lastname@example.org
Free Pussy Riot! Pussy Riot: will Vladimir Putin regret taking on Russia's cool women punks?
The feminist collective hit the headlines when three members were arrested after an anti-Putin protest. Now they face up to seven years in jail, a prospect that has shocked and radicalised many Russians.
Although they're not the imprisoned women, they don't have to be. That's the intention of the balaclavas -- they're meant to be anonymous, indivisible, representative. It doesn't matter which of them got arrested. That's the point -- that they're not individuals, they're an idea. And that's the thing that has gripped Russia and caught the attention of the rest of the world, too: that the Russian government has gone and arrested an idea and is prosecuting through the courts with a vindictiveness the Russian people haven't before seen. An idea perpetrated by three young, educated, middle-class women, or devushki (girls), as the Russians call them.
And it's this that's the shock walking into the room. They're so young. So smiley. So nervous and bashful and embarrassed at the attention and not sure how to sit, or quite what they should and shouldn't say.
Pussy Riot aren't just the coolest revolutionaries you're ever likely to meet. They're also the nicest. They're the daughters that any parent would be proud to have. Smart, funny, sensitive, not afraid to stand up for their beliefs. One of them makes a point of telling me how "kindness" is an important part of their ideology. They have also done more to expose the moral bankruptcy of the Putin regime than probably anybody else. No politician, nor journalist, nor opposition figure, nor public personality has created quite this much fuss. Nor sparked such potentially significant debate. The most amazing thing of all, perhaps -- more amazing even than calling themselves feminists in the land women's rights forgot -- is that they've done it with art. Free Pussy Riot
How does that feel? "It feels like a unique position to be in, but at the same time it's really scary. Because it's a great responsibility. Because we are not only doing it for us, we're doing it for society," says the one called Squirrel.
Most amazingly of all, perhaps, they've done it with art and rock music. The sledgehammer that they've used to take on the great might of the Russian state? That would be the colourful clothes they dressed up in. The jumping up and down they did. The funny lyrics they wrote. The loud songs they sang. That brilliant, witty, killer name.
The outfits are cartoonish, with bright, primary colours, but the masks aren't just there to shield their faces from recognition -- their anonymity is both symbolic and integral to their entire artistic vision. They all have nicknames which, they say, they swap at random: Sparrow, who is 22, Balaclava, who is by some way the eldest at 33, and Squirrel, who is just 20 years old. Free Pussy Riot
"It means that really everybody can be Pussy Riot... we just show people what the people can do," says Sparrow.
"We show the brutal and cruel side of the government," says Squirrel. "We don't do something illegal. It's not illegal, singing and saying what you think."
Sparrow is painfully shy and self-conscious at first. She is worried, especially that her English isn't good enough -- that she won't be able to express herself properly -- and she explains how she feels when she puts on the balaclava.
"When I'm in a mask I feel a little bit like a superhero and maybe feel more power. I feel really brave, I believe that I can do everything and I believe that I can change the situation."
Balaclava interrupts. "I disagree. We are not superwomen -- we are pretty ordinary women and our goal is that all women in Russia can become like this without masks."
The film battery goes at that moment. And as Khristina Narizhnaya, the Moscow-based journalist who's filming the interview, changes the battery, they collapse theatrically on the floor, laughing and breathing heavy sighs of relief. "It's so strange," says Sparrow. "Seeing Pussy Riot in the papers, and on the news and the internet. You have friends saying, 'Did you see the last action?' And you have to say, 'Yes I saw it on TV'." Free Pussy Riot
Do your parents know?
"No!" says Squirrel. "My dad would kill me!"
The details are so brilliant. Do you get a call, I ask, when you're out shopping and you have to dash home and put on your balaclava?
"No," says Sparrow. "It's like Batman: you always have it with you, just in case."
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