Pussy Riot Member Speaks on Civic Duty, Activism

Pussy Rioti liige Maria Aljohhina. Madis Laur
3/28/2014 12:01 PM
Category: Politics

In Russia, the only choice is between staying at home or going out to actively fight for democracy, Maria Alyokhina said in an interview with ETV’s presenter Indrek Treufeldt on Thursday.

 

Alyokhina said that only tough financial sanctions would have an effect on the current Russian leadership.

How should one call what you do? Is it music, art, politics or rebellion?

Whatever we do, it’s always politics. This is courtesy of the Russian state, not us. The state turns all kinds of activism, whether creative work or defending human rights, into politics.

What do I mean by that? No sooner have you taken a strong stand as a citizen, when you will feel the full force of the machine of the Russian state. You will be beaten, imprisoned, covered in filth on television, branded as an enemy of the nation.

Of course it is politics.

At the moment we are active in the field of human rights. We have our own organization - Zona Prava. We deal with defending the rights of prisoners of Russian penal colonies, mostly women. Wherever we go - a colony or a region - the representatives of the Russian state will order an attack on us.

How many women like you are there in Russia?

There are many women like this, but few know about them. If you mean women who have taken an active stand as citizens, then there are many of them.

You have been attacked, beaten, improsoned, but you will not quit. What drives you?

Apparently, it is a thirst for freedom, truth, justice, all the values that are natural for a Western society.

Our position is that Russia must take the European path of development. Our country must be free. At the same time it must be acknowledged that freedom does not just fall into your lap. People fight for freedom for years. For centuries, people have sacrificed their lives for freedom.

That is the reason we live like this. We believe that there must be people in Russia who live for freedom and will fight for it.

When you talk about Europe, won’t the Russians come to the conclusion that you’ve become a tool for the Western states?

This what our television is saying. Our television can paint people as enemies of the state for simply taking a trip abroad.

We call on people to have an open mind, to analyse and listen to what others have got to say.

What is the European path really? It is respecting other people and their opinions, the ability to listen and hear the person sitting opposite you. I don’t think it is something to reproach anyone for. It is a virtue. We stand for developing virtues like these.

How do you overcome that instinct of self-preservation so characteristic of humans?

When you live in Russia, you have no choice. Either you sit at home, lock the door and never go out, or you decide to act. And then you are in a situation where you simply don’t get a chance to think about self-preservation.

What we do is quite intensive. It seems our ideals are stronger than what you call self-preservation.

When was the last time you thought “That’s it, I’ve had enough, it is easier to give up and live like a ‘normal person’”?

What does ‘a normal person’ mean? I think it is normal not to lose your humanity. A normal person knows why she lives, where she lives and wants to influence the events around her.

We simply want to live in a free state. At the end of the day, why should we give that up? Why should we quit and fear something? Democracy is a simple thing in itself, after all. We are not demanding anything supernatural.

Of course... especially when we were locked up, when we were surrounded by the prison administration that demanded that we pleaded guilty, constant obedience, there were moments when I felt tired. You get the feeling that you are fighting windmills, that this creaking, ancient system will never change.

But all this disappears when you get even one victory. It is enough when you say just once that you know the law, you can use the law, the law is on your side and all the tiredness disappears.

Are you often recognized in Russia? How do people react?

They want to take selfies. Ask for our permission to take photos.

Is it dangerous for you to walk around Moscow?

No, we walk around Moscow freely, we live there. It’s all right in that regard.

Many Russians know you mostly for your shocking performances, with sexual and religious references. It is as if you are fiddling with the most sensitive soul strings of people. Why is that?

If we speak about something, start doing something, it is related to something we consider important.

When we went to perform at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, we did it for the simple reason that the statements of the patriarch got us angry. We really don’t like it when a head of the church poses as a conservative politician. I think it is important to speak about uncomfortable things, about things that people prefer to push away from their lives.

Do you have your own god?

It is probably... We consider ourselves Christian but the kind whose religion is within them, not in the church as an institution.

Christianity means certain norms. Do you have your norms?

Christianity does not mean norms, it means love and freedom.

Some people in Estonia love you, some can’t stand the sight of you. How could they be reconciled?

Maybe they could talk to each other, hear each other out. Issues like this usually get solved in this way.

When were doing time, it was often that people reacted negatively when they met us. People who watch Russian propaganda have a distorted understanding of reality. After talking for a few minutes the very same people asked: “How could we help you? What could we do for you?”

This clearly demonstrates that the Russian propaganda machine, this multi-million structure - the television, media - all turns to dust in front of the living spoken word.

What do you think is the reason that Russia is moving towards greater authoritarianism and less freedom now?

It is because people, who think and act differently from the state, have no way of public speech.

People are deprived of information, the opportunity to hear a different, opposing opinion. Therefore, they are deprived of the possibility to analyze events objectively and wholly.

That is probably the reason.

Then it would be fair to say that there is an information civil war going on in Russia, a war of information?

It would have been fair to say that about six months ago, but now it is no longer a war. It is a full-on advance that the shocked opposition watches in silence from the sidelines.

Our media outlets are being closed down. One could say that all opposition media has been shut down in Russia. Only recently, several websites that published opponents were closed down on the orders of the prosecutor.

They will also close the only independent television station Dozhd. Their rooms are taken from them, they have already lost their broadcasting channels.

It is no longer a war, it is the same kind of occupation that has taken place in Crimea on the level of foreign policy. We have lost the independent word for good.

In the West, one often hears that it is so impossible to fight Vladimir Putin that there’s no point to even bother.

There is a point, unless you want militia units to suddenly appear in another country like they appeared in Crimea. There is a point to fighting Putin because the man is not aware of what is happening, he is in a constant state of euphoria over his imagined success.

There is no guarantee that next time it won’t be your country he’ll set his sights on.

The West also thinks that Russia needs “the hand of a czar”, there is no other way.

That is a fact. It is indeed characteristic of our people that there is a search for a leader, not exactly a czar, but a person who you could delegate all your power to.

That is what we are speaking out against. We think that we need a parliamentary republic and it is time we let go of the system where the power is mostly concentrated in the hands of one person, because in Russia, this has very bad consequences.

People lose their heads because of power, it has been proven several times over. We must distance ourselves from that.

Many people think that it is easier to live without responsibility and freedom.

I suppose it must be true. Freedom means responsibility and freedom is truly beautiful.

How do you imagine Russia’s future?

We don’t want to imagine Russia’s future, we want to shape it. We see the future most of all in democracy, the possibility of choosing authorities, the possibility of speaking, of being heard.

We see the future in freedom. We want Russia to be the kind of country where brains have come together, the kind that attracts persons people want to hear, and not at all the kind of country that is feared.

The great mistake of our authorities is that it is based on fear. You cannot rule people by manipulating with fear! If you do that, if you keep people in a constant state of terror, then this kind of rule ends unexpectedly, very unexpectedly.

In prison, we saw enough examples of people being terrorized for years, blackmailed. Totally unacceptable things have been done to people. At some point, this person (I mean the imprisoned person) decides to stop obeying and starts acting according to his conscience.

It happens fast, just like that.

If it happens to our people, if it is mass-scale... But it will definitely happen. I think that moment is not too far off.

In Ukraine, people were killed. Are Russians ready to face death for freedom and democracy?

Our task is to make sure people are not killed, although I do know people who put equal value on their ideals and lives. For us, our ideals have equal value to our lives.

You are in Europe now and will make a speech and take part in a panel at the European Parliament. What are your expectations?

We are preparing for a speech, we will talk about the situation in Russia, in Ukraine. I hope that the sanctions on Russia will be expanded and toughened.

It must be understood that our authorities value only one thing - their money. If the economic sanctions are strict enough, it will give them pause.

On 6 February, Pussy Riot posted an anonymous entry in their blog, saying that Masha (Maria Alyokhina) and Nadja (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova) are no longer members of the band. What happened? Is the break final?

We are constantly asked about that. I don’t know who wrote it. We can only guess.

We also don’t know what this is about. Pussy Riot is an open group, everyone is welcome but no one can be excluded. It is impossible. The initial concept rules it out.

When we perform, we are Pussy Riot. If you perform, you are also Pussy Riot.

When we do something, we are Pussy Riot.

 

 

 

 

 


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