‘crisis, watershed moments’

‘Instead of the standard acknowledgment of wrongdoing and assurances of reform, Nadya wrote a paragraph on the importance of ‘crisis, watershed moments’ in the development of young people. ‘I have devoted myself to creating such critical moments’ she wrote. ‘And I do this solely out of concern for the school, so it may develop faster and better.’

‘This is the way we are forever serving life rather than living life. I want to live life. My freedom is this: Here I stand, I can do no other as Martin Luther said. My cause may be hopeless, but I find my freedom in the responsibility I take on, and to retreat for me would be to die a little, to use the words of the students protesting at the Sorbonne in 1968.’

(Maria Alyokhina)

‘She had to cram Sartre when she needed to at the institute.’ Olya told me, apparently ashamed to be disclosing her friend’s embarrassing circumstance. ‘She lacks the concentration necessary for reading: it’s easier for her to watch movies.’ What was worse, N told me, Maria persisted in her unself-conscious admiration for Aronofsky’s sentimental Requiem for a Dream.’

‘That evening the judge read aloud the conclusions of a committee of psychiatrists and psychologists who had examined the defendants. They had found them sane and fit for trial but had nonetheless diagnosed each with a personality disorder. Maria, they said, suffered from emotional distress brought on by her desire to protest. Nadya and Kat were both labelled with something called ‘mixed personality disorder’. Nadya’s symptoms were her ‘active position in life’ and ‘heightened ambitions’ while Kat exhibited an abnormal ‘insistence on her own point of view.’

‘Pussy Riot does opposition art. In other words, it’s politics that uses forms created by artists…We were seeking the true sincerity and simplicity and we found them in the holy-fool aesthetic of punk performance. Passion, openness and naivete exist on a higher ground than do hypocrisy, lying, and false piety used to mask crimes.’

‘We have more freedom than the people who are sitting opposite us, on the side of the accusers, because we can say what we want and we do say what we want.’

‘The same way as the OBERIU poets remained artists, truly inexplicable and incomprehensible, even after being purged in 1937. [The poet] Alexander Vvedensky wrote ‘The inexplicable pleases us, and the incomprehensible is our friend.’

(Nadya Tolokonnikov)

‘A person’s integration into society begins with the education system, and this system is designed to ignore individuality. There is no such thing as personalized education. Culture is not taught, nor is philosophy or the most basic of information about civil society. On paper, these classes exist, but they are still taught as they were in the Soviet Union. As a result, contemporary art is marginalized, the impluse toward philosophical thought is repressed, gender is stereotyped, and civil opinion is swept under the rug.’

‘I believe that religious truth cannot be static. I believe it is essential to understand that contradiction and splintering are inherent to the development of the spirit. That these things must be lived through as an individual is shaped. That religious truth is a process and not a product that can be stuffed just anywhere.’

(Maria Alyokhina)

Maria, Kat, Nadya

– From ‘Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot’ by Masha Gessen.


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