Pussy Riot An artistic movement


  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Historical Context
  • Pussy Riot Movement
  • Vital role of Pussy Riot
  • link to reference list
  • link to annotated bibliography


Pussy Riot (top left), Nadya (top right), Maria (bottom left), Kat (bottom right)

Pussy Riot are a Russian feminist punk rock group/band. Formed in 2011, in Moscow, Russia. Pussy Riot consists of primarily three main members: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadya), Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich (Kat). These three are the main faces of the group. Pussy Riot are an activist group that perform musical and performance art acts as a form of protest against Vladimir Putin's oppressive regime. Pussy Riot are more than a band who play music, they are an underground art movement, in which anyone can join. They use music as a foundation for their group, they combined music and performance art as a way of fighting against Russia's oppressive government. They first consisted of about twelve women who were activists fighting against Putin and his regime, in which any person could join the group. They wore colorful dresses and put on balaclavas and performed on the streets in radical forms to get their message across. They staged unexpected performances in different public locations throughout Russia without authorization. This made their message come out stronger and more rebellious, as they never got consent about performing in these public areas, it gave their act a more radical feel. They would gather in secret locations to talk about how they were going to perform, they would come up with artistic ways for their movement, such as incorporating playing music and theatrical acts to stage a performance. Pussy Riot used musical lyrics to get their verbal message across and performance art that symbolized the issues Russians faced, for a theatrical and punk performance. When people think of Pussy Riot they think of a band that made music, but they're more than a band, because even though music is one of the main forms of art they used, Pussy Riot is an artistic movement that fights against injustices in Russia, and currently also is now focusing on combating global issues. They used music as a basis for their artistic movement because music is one of the most powerful tools out there. We all listen to music, and it speaks to us. It is a great art form to get messages into our world. Every song, no matter how good or bad it is, has a meaning behind it. Pussy Riot saw that connection music can make and utilized it for something far more bigger than just writing music. Music was just one of the primary foundations for their movement. Even they spoke about how lyrically their music may have not been the best. Even when they played instruments, it wasn't perfect. But anyone can grab a guitar, put on a balaclava and pretend to stage a performance to get a message across. This is what made Pussy Riot a true punk group, going into the streets to perform music without permission of authorities. The issues they focused on was feminism, LGBT rights, lack of freedom of expression, Russia's corrupt government, and prisoners rights. Being an activist in Russia is difficult, punk does not exist there. The fact that these women were able to be brave and fight for what they believe in is such an important thing. It sets the path of guidance to Russians who feel trapped in their society. On February 21, 2012 Pussy Riot performed their most famous act called Punk Prayer where they went into the Orthodox Cathedral and performed a song called Punk Prayer that was about corruption in the Russian government. Soon after their performance, three members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were put on a long prison trial, where they were thrown into prison for two years to silence them. Punk and performance art never existed in Russia, and nobody truly understood it, these women used this art form to begin their movement and be catalyst for change.


Before Pussy Riot began, member Nadya was part of a Russian underground art movement called Viona. Viona was an art movement that fought against Russia’s corrupt regime through street protest, performance art, and symbolic pranks. Their mission was to confront the lies their society was built upon. Similar to Pussy Riot, they used art as a form of protest to fight against the injustices happening in Russia. One of their actions was “The Feast” or “The Wake” that captured the essence of a Russian wake. Where they reenacted a party of mauldin abandon that captured the true spirit of the post soviet wake. Viona pushed the boundaries of public space. They also collaborated with other underground activist groups, which is crucial because it is important for people with similar views to come together to unite and form a bigger and stronger group. Nadya and Kat met through Viona, because Viona was looking for someone who can photograph their art acts. Nadya and Kat soon grew close and began collaborating together. They both had similar views as to what they wanted to fight for, which brought them together and lead them into the path of Pussy Riot. Soon enough the other members of Viona left or had other artistic views and was hard for them to have a basic agreement on what they wanted to do, they broke apart and Nadya and Kat continued to keep fighting, which helped spark the Pussy Riot movement.

Historical Context

Pussy Riot are a group based in Moscow, Russia that began in 2011. During this time in Russia, current president Vladimir Putin was appointed into office. In 2012, Vladimir Putin entered office and reinforced a highly oppressive and close minded country. Not just through government but in society too. Russia lacks basic human rights such as freedom of expression; opposition and artistic freedom can not exist. Russia is a country where it is prohibited to have a political opposition, either in parliament or on the street. There is a variety of negative and deadly consequences if one opposes against the government. Citizens are obligated to follow rules and refrain from speaking against injustices and oppression. Russian government and society is very sexist and oppressive of minorities. There is no separation between church and state and the cathedral symbolizes the union between these two. This plays a huge factor on Russians mentality in society. How they view women and the LGBT community is a reflection on the foundation their government and society was built upon. Citizens of Russia are close minded and scared after the soviet collapse, which makes them fearful of new ideas. They want a president who is strong and will tackle an issue that threatens the community. This is why many Russians are supportive of Vladimir Putin, because they are afraid of change and revolution so they refrain from rebellion and rebellious act, so that they can be a strong and united country. Putin promotes an excessive amount of nationalism and Russians see this as a great way to stand united. They follow Putin and his corrupt regime because they are frightened and have painful memories of the Soviet Union. Russians support Putin's authoritarian government because of fear. Fear is one of the basis their community was built upon, but ironically, fear is one of the forms that their government uses to keep society in tact and many Russians don't notice this. We see this through history all over society, during World War II, when the Germans listened to Hitler and the lies he told his country about the Jews. Fear in society led to the killing of millions of Jew in Germany. Fear is a constant factor in society and that’s why many citizens of countries follow corrupt governments, because they are afraid and when power comes into the hands of the wrong person, especially during a time of fear, society will listen to these leaders. Putin and his government is a reflection of that. He promises to protect them in any form but his form of protection is through fear, death, and lies. Ironically what Russians are afraid of, Putin uses to keep a “civilized” society, which is why Russians are supportive of Putin’s corrupt system. Putin reinforces old ideas of how society should be maintained, he uses patriarchy as one of the main forms of government, as women are seen as less in society. As children women are told that they are there to give birth, and this ideal persists throughout their lifetime. The expectations women have in society are ridiculous. They are far more criticized than men about their actions. They are treated poorly and seen as just housewives in society. Russians hold a grasp of old ideas on how women should be treated. Women are not seen as strong independent woman, and looked down upon by society. This was one of the main issues Pussy Riot fought for. To take away these old ideas of women in society, and to help them realize that women are strong. Another community targeted in society is the LGBT community, and this also connects back to the ideals their society is built upon. Women's and LGBT rights, are something different and this scares many Russians so they oppose it in society. This leaves room for discrimination among these communities of people. They are constantly targeted and oppressed by society. This is another key issue Pussy Riot fought against, they wanted to make a change for women and the LGBT community. It’s also hard for them to speak upon these issues when Russia lacks freedom of expression. Meaning artistically they do not have rights to speak on issues in society. This was another of Pussy Riot’s focus, they focused on gaining freedom of expression. Since their government and society is built upon fear, freedom of expression or opposition against government is a threat. Anyone who is a threat in society is seen as traitor who is betraying the government. But Russians do not realize that this is not betrayal, this is a way of standing up for Russians rights. Unfortunately many Russians lack to see this because of fear and fear is a huge factor on the ideology of Russians and their community. Ironically, Putin uses fear against people who oppose the government and denies them freedom of expression. Many activists and politicians in Russia who spoke upon issues in Russia have been silenced through prison and death. Putin is famous for poisoning, killing, and imprisoning Russians who speak against the government. This is his form of silencing anyone he feels is a threat to his regime. Many brave activists have died because of Putin. Pussy Riot were thrown into prison because of speaking up. Activists in Russia are brave for opposing government because they risk their life to be able to make a change for society.

Pussy Riot Movement

Pussy Riot fought for freedom of expression, LGBT rights, feminism, and prisoners rights. They focused on tackling the issues of society by identifying the flaws in their system. They realized the lies their society was built upon and acting on it. One of their most famous acts was called Punk Prayer, where they went into the the Orthodox Cathedral without permission and performed a song called Punk Prayer that spoke about the lies in Putin’s regime. It talked about the lies and corruption their government was creating. This performance ignited all over Russia and many people were against Pussy Riot. They were harassed and called names by thousands of Russians. They became one of the most wanted people in Russia. Six weeks after this famous performance, three members were found and put on trial. They saw them as a threat and vulgar people. Their trial consisted of outrageous charges and accusations. It felt almost like a witch trial for them because of the nonsense that was brought up during their case. They were seen as almost witches in society too because of their performance in the cathedral. Many Russians saw this as a disrespect towards the church and religion. This is how and who Pussy Riot are, they perform crazy and outrageous acts because they feel that is the only form of getting a message across in their society. Radical change is the only way for change to be made, especially in a society like Russia. To many people Pussy Riot were seen as a catalyst who were brave enough to oppose against the Russian regime. After a long trial, Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years of prison. They were all sent to different prisons. During their time in prison, they faced the ugly reality and treatment of prison. Women were treated unfairly and fed food that was old. The quotas that women prisoners have to meet while working are ridiculous and outrageous. The prisons in Russia are labor camps and women are expected to make clothes and work long hours each day. Prisoners lack many rights and most of them are in their for slight charges. Putin puts anyone in prison to silence them if they speak up, this happened to Pussy Riot. They were put into prison for 2 years to silence them. Pussy Riot’s experience in prison changed and influenced their views. After they got out of prison they began to fight for prisoners rights. They held huge protests and continued their Pussy Riot movement after prison. Their experience in prison helped them become stronger and braver catalyst for change who were not going to let anyone silence them any longer.

Vital Role of Pussy Riot

In a place like Russia, it is highly difficult to break out of a mentality such as the one many Russians are grown into. To be a critical thinker about the issues around you and your system in Russia can be extremely difficult. Not just because of the societal pressures and expectations, but because opposition towards government in Russia can come with severe consequences. Before Pussy Riot, many brave activists who have spoken out about the injustices and oppression, have been silenced through incarceration and death. People are silenced for fighting for what they believe is right. In a patriarchy like Russia’s, women are mistreated and is even harder for them to speak out about issues in society. Pussy Riot are highly important role models because they were able to break out of the mentality they were born into and ignite change. They sparked and guided the way for many Russians to speak up and make a change. They are true catalysts for change that continue to galvanize the Pussy Riot Movement.

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