Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova are no longer members of Pussy Riot. The women have been saying as much ever since their release from prison last year, but it was officially reaffirmed yesterday when the masked group of Russian activists issued an open letter asking that the two no longer be linked with the Pussy Riot name. While its group members say they’re “very pleased with Masha’s and Nadia’s release,” they contend that the duo has lately been “so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons, that they completely forgot about the aspirations and ideals of our group, which include feminism, separatist resistance, fight against authoritarianism and personality cult.”
Pussy Riot further claims Alekhina and Tolokonnikova have refused to communicate with them, something it finds extremely frustrating in the wake of last night’s Brooklyn-based Amnesty International charity concert. In advertisements for the event, the organization used “a man in a balaclava with an electric guitar under the name of Pussy Riot,” rather than the names of the individual women. That especially irked the “all-female separatist collective,” which believes that “no man can represent us either on a poster or in reality.” According to the group, “the mixing of the rebel feminist punk image with the image of institutionalized defenders of prisoners’ rights is harmful for us as a collective, as well as it is harmful for the new role that Nadia and Masha have taken on.” The group also objected to the event’s ticket price, which, while reasonable for U.S. arena shows, is antithetical to Pussy Riot’s “leftist anti-capitalist ideology.”
All that being said, Alekhina and Tolokonnikova still did a bang-up job at that show. Their 10-minute speech, delivered through an interpreter, was palpably moving, with portions reportedly reducing the Barclays Center crowd to almost total silence.
After being introduced by Madonna, Alekhina and Tolokonnikova talked about their 21 months spent in Russian prison, reminding the audience that “freedom is not a given.” “It’s something we have to fight for and stand for every day,” said Tolokonnikova. “It is our duty to speak for those who are still behind bars.” Later in the speech, Tolokonnikova angrily screamed that both women “demand a Russia without Putin,” citing the Russian president’s many human rights infringements.