"The Money Is Right in Front of Them"
Pussy Riot no longer exists! As more than seven billion inhabitants of the earth weep and convulse, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Aloykhina are no longer Pussy Riot. The punk rebels declined their "Pussy Riot" brand for the sake of human rights initiatives! "Why don't they go on a music tour? Why they are not making music records? They do not need the money? After all, the money is right in front of them. Take a shovel and take it! They are God's fools! They are crazy!"
In the West, Nadia and Maria are seen as individuals. Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for them to continue their music career. Even Russian school children write tweets: "Nadia 'Tolokno' is so cool. Half of our class is crazy about her."
What Are Nadia and Maria Doing Now?
What are Nadia and Maria doing now? They just came back from Singapore where they were nominated for an award for their song, "Punk Prayer." They did not get it, but have walked on the red carpet. We know only a little about Singapore -- the fact that there are harsh laws and that for animal abuse, one can be inprisoned a long time; I know it from the song, Vertinsky's (Soviet composer/singer) "Violet Black."
Nadia and Masha believe that Mr. Putin should have received the award in Singapore. The girls say, "What we did -- we spread an idea throughout the world, but we would not be able to do it ourselves alone without the support of the Russian state and Putin personally."
Nadia is saying how Putin was part of their "gang." It was him! Everyone remembers the photo where next to the fragile girls in balaklava was "a man" in a black balaclava. It was Putin!
But Putin also wasn't deprived. He was nominated for the NME award "Villain of the Year." And the girls "Hero of the Year." And why is he considered the most powerful man in the world? Because the world is afraid of Putin as a young woman who returns home late is afraid of a yard bully.
Before the trip to Singapore, Nadia and Masha went to a prison in Nizny Novgorod to check on the situation with certain inmates who were pressured by the prison administration.
When Nadia and Masha were at the train station leaving to go to the prison, it was rumored that there is a bomb at the station. Russian authorities, namely the "Centre for Combating Extremism" or FSB wanted to prevent the trip by Nadia and Masha to the prison in Nizny Novgorod. Nadia wrote on Twitter, "Station is surrounded on all sides. Some people said it is mined. There is a crowd of policemen and hundreds of people who cannot get on their trains. We cannot leave." But at the end of the day, they were able to leave.
Nadia says, "Cops tell each other, 'Keep an eye on them!' pointing at us. We are constantly accompanied by two police officers who speak into their radios, 'They are entering McDonalds, they are entering McDonalds.' "Then they stop our two cars by the police station. They do not explain to us the reasons. We are detained. Journalists intercede for us. Policemen give up and release us."
Nadia runs after police, saying, "Are you a sexist? You are a sexist? Why are you ignoring me?" He backs away in horror. Later an ensign of the Russian army gave us a packed lunch. We heated the lunch (buckwheat porridge with meat) at McDonalds.
Nadia and Maria Go to Nizhny Novgorod to Fight With Local Prison Authorities
Maria looks like a Virgin Mary from an icon. I call her "talking icon." Maria uses very little make-up. With her long blond hair she looks modest. Nadia's eye makeup is dramatic and also her famous lips, but her unpretentious hair is collected into a bun at the nape of her neck. Looking at these modest girls, it is difficult to imagine that they could arrange a dance at the church altar in balaklavas.
The prison where the girls are going is one of the best of Russian prisons. Maria did her time there. Maria says: "Seamstresses of the highest skills are here. Why does she get paid 10 to 15 times lower than the minimum wage adopted in Russia? About 30 convicts appealed to human rights activists complaining of working conditions. They testified -- they told the truth and are now in a besieged position. For several weeks now we cannot contact them. Calls are denied. There is information that women are under pressure by the prison administration."
On the day when Maria was released from prison on amnesty, her friends in her brigade were heavely searched. Maria says, "Prison administration took away books such as poetry of Osip Mandelstam (a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union). They took away a book on The Structure of the Prison Industry, Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault (a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic). And to the rest of the prisoners, the prison administration said they seized pornography."
Nadia adds, "And when I was in Krasnoyarsk, prison administration searched my friend, looking for supposedly my black notebook. They stripped her naked, but a mythical black notebook was never found." ("Perhaps it was a 'Black Bible' or a manual on 'Black Magic'"-- comment added by Andrey Tolokonnikov. )
Results of Human Rights Advocacy
The results are evident and appeared during Nadia's September hunger strike in Mordovia. "Well done! One girl bent the whole system!" Zhorik from Mordovia commented on the Internet.
Federal Penitentiary Service writes: "Wages for prisoners will be increased and labor quotas will be reduced." Already starting in January 2014, convicts will accrue salary based on new tariffs. A special commission was formed, which revises the rules. The Federal Prison Services assured that this has nothing to do with complaints of Nadia Tolokonnikova, but we know that it is connected.
Why the World Needs Nadia and Maria
Not only Hollywood needs an image of the "savior of the world " and the planet. Nadia and Maria must remain forever cute Little Red Riding Hoods who bring some butter in a pot to the "Grandma" -- to Russian prison. But not only butter!
You can ask, these young women, can they teach the world? Looks like they can.
They went through 629 days in jail and still are naive as schoolgirls and spiritual. I learn from my daughter how to be a true and real. Only a person who transcends you in achievement can teach people.
They have gone down from one mountain and have not yet risen to the other. It is known that to climb another mountain, you have to come down the first one. They are expected to exploit (their fame), but it is impossible to perform the feat every day. One can become Jeanne d'Arc only once in a lifetime. That is almost what they did!
Andrey Tolokonnikova, M.D., father of recently released Pussy Riot prisoner, Nadia Tolokonnikova, shares with The Huffington Post excerpts from his journal following his daughter's release from a Siberian prison. Nadia was freed on Dec. 23, 2013 under an amnesty bill passed by the Russian parliament after serving 21 months. Translated by Natasha Fissiak, a producer of the documentary Free Pussy Riot!